I hate to break it to you Weezy fans, but Lil Wayne will not run the table on shiny gold gramophones at tonight's 51st annual Grammy Awards — even if he does have a leading eight nominations. Although the peer-based Grammys love to slobber over hot acts — Lil Wayne moved "a milli" copies of Tha Carter III in its first week, a massive feat in a tepid music market — they're not ready to give him the top prize. Producers of "music's biggest night" will give him lots of TV time and tons o' loot. But not album of the year. Remember Kanye West and Amy Winehouse in '08? They were gobbling up awards until we came to the finale. And the winner was ... Herbie Hancock?! • In order to understand the motives of the Recording Academy, think of it like high school. West, Winehouse and Lil Wayne are allowed to vote, but they're freshmen — if not outnumbered, then outranked. Grammy voters are still dominated by the older set, say, Herb Alpert, guys who consider album of the year hallowed ground. • Anyway, it should be a great show, with live performances from U2, Jennifer Hudson, Radiohead and Swagga Like Us quartet Jay-Z, T.I., Lil Wayne and West. • In the meantime, here are a few fearless predictions for tonight's top categories.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' Raising Sand is one of the best albums of the 21st century, and Radiohead's In Rainbows is one of the most influential. But neither of those will win. I couldn't name one song on Ne-Yo's Year of the Gentleman, which is a problem. And we already know what Lil Wayne is up against. Instead, a really dull Coldplay platter, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, will take the prize. The Grammys love these guys: They're smart, popular, young, cute and, most important, safe.
RECORD OF THE YEAR: Record of the year is awarded to a song's performer and producers. Song of the year is for a song's writers. Got it? Thanks to its place in Slumdog Millionaire, plus its sales clout on iTunes, Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A.'s Clash- sampling Paper Planes, gunshots and all, should beat out such nominees as Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love and Adele's Chasing Pavements. Here's hoping Joe Strummer gets a shout-out.
SONG OF THE YEAR: You figure Coldplay is going to go home with more than one prize, so let's add this one for the single Viva la Vida. The other songs in this category — including Estelle and Kanye's American Boy and Sara Bareilles one-hitter Love Song — are fun. But this is Coldplay's night.
BEST NEW ARTIST: My close personal pals the Jonas Brothers are shoo-ins for best new artists. Why? Because this is the first Grammy show my 5-year-old wants to watch. Because the tween-poppers have garnered genuine artistic cred. Lady Antebellum and Duffy are good, but have you seen Nick's hair?
BEST R&B ALBUM: There are three absolute locks on tonight's show. This category, which will go to Jennifer Hudson's self-titled debut, is one of them ...
BEST RAP ALBUM: ... and this is another. Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III is a slam-dunk.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM: No one really cares about country on the Grammys. Sorry, but it's true. You'll get a token Kenny Chesney performance, but besides that, bupkus. This category comes down to George Strait's Troubador vs. Randy Travis' Around the Bend. Strait's cuter. He wins.
BEST COMEDY ALBUM: I wouldn't be surprised if this category, normally a quiet winner, gets some TV time. The late, great George Carlin is nominated for his It's Bad for Ya. That's your third slam- dunk of the night. It's a crime George won't be around for a cutting acceptance speech.