First, let's talk about the movies.
Great hullabaloo ensued when the Academy Awards announced that the best picture category would expand from five nominees to 10 this year. Why? To get Joe Six-Pack stoked about the Oscars, a sufferer of ratings swoonage. After all, Joe loved The Hangover, but he couldn't pick Colin Firth out of a lineup.
Critics whined that diluting the film field with what's popular rather than sticking solely with what's best would forever tarnish the integrity. The Hangover as top picture?! No one would ever take the Oscars seriously again . . .
. . . which leads us to tonight's 52nd annual Grammy Awards. "Music's biggest night" hasn't been taken seriously in years. As the record biz has spiraled down the proverbial commode — album sales dropped 13 percent in '09 — Grammy ratings have become just as bleak. So the Recording Academy has made the awards themselves an afterthought. Over the course of this evening's three-hour broadcast, only a few golden gramophones will be handed out. Instead, performances will rule, from Lil Wayne to Bon Jovi. The show might as well be sponsored by iTunes.
This year's Grammy grab for the attention of Joe Six-Pack (or at least his club-hopping gal pal Jane) is more forced than usual. The five nominees for album of the year are Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and Dave Matthews — all of whom will also be performing. That's a scary noms list, especially considering that the Grammys are peer-based. In other words, fellow artists are voting solely for acts selling well in these apocalyptic times. What a mess.
For what it's worth, here are my predictions for tonight's top hardware. I rarely get these things right, but that's only because I have good taste.
Album of the Year
Taylor Swift is a legit talent; I see her eventual legacy as akin to James Taylor's. Her Fearless album is catchy, prodigiously smart; it's also smashing Billboard records. The Grammys don't want to miss out on the Tay-Tay party. Beyoncé's I Am . . . Sasha Fierce was weak, but the Grammys adore her because she's classy and sexy as heck. Dave Matthews (Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King) gets the veteran's slot this year over Green Day and U2. As for Gaga (The Fame) and the Peas (The E.N.D.), they're being rewarded solely for socko sales clout — not craftmanship. No chance for a surprise Herbie Hancock win this year. Instead, it's all about the richest and prettiest. Sort of like prom night, but with more drunk kids.
Prediction: Fearless, Taylor Swift
Record of the Year
Here's a Grammy refresher course: Record of the year goes to a song's artist and producers; song of the year goes to a song's writers. Got it? Good. Although Swift's You Belong With Me and Kings of Leon's Use Somebody are both in this category, the Grammys will instead nod to the hottest, booty-bumpingest jam of the year. And I gotta feeling Fergie, above, is going to have a wardrobe malfunction.
Prediction: I Gotta Feeling, the Black Eyed Peas
Song of the Year
Once again, Swift and the Kings are the purest pens in the group. Maxwell's Pretty Wings was nice, too. But Beyoncé has to win something, so pencil her in for this likable dance-floor smash Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) — never mind that it took four people to write it.
Prediction: Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), Beyoncé
Best New Artist
Look at this eclectic group: the Zac Brown Band, Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups and the Ting Tings. Well done, Grammys! Maybe there's hope for you yet. The arty ravers in MGMT are fun, R&B's Hilson can sing and write with equal oomph and the Ting Tings might be my favorite new band of the year. But I say the Grammys go with a Chicken Fried crew that has already homegrown a crazy cultish fan base.
Prediction: Zac Brown Band
Best Country Album
If you're looking to wager your lunch money, this is Sure Bet No. 1. In fact, I have a list of country-album noms in front of me, and I've already forgotten all but one incandescent name.
Prediction: Fearless, Taylor Swift
Best Electronic/Dance Album
Here's Sure Bet No. 2. Gaga won't gobble up the biggest awards, but she'll take this sucker. Plus, when you're hanging around the watercooler tomorrow, you won't be dishing about who won what. You'll be dishing on Lady G's live set, scheduled to open the show. You know she has something wild and legally suspect in store. The Grammys are counting on it.
Prediction: The Fame, Lady Gaga