The best-album Grammy Award most likely will go to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' The Heist. Or Daft Punk's Random Access Memories. Unless it's Taylor Swift's Red. Stumped? So are many experts.
Those three nominees, along with Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city and Sara Bareilles' The Blessed Unrest, are vying for Grammy's most prestigious prize, and history suggests there's a path to victory for any of them.
"This is not an easy selection," says Billboard senior correspondent Phil Gallo, who gives the edge to Red.
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Grammy's album dart often hits the bull's-eye: Michael Jackson's Thriller, Paul Simon's Graceland, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours.
Sprinkled in are a few outrages (Blood, Sweat & Tears beating The Beatles' Abbey Road) and such underdog upsets as Steely Dan and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
handicappers now is the absence of a shoo-in like 2011 Grammy queen
Adele, who swept album, record, song and three other slots.
This year's presumed front-runner wasn't nominated.
"I thought all year long that album of the year would be a virtual coronation of Justin Timberlake," says veteran Grammy analyst Paul Grein, who writes for Yahoo Music.
Timberlake's shutout for The 20/20 Experience
was likely engineered by the Recording Academy's blue-ribbon panel,
says Tom O'Neil, editor of the Gold Derby awards site. The panel reviews
and pares each marquee category's top 20 finalists.
"The panel is
saying it's not obsessed with sales and wants to emphasize new music,"
O'Neil theorizes. "They like to spread things around at the top and
they're bored with Justin, frankly. He's lost at the top (three times),
so why put him there again?"
The race boils down to Red or The Heist, says O'Neil, tilting toward the latter.
"It's more fresh in the minds of the voters," he says. "Rap only won once, and that was OutKast
10 years ago. Macklemore had a remarkable year. And it's pop-friendly
rap for the masses, not the scary kind. It goes down well.
"Taylor is the fascinating wild card. She's a proven winner, and the
voters do like female solo artists, but she's become tarnished by her
tabloid life, and she's acquiring a bubblegum quality."
a very likable album," Gallo counters. "Swift involved a lot of solid
songwriters and producers and made a record that elevated her out of
country and made her a clear pop person. There's an industry acceptance
of her that I don't think has waned."
A building consensus for the independently released Heist may be misguided, he adds.
"It would be as surprising as (2011's) Arcade Fire win" for The Suburbs,
Gallo says. The rap duo "is outside the system, outside the mainstream,
even outside the hip-hop world, and the industry tends to reward its
He's more mystified by the inclusion of Bareilles' Unrest.
"It's not some astounding record that had a cult of fans," Gallo says. "Nobody was talking about this record."
Grein is betting on Daft Punk, despite the category's poor record for dance music. The genre's only win, he points out, was the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Bolstering Daft Punk's chances? The French duo is the only contender up for both album and record, and Random is the only best-album entry up for best non-classical engineered album.
comes down to Daft Punk and Taylor Swift," Gallo says. "Taylor will
probably win for country album, but I'm not sure the voters will give
her album of the year again just four years after she won for Fearless. Daft Punk may seem a hipper and fresher choice."