Unlike the Oscars, where it's all about the awards, the Grammys are all about the superstar performances, the big over-the-top tributes and the "Grammy moments" (remember Eminem's duet with Elton John?). The 2006 edition promises all of the above, but the theme for Wednesday night's show might be "Keepin' It Real (Safe)"
Music's biggest night kicks off tonight with a "mash-up" featuring the Material Mom Madonna accompanied by the Gorillaz, the animated virtual band nominated for four Grammys, including the coveted record of the year.
The lineup of performers, which is sure to generate ratings, encompasses a who's who in the pantheon of contemporary music, including Mariah Carey, whose comeback disc, "The Emancipation of Mimi," was the best-selling album of 2005 and was rewarded with eight nominations, including album, record and song of the year.
Mimi is tied with rapper-producer Kanye West (who was last year's top nominee with 10 nods) and R&B singer John Legend. They will join Bruce Springsteen (five nominations, including song of the year), Coldplay (three nominations, including best rock song), U2 and Mary J Blige, Faith Hill and Keith Urban, Christina Aguilera and Herbie Hancock, Jamie Foxx with Kanye West, and what promises to be the "water cooler moment," the all-star tribute to Sly And The Family Stone featuring Maroon 5, Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas, Robert Randolph, and Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith.
First-time performers include 13-time Grammy winner Sir Paul McCartney who's nominated for album of the year, best pop vocal album and best male vocal performance, and multiple nominee and former "American Idol" champ, Kelly Clarkson, who network executives are hoping will attract the 35 million people following "American Idol."
This year, the nominations contain 108 categories but the most important ones that will have lasting value (i.e. next day sales increase) are: record of the year, album of the year, song of the year and best new artist. Below is a list of the nominees and my picks:
Record of the Year
"We Belong Together" - Mariah Carey
"Feel Good, Inc." - Gorillaz
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" - Green Day
"Hollaback Girl" - Gwen Stefani
"Gold Digger" - Kanye West
2005 was undoubtedly Mariah Carey's year thanks in part to the massive success of the smash ballad "We Belong Together" -- the year's longest-running No. 1 with 14 weeks atop the charts. Despite being the best-selling female solo act in history, Mariah has only won two Grammys and voters will make amends by giving her an armful of trophies this year.
Fellow eight-Grammy nominee Kanye West poses the greatest challenge with "Gold Digger," a track that spent 10 weeks at No. 1, thus solidifying his status as hip hop's musical genius. Mariah and Kanye's combined 16 nominations (15 percent of the total nominations) is an impressive number in today's volume-related society, and this is a fact that will not be overlooked by Grammy voters.
Album of the Year
"The Emancipation of Mimi" - Mariah Carey
"Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" - Paul McCartney
"Love. Angel. Music. Baby." - Gwen Stefani
"How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" - U2
"Late Registration" - Kanye West
The most important of the Grammy Awards, this year's race for best album features rock, pop, rap and R&B. Conventional wisdom has the year's best-selling CD, "The Emancipation of Mimi," winning the trophy, but the only thing that Grammy voters like more than comebacks is nostalgia and this could help Sir Paul McCartney nab the award.
The last time McCartney won a Grammy in this category was in 1967 as a member of the Beatles for the classic "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Socially conscious rapper Kanye West is the only artist to have scored 17 nominations in two consecutive years and his sophomore album, "Late Registration," has been hailed as a masterpiece. This could be enough for him to walk away the winner.
Song of the Year (Songwriting Award)
"Bless The Broken Road" - Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna and Marcus Hummon (Rascal Flatts)
"Devils & Dust" - Bruce Springsteen
"Ordinary People" - Will.I.Am and J.Legend (John Legend)
"Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" - U2
"We Belong Together" - J.Austin, M.Carey, J.Dupri and Manuel Seal (Mariah Carey)
The theme of this year's nominated songs is family, relationships and surviving in today's world. Favorites in this category are John Legend and Will.I.Am (Black Eyed Peas), who created magic when they wrote "Ordinary People," a beautiful ballad about the ups and downs of a relationship, while U2's "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own" was a tribute to Bono's father. The Boss' "Devils & Dust," the title track to last year's hauntingly beautiful album, is the dark-horse candidate that could steal the award away.
Best New Artist
Fall Out Boy
Keane is one of the U.K.'s biggest new acts; Fall Out Boy put the Chicago punk scene on the map; Sugarland is one of country music's brightest hopes and its debut CD sold 1.3 million copies while R&B chanteuse Ciara scored several hits, including the infectious smash "Goodies." Not enough to challenge multiple nominee John Legend who is a shoo-in to win best new artist.