Sure, it's easy to malign the Grammys for celebrating artists better known for commercial clout than artistic merit. After all, Grammy awards and chart success tend to go hand-in-hand (although not as steadily as at the American Music Awards), and this year's selections definitely reflect an industry obsession with lightweight dance-pop, homogenized rock, shorty-driven hip-hop and the occasional country artist. In reality, 2009's music brought some truly great moments, but you wouldn't know it from this year's Grammys. Here are my picks and misses for some of the top categories to be telecast Jan. 31.
Album of the Year: Beyoncé, I Am ... Sasha Fierce; The Black Eyed Peas, The E.N.D.; Lady Gaga, The Fame; Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King; Taylor Swift, Fearless
Should win: U2's No Line on the Horizon. Oops ... OK, the best of this bunch is the Dave Matthews Band.
Will win: Voters won't be able to ignore 2009's top-selling album from Swift.
Song of the Year: Lady Gaga, "Poker Face"; Maxwell, "Pretty Wings"; Beyoncé, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"; Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody"; Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me"
Should win: Kings of Leon were overlooked for Sex on Fire last year. This year, they deserve to win.
Will win: R&B has traditionally struggled in multi-genre categories. That leaves Kings of Leon and Taylor Swift. Swift gets the nod.
Record of the Year: Beyoncé, "Halo"; The Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling"; Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody"; Lady Gaga, "Poker Face"; Taylor Swift, "You Belong With Me"
Should win: Kings of Leon again.
Will win: Swift again.
New Artist: Zac Brown Band, Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups, The Ting Tings
Should win: The Silversun Pickups over MGMT, but it's close.
Will win: MGMT has the combination of popularity and critical acclaim.
Rock Album: AC/DC, Black Ice; Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, Live From Madison Square Garden; Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown; Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King; U2, No Line on the Horizon
Should win: No Line.
Will win: DMB falls short for Best Album; voters throw them a bone here.
Alternative Music Album: David Byrne and Brian Eno, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today; Death Cab for Cutie, The Open Door; Depeche Mode, Sounds of the Universe; Phoenix, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix; Yeah Yeah Yeahs, It's Blitz!
Should win: Lots of better albums were overlooked, so Byrne and Eno by default.
Will win: Byrne and Eno; Grammy voters have actually heard of them.
Contemporary R&B Album: Beyoncé, I Am ... Sasha Fierce; Jamie Foxx, Intuition; Pleasure P, The Introduction of Marcus Cooper; Trey Songz, Ready; T-Pain, Thr33 Ringz
Should win: My upset pick? Trey Songz.
Will win: Only Beyoncé was also nominated for Best Album. She should be an automatic here.
Rap Song: Drake, "Best I Ever Had"; Kid Cudi, "Day 'N' Nite"; T.I. and Justin Timberlake, "Dead and Gone"; Jay-Z, "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)"; Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West, "Run This Town"
Should win: Kid Cudi's inventive track trumps a star-studded field.
Will win: "Dead and Gone" has enough melody and star power.
Country Album: Zac Brown Band, The Foundation; George Strait, Twang; Taylor Swift, Fearless; Keith Urban, Defying Gravity; Lee Ann Womack, Call Me Crazy
Should win: Strait remains king of country with another excellent album.
Will win: If Swift wins Best Album, she has to win here.