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Grammy countdown: Estelle, Leona and the record of the year front-runners

November 25, 2008 |  5:00 pm
Estelle__500

While Grammy voters went with a vaunted industry artist in its top prize this year, giving Herbie Hancock the album of the year trophy, record of the year skewed younger. The most talked-about artist of 2007, Amy Winehouse, won the Grammy for her "Rehab."

And come February, the Brits may very well take the prize for the second year running. Newcomers Estelle and Leona Lewis both have had top 10 hits. Lewis' slow-burning R&B number "Bleeding Love" topped the U.S. pop chart, while Estelle's vibrant Kanye West-enhanced "American Boy" hit No. 9.

But if the British ladies don't take it, they may be beaten by their country mates. Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" is one of the strongest moments of the act's album "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends." It's a buoyant slice of pop, and it flirts with U2-like grandeur, pairing its swift string arrangement with some underlying electronics. Pop & Hiss predicts that "Viva La Vida" is a lock for a nom, and the early favorite to win.

Here are five best bets for the record of the year nominations:

Coldplay's "Viva La Vida"
Estelle's "American Boy," featuring Kanye West
Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love"
Sugarland's "Stay"
OneRepublic's "Apologize"

Reasoning: Lewis has been groomed for Grammy time, and her "Bleeding Love" will be impossible to ignore here. Estelle, however, is more fun and a more buzzed-about artist, and she'll keep the category a little fresher. Sugarland's "Stay" might be more of a long shot, but the Grammys faced heavy criticism from the Nashville community last year, and this post is thinking they'll respond to it. OneRepublic's "Apologize" is a sappy prom ballad, but it's also one of the biggest rock singles of the year. If the above shakes out, Coldplay shouldn't have trouble taking the prize.

But there are a number of potential alternates.

Here are seven other potential nominees:

Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl"
Duffy's "Mercy"
The Eagles' "Busy Being Fabulous"
Sara Bareilles' "Love Song"
Kanye West's "Love Lockdown"
Rihanna's "Take a Bow"
Mariah Carey's "Touch My Body"

Reasoning: Duffy has a good shot for a nomination, if the voters go all-British. But while she has an old-school soul sound that voters love, her momentum seems to be slowing as the year comes to a close. Likewise, Perry's song was unavoidable, but might be seen as too slight. There's consensus in the air that this will be the Eagles' year, which could slot them in here, but record of the year tends to be a little edgier. Bareilles was a last-minute pick, but there are other songs that still might squeak in above her, depending on how final submissions shape up (a cut, perhaps, from R&B star Chris Brown), and Rihanna has been as consistent a pop star as one can find in the last few years. Mariah has had Grammy success, and is appearing at the Dec. 3 nomination concert. Finally, while not having seen exactly what categories Kanye's "Love Lockdown" was submitted for, it could be a wild card for record of the year.   

Better alternative: M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes." Giving a nod to M.I.A.'s slice of globetrotting activism would make up for passing her over for a best new artist nomination for the last two years. Built around a Clash sample, M.I.A.'s underhanded vocal approach is vicious-cool, but tempered by hand claps and the song's lenient groove. Despite being a top 5 hit in the U.S., will the song's hook -- a string of gunshots that explode into a cash register -- scare away more conservative voters? Probably. But she also has a shot at an Oscar.

-- Todd Martens

Photo: Estelle, courtesy of the Associated Press

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