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Grammy Countdown: Beyonce, Taylor and the bout for album of the year [UPDATED]

January 26, 2010 |  2:45 pm

AOY_BEYONCE_TAYLOR

The category: Album of the year

The field at a glance: Combined, the five contenders have sold well over 13 million albums, according to Nielsen SoundScan. This is not the year of the underdog. 

Taylor Swift's "Fearless," released in 2008, was the top-selling album of 2009 at 4.6 million. The country darling will compete with fashion-aggressive pop start Lady Gaga, now-veteran diva Beyoncé, longtime jam act the Dave Matthews Band and L.A.'s studio wizards the Black Eyed Peas. 

Heading into the Grammys, Swift has won top prizes at nearly every major award show, her wholesome, arena-friendly songs leading a Nashville charge into the mainstream. Not since Shania Twain in the late '90s has a country lady so dominated popular culture, and at only 20, a vote for Swift is betting on the songwriter turning into a career artist.

The Dave Matthews Band, meanwhile, has amassed a nearly 20-year career, and has zero Grammy awards for their albums to show for it. Yet voters have been drawn to "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King," which reveals a tighter, more focused DMB. The ever-ubiquitous Black Eyed Peas trotted out multiple contenders for song of the summer, and Beyoncé's "I Am ... Sasha Fierce" was a two-disc effort that showed off the pop queen's diversity. She controlled the dance floor with "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," and remained a master of the big-moment ballad with "Halo." 

And the Grammy goes to? Swift, DMB and Beyoncé have the inside track, but Swift isn't the given here that she was at the Country Music Assn. Awards. Only once in the last decade has the Grammy gone  young (Norah Jones in 2003), and DMB isn't quite of the stature of a Robert Plant or a Ray Charles. The door could be open for Beyoncé, long an industry favorite, but one who hasn't yet won one of the major pop fields -- emphasis on yet. 

And who deserves it? Lady Gaga. Though not always evident on "The Fame," Lady Gaga has gradually morphed into one of our more challenging pop stars. 

-- Todd Martens

Photos: Beyoncé, left, and Taylor Swift. Credits: Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times

UPDATED: Dave Matthews Band won a Grammy for single "So Much to Say." The song was up for best rock performance by a duo or group with vocals. An earlier version of this post stated the band had won zero Grammys. 

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