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Grammy Awards 2012: Five races to watch -- besides Adele's

February 12, 2012 |  8:30 am

Adele

If you’re going by the Las Vegas odds on the four main Grammy races, only a fool would wager against Adele in the categories in which she is nominated. As of last week, the line on the young British singer’s nominated categories was so stacked in her favor for “Rolling in the Deep” for both song and record of the year and for her five-times-platinum “21” for album of the year that those betting on, say, Katy Perry or Rihanna stand to make a fortune in the unlikely event of an upset. Below are a few key races to watch:

Song of the year: A songwriter’s category that honors the craft of the song pits “Rolling in the Deep” against rapper Kanye West’s “All of the Lights,” “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons, Bruno Mars’ light pop song “Grenade” and Wisconsin folk-rock artist Bon Iver’s plaintive wail of “Holocene.” This category is Adele’s to lose, mainly because each of the other artists is much less universal in their appeal, and will split votes. But Kanye is involved, so by definition this will be a race to watch.

New artist: In past years, this win has far from guaranteed a long career (Christopher Cross, Milli Vanilli, Paula Cole), though many of its recipients have gone to great heights (Sade, Alicia Keys, John Legend). The mix-and-match quality of the category this year is on par with previous demographically balanced ballots: Bon Iver attracts the 30- and 40-something Pitchfork/indie-rock crowd with his Arcade-Fire-esque rise; the Band Perry is the poppy country entry that attracts across the board; and rising electronic producer Skrillex, whose oft-abrasive dubstep is drawing larger and larger crowds, is the nod toward the youth. The favorite? Nicki Minaj, whose profoundly expressive rap style and magnetic delivery are so infectious that producers and rappers for the past year have lined up to get her on tape.

FULL COVERAGE: Grammy Awards 2012

Pop duo/group performance: Mixed and matched as if by roll of the dice, this is a battle of the earworms — with a couple of odd outliers. The relentlessly catchy of the bunch are Los Angeles pop-rock group Foster the People’s inescapable “Pumped Up Kicks,” British soft-rock band Coldplay’s ode to longing, “Paradise,” and Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera’s catchy TV hit “Moves Like Jagger.” Chances are one or all of these songs have chased you from mall store to mall store all year long. Less overplayed – by a longshot — was the Black Keys’ cover of Buddy Holly’s “Dearest,” and Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse’s duet of “Body and Soul,” neither of which stand much of a chance – unless, in the case of the latter, sentimentality reigns.

Jay-Z and Kanye West

Rap album: One reason why this will be one of the night’s most anticipated moments can be answered in two words: Kanye West. He’s nominated twice, for his masterful rap album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” — which should have been a nominee for album of the year — and for his collaboration with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne.” They’ll be going against Nicki Minaj’s full-length album debut, “Pink Friday”; labelmate Lil Wayne’s return-from-prison album, “Tha Carter IV”; and Lupe Fiasco’s underappreciated “Lasers.” Though it’s perhaps a given that West will take this trophy, either way the viewers win because we get to hear what he has to say on stage, or we get to hear what he has to say afterward via Twitter.

Country solo performance: The biggest names in country music 2012 vie for this award, which features songs about mean people, the pleasures of small-town life, a cancer diagnosis, and notions of true love from two perspectives — by, respectively, Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Martina McBride, Blake Shelton and Carrie Underwood. The winner is anybody’s guess, though few people have lost money betting on Swift.

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-- Randall Roberts

Top photo: Adele performing at the Greek Theatre in Dec. 2011. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times 

Bottom photo: Jay-Z, left, and Kanye West, right, on stage at Staples Center Sunday night December 11 2011 for their 'Watch The Throne' tour in Los Angeles, the first of three nights. Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times

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