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Grammy countdown: Album of the year an easy one to call?

February 2, 2009 | 11:16 am

Grammy countdown: Album of the year


The field at a glance: Last year, Recording Academy voters played it safe, tapping an album per genre, and giving the win to Herbie Hancock over a more relevant release from Kanye West. This year, the category brought us some surprises.

Lil Wayne may have had the bestselling album of the year in "Tha Carter III," but he represents a harder, more explicit hip-hop sound than the Grammys usually embrace in its top category. Additionally, Radiohead's "In Rainbows" wasn't a sure thing. Yes, Radiohead has been nominated for the top prize in the past, but some wondered whether the band's pay-what-you-want release model would hurt its chances at such a pro-industry event, as it questions the standard practices of the music biz. It hasn't, and Grammy and Radiohead seem to be full-on pals in 2009, as the adventurous English rock band appears in Grammy ads and will perform at the awards.

As usual, the field still has some pop superstars (see Coldplay, Ne-Yo) and the token heritage act ('Raising Sand" from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss). But Recording Academy voters shied away from some of the more predictable releases in selecting its album of the year choices. For instance, heavy hitters such as Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow and the Eagles were looked over in this field. Score one for Grammy.

So is there any way Plant & Krauss don't take this category?

Probably not. As has been noted quite a few times on Pop & Hiss, "Raising Sand" has all the right ingredients for an album of the year win. In one corner, there's Plant, who's long overdue for Grammy recognition (he has only two in his career), and in another, there's Krauss, who's one of Grammys' most beloved artists (she has 21 awards). Combined, the two should be unstoppable.

And the haunting country rock of "Raising Sand" is not just a critic's darling, either. The pair won last year for best pop collaboration with vocals for "Raising Sand" single "Gone Gone Gone," and they are performing on this year's telecast.

If there's someone who can sneak the award away from Plant & Krauss, the safe bet is on Coldplay. The band had the top-selling rock album of the year, and they bridge the generation gap. Orchestra-laden single "Viva la Vida" is adult-safe, and Coldplay's Chris Martin has hip-hop street cred (he collaborated with Kanye on last year's "Graduation" single "Homecoming").

Ne-Yo is a rising Grammy star, but bet on him in the single categories rather than album of the year. Radiohead deserves the win, but not a chance, and Lil Wayne is still too risky an artist for Grammy voters to embrace.

Tune into Pop & Hiss this Sunday for complete Grammy coverage, beginning with a live blog of the pre-show telecast at 1 p.m.

-- Todd Martens

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Related: Grammy countdown: Coldplay versus Mraz in best song race?

Photo (top left): Plant & Krauss / Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times
Photo (center): Radiohead / Los Angeles Times
Photo (top right): Lil Wayne / Getty Images