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Beyonce, Sam Smith smart bets to clean up at Grammy Award nominations

By Nick Patch


(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

TORONTO _ Almost exactly a year after Beyonce surprised the world by suddenly dropping her self-titled “video” album, she will surprise no one this Friday when she surely scoops up a slate of Grammy nominations fit for a queen.

There are few sure things after Bey, however. A murky Grammys picture reflects a 2014 in which no artist went platinum other than Taylor Swift _ and she’s not eligible outside of the singles categories.

So the race for nominations is fairly open, even if the tattered track is littered with potholes. Below, a breakdown of the contenders in the Grammys’ marquee categories.

MIRROR BAWL: It was in 2011 that Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” emerged out of a flat race to claim a surprise album of the year victory, which frontman Win Butler marked with an enthusiastic: “Merci Montreal!”

It seems unlikely that the band could mirror that achievement with the more fractured, divisive follow-up “Reflektor,” but the sprawling double record is still a long-shot candidate for a nomination in the Grammys’ biggest category.

Most likely, one rock album will sneak into the five-record field. Arcade Fire, perhaps, sags behind slightly more likely candidates in Jack White’s elaborately adorned revival “Lazaretto” or even U2’s “Songs of Innocence.” The latter was largely dismissed by critics, but U2 are 22-time Grammy winners with four album of the year nominations (and two wins) in their past.

Otherwise, bet on the Brits: Ed Sheeran has ascended the Grammy ranks gradually with song and new artist of the year nominations and could make the mark with his sophomore record “x,” while Sam Smith is bound to garner much recognition, if not in this lofty category.

Miranda Lambert’s (thus-far inaccurately titled) “Platinum” probably holds the best shot at a nomination among the country congregation, though Eric Church’s (accurately titled) “The Outsiders” could sneak in from the margins.

Other pop contenders include Ariana Grande’s “My Everything,” Katy Perry’s “Prism,” Pharrell Williams’ polished “Girl” and Iggy Azalea’s “The New Classic.”

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Grammys will warm to the “Frozen” soundtrack, the year’s biggest seller. In the past 20 years only two soundtracks have managed album of the year nominations: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and “Waiting to Exhale.” So perhaps the animated film’s legions of fans shouldn’t hold their breath?

DAZEEM REDEEMED: Where “Frozen” should find a foothold is in the Grammys’ other two main categories, the hazily distinguished record and song of the year. (For those confused, “record” honours performance while “song” honours songwriting. But expect overlap.)

Idina Menzel’s smash single “Let it Go” won the Oscar for best song and now seems destined for nominations in both categories (a feat last accomplished by Eminem’s inspirational smash “Lose Yourself”).

Though it was another down year for albums, it was a different story for insidiously ubiquitous pop singles. Strong contenders for nominations in these two categories include Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me,” Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” Beyonce‘s “Drunk in Love,” Ed Sheeran’s “Sing,” Sia’s “Chandelier,” Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” (Pharrell’s “Happy” was entered last year, so while it’s entered again this year in live form, it’s thus eligible only for record, not song, of the year).

The one Cancon hopeful in these categories will then have much competition for contention: Magic’s giddy-goofy reggae-pop breezer “Rude.” Still, the song spent six straight weeks at No. 1 in the U.S. and is distinctive enough that it might garner recognition even if the rest of the band’s debut album failed to connect.

NEW MONEY: Sam Smith feels as secure a lock for a best new artist nomination this year as Lorde did last year _ and of course, she wasn’t nominated.

But given Smith’s gilded rookie season _ which included two Top 10 singles and Stateside album sales approaching the platinum mark _ his exclusion would seem bafflingly egregious.

Aussie breakout Iggy Azalea seems similarly poised for recognition after lending her uniquely accented raps to three different Top 3 singles.

Similarly Australian 5 Seconds of Summer is also a presumed favourite for a nomination _ the Grammys don’t mind honouring teen-pop in this category, where Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers were also once nominated.

Ariana Grande too makes sense, but this category has rarely been so purely pop-focused. In recent years, nominees have included Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, Kacey Musgraves, James Blake, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and Esperanza Spalding (who memorably went on to beat both Bieber and Drake, leaving Robert Goulet as history’s lone Canadian winner in the category).

So at least one nominee should represent a different corner of the industry. Eerie R&B singer FKA Twigs, California pop sister trio Haim or rising Swedish prospect Tove Lo are all candidates to round out the category.

Or maybe it’s another opportunity for Magic. Sure, the Nasri Atweh-led outfit has mastered only one trick, but it’s one _ a triple-platinum single _ that will always mesmerize the Recording Academy.

_ Follow (at)CP_Patch on Twitter.

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