Grammy predictions 2013: Our critic's picks

Nate Ruess of the band fun. performs at

Nate Ruess of the band fun. performs at Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan. Fun. is nominated for six Grammy awards.(Feb. 2, 2013) (Credit: AP)

This is one of those Grammy years when there are plenty of strong candidates, but no real front-runner.

The winners will likely end up picked based on how well the campaigns were run and voters will likely spread the wealth.

Here's a look at how the top categories will likely (and should) shake out:

PHOTOS: Grammy winners | Grammys red carpet

MORE: Complete 2013 awards guide | Backstage Pass blog

 

RECORD OF THE YEAR

The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy"

Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"

fun., featuring Janelle Monae, "We Are Young"

Gotye, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

Frank Ocean, "Thinkin' 'Bout You"

Taylor Swift, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

WILL WIN "We Are Young." Being upbeat and youth-oriented should give it the edge over Gotye.

SHOULD WIN "We Are Young." Structurally and thematically, it doesn't feel like a pop song. But it's so catchy and so well-crafted, it acts like one.

 

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

The Black Keys, "El Camino"

fun., "Some Nights"

Mumford & Sons, "Babel"

Frank Ocean, "Channel Orange"

Jack White, "Blunderbuss"

WILL WIN "El Camino." The Black Keys are worthy Grammy darlings and "El Camino" deserves the attention as a crowning achievement in the Akron, Ohio, duo's blues-rock sound. This category is so high-quality, though, strong arguments can be made for all of them to win.

SHOULD WIN "Channel Orange." Frank Ocean's reinvention of R&B is a wonder, as is his epic tale, "Pyramids." It shows hip can also carry intellectual heft.

 

SONG OF THE YEAR

Ed Sheeran, "The A Team"

Miguel, "Adorn"

Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"

Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"

fun., featuring Janelle Monae, "We Are Young"

WILL WIN "We Are Young." Grammy voters seem to have some misplaced doubts about Jepsen's future.

SHOULD WIN "We Are Young." While "Call Me Maybe" may be the most memorable song of the year, the fun. song is much more interesting.

 

BEST NEW ARTIST

Alabama Shakes

fun.

Hunter Hayes

The Lumineers

Frank Ocean

WILL WIN fun. The New York trio's ambitious combination of Queen, emo and pop will charm the voters. Of course, this category is traditionally cray, so don't rule out Hunter Hayes or Alabama Shakes.

SHOULD WIN Frank Ocean. It may sound like hyperbole, but Ocean may really turn out to be this generation's Prince.

 

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger"

Florence & the Machine, "Ceremonials"

fun., "Some Nights"

Maroon 5, "Overexposed"

Pink, "The Truth About Love"

WILL WIN "Some Nights"

SHOULD WIN "Some Nights." The wild ambition of fun. stretches the boundaries of what today's pop can handle.

 

BEST DANCE ELECTRONICA ALBUM

Steve Aoki, "Wonderland"

Chemical Brothers, "Don't Think"

Deadmau5, ">Album Title Goes Here<"

Kaskade, "Fire & Ice"

Skrillex, "Bangarang"

WILL WIN "Bangarang." The Grammy voters have decided they love Skrillex, even if this EP doesn't quite match his debut.

SHOULD WIN "Wonderland." Steve Aoki and a wide array of friends -- from Rivers Cuomo to LMFAO -- add a sense of humor and fun to the thumping dance beats.

 

ROCK ALBUM

The Black Keys, "El Camino"

Coldplay, "Mylo Xyloto"

Muse, "The 2nd Law"

Bruce Springsteen, "Wrecking Ball"

Jack White, "Blunderbuss"

WILL WIN "El Camino." The Grammy voters are eager to introduce the Black Keys to a broad audience as winners.

SHOULD WIN "Wrecking Ball." Springsteen not only outlines the feelings of a country struggling with an economic downturn but offers inspiration to weather the storm.

 

BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM

Fiona Apple, "The Idler Wheel... "

Björk, "Biophilia"

Gotye, "Making Mirrors"

M83, "Hurry Up, We're Dreaming"

Tom Waits, "Bad as Me"

WILL WIN "The Idler Wheel... " Grammy loves a comeback and this is a fantastic rebound for Apple.

SHOULD WIN "Bad as Me." Tom Waits masterfully combines blues, folk, rock and country into a sound that is uniquely his.

 

BEST RAP ALBUM

Drake, "Take Care"

Lupe Fiasco, "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1"

Nas, "Life Is Good"

The Roots, "Undun"

Rick Ross, "God Forgives, I Don't"

2 Chainz, "Based on a T.R.U. Story"

WILL WIN "Take Care." It was a surprise that this didn't make it into the album of the year category.

SHOULD WIN "Take Care." Drake's mix of hip-hop, dance and pop is a sleek winner, packed with likable hits.

 

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM

Zac Brown Band, "Uncaged"

Hunter Hayes, "Hunter Hayes"

Jamey Johnson, "Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran"

Miranda Lambert, "Four the Record"

Time Jumpers, "The Time Jumpers"

WILL WIN "Uncaged." Though the category is stacked with contenders, Zac Brown should edge out Miranda Lambert and Hunter Hayes.

SHOULD WIN "Uncaged." Zac Brown shows off a variety of country styles and even a groovy bit of R&B with "Overnight."

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