Adele's “21” was both a sales sensation and a near-unanimous critical darling. This year, the field has neither, making the album of the year sweepstakes a wide open affair. Grammy favorites, internal industry politics and campaigning will all come into play to settle the nominations, which will be announced tonight.
The likely nominees will be:
Black Keys, “El Camino.” The blues-rock duo from Akron has turned into a Grammy favorite and growing mainstream powerhouse. Their most successful album yet deserves a nod in the big category.
Coldplay, “Mylo Xyloto.” Grammy voters, especially those working for EMI, love the Coldplay. The only way this doesn't get in is if the EMI crew decide to back Norah Jones' “Little Broken Hearts” instead.
Miranda Lambert, “Four The Record.” Miranda Lambert may not have the same sales as Taylor Swift, but she sure has passionate fans in Nashville and in the music industry. With this move into the mainstream, she may have a big Grammy contender.
Mumford and Sons, “Babel.” The Grammys embraced these indie-folk rockers early on and it has paid off with the massive sales of this album. A nomination for this is also a pat on the back.
Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange.” Hopefully, Grammy voters will use their power to shine a spotlight on Frank Ocean's impressive debut, the way they have for Mumford and Sons and Skrillex. He is a future superstar. They should get on board now.
ALSO IN THE RUNNING: Drake, “Take Care”; Fun., “Some Nights”; Grammy fave Norah Jones, “Little Broken Hearts”; Lionel Richie's comeback album “Tuskeegee”; Bruce Springsteen's masterful “Wrecking Ball”
DARK HORSES: If the Academy leans pop again like it did last year, watch for P!nk's “The Truth About Love,” Rihanna's “Talk That Talk” or Usher's “Looking 4 Myself” to make a move.
IF I RULED THE WORLD: Alabama Shakes' "Boys and Girls," Japandroids' “Celebration Rock,” Bob Dylan's “Tempest” or Bob Mould's “Silver Age”