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Handicapping This Year's Grammy Award Nominees

of the Oakland Press

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It will be a good night for the ladies at this year's Grammy Awards. And that's not going out on too far of a limb.

Consider this year's leading nominees -- Beyonce with 10, Taylor Swift with eight, Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas with six, Lady Gaga with five. It's not exactly a stretch to figure that you won't have to be on the red carpet to see the gowns.

But who specifically will take home the trophies? And what upsets lay in wait? Being the top nominee doesn't always translate into a sweep -- just as Lil Wayne, who came into 2009's ceremony with a field-leading eight nominations and walked out with half that many wins, not a bad haul but disappointing, especially since none were in the major categories. So Beyonce may want to hold off on clearing a lot of shelf space beforehand.

Looking for a sweep? Put your money on Taylor Swift, for a variety of reasons (see below). But don't be surprised if this turns out to be one of those spread-the-wealth years for the Grammys, with a wide array of names being read as the envelopes are open. Here's a look at how a baker's dozen of the top nominees are likely to fare on Sunday (Jan. 31):

Beyonce: Her "I Am...Sasha Fierce" album came out early in this year's cycle (November of 2008), which dulls some of the momentum that other nominees carry into ceremony. And despite the project's great success, the former Destiny's Child had a softer profile during the year, and particularly during the Grammy voting period, than folks like Swift, Gaga and the Peas. Expect her wins to be in the Pop and R&B rather than major categories.

Taylor Swift: The most likely candidate for a Big Night. The willowy 20-year-old songstress is riding a wave of sweeps at the Country Music Association Awards, the American Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards and the Teen Choice Awards, and as the only coutry(-ish) artist in the Album, Song and Record of the Year categories she may well benefit from genre block voting. She won't go home empty-handed, that's for sure.

Black Eyed Peas: Swift will be formidable competition in the major categories, but the Peas will be well rewarded for their ubiquitous presence during the past year with the likes of "Boom Boom Pow" and "I Gotta Feeling." They'd be well-advised to have their thank-you lists in order.

Lady Gaga: She was definitely one of the pop faces, and forces, of '09, and it's only a technicality that keeps here from being nominated for Best New Artist. That's too bad, because she'll be taking a beating elsewhere. Hopefully she'll have her "Poker Face" on when the TV cameras find her.

Kanye West: Six nominations but the stink of his MTV Music Video Awards grandstanding still reeks. They're all for collaborations, though, so we'll see if he's able to sneak in on the coattails of others (particularly Rihanna and Jay-Z for "Run This Town") or if his damaged rep will drag them down, too.

Maxwell: A big comeback with his first album in eight years ("BLACKsummersnight") netted him a half-dozen nods in the pop and R&B fields. He may take home something in the latter, but he won't need help carrying his winnings away.

Jay-Z: "Empire State of Mind" came out after the nominations deadline or else this rap icon impresario would need a sack to bring home the trophies. That makes him just part of the pack in his five nominated categories (competing against himself for Best Rap Song, even) and no sure bets.

Eminem: The Detroit rapper hasn't won a Grammy in seven years, and his profile during the "Relapse" comeback was a little soft. Best Rap Album is the most likely of his three nominations to pan out.

Zac Brown Band: The likely winner of the Best New Artist trophy thanks to fortuitous circumstances: a lot of crossover appeal with colleagues beyond country; the rock crowd will split between MGMT, Silversun Pickups and the Ting Tings; and how can anybody who votes for Keri Hilson really live with themselves?

AC/DC: Green Day, U2 and the Dave Matthews Band are formidable hurdles in the Best Rock Album category, but AC/DC love has never been stronger -- especially after an eight-year hiatus. "Black Ice" should earn some Grammy gold.

Kings of Leon: "Use Somebody" is a long shot for Song of the Year, but Best Rock Performance By a Duo or Group and Best Rock Song are certainly within reach, especially following up "Sex On Fire's" 2009 win in the former category.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra: Call this Grammy glass half full or half empty. The DSO's ambitious and engrossing collaboration with Bela Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer on "The Melody of Rhythm" -- nominated for Best Classical Crossover Album -- puts the Leonard Slatkin era on the map. But it'll have a hard time besting "Yo-Yo Ma & Friends: Songs of Joy and Peace," whose large and potent guest list -- which includes James TAylor, Diana Krall, Alison Krauss [i]and[/i] Edgar Meyer -- is a voting block unto itself.

The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards air at 8 p.m. Sunday (Jan. 31) on CBS, WWJ-TV (Channel 62 in Detroit) and stream live at www.grammy.com, www.cbs.com and on YouTube. Scheduled performers include: Eminem with Lil Wayne, Drake and Travis Barker; Taylor Swift; Beyonce; the Black Eyed Peas; Bon Jovi; the Dave Matthews Band; Green Day with the cast of "American Idiot;" Elton John; Lady Gaga; Pink; the Zac Brown Band; Lady Antebellum; Maxwell; Jennifer Nettles; Roberta Flack; Ne-Yo; Jamie Foxx, T-Pain, Slash and Doug E. Fresh; There will also be a tributes to jazz artist Kenny Burrell, Les Paul (with Jeff Back and Imelda Ray) and a 3-D tribute to the late Michael Jackson featuring a performance of "Earth Song" by Smokey Robinson, Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson. Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli will perform a duet of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" that will subsequently be sold to raise money for Haitian earthquake relief. The Grammy pre-telecast awards ceremony will stream live from 4-7 p.m. at www.grammy.com.

Web Site: www.grammy.com

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