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Eminem, Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum headed for Grammy battle royale

of the Oakland Press

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Eminem is “Not Afraid.”

Lady Antebellum is simply “Lookin’ For a Good Time.”

And Lady Gaga wants to “Just Dance.”

Welcome to the 2011 Grammy Awards battle royale.

There is, of course, no telling who’s going to be the big winner when the envelopes are opened during the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony today in Los Angeles. After all, 20 acts received four or more nominations, and if you’re Eminem — who has a field-leading 10, including three of the four main categories (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year) — you have to be worried about the long track record of well-situated predecessors who walked away disappointed.

But conventional wisdom has the Detroit rapper, the upstart country trio and the new Madonna as on the odds-on favorites to be duking it out for the big prizes. Fortunately for each, they come from different sectors of the music world, so they’re likely to reap some Grammy gold from within their own genre categories. But a number of factors will play into whether it’s ultimately their night.

Let’s consider...


Nominations: Ten, the most of all nominees, including Album of the Year for “Recovery” and both Record and Song of the Year for “Love the Way You Lie.” He’s also competing against himself in the Best Rap Song category, with both “Not Afraid” and “Love the Way You Lie” up for the award.

In His Favor: A pair of strong voting blocks — the Universal Music Group, parent company to his Shady/Aftermath/Interscope labels, and the rap community, which would love to see one of its own prevail in some of the major categories, especially Album of the Year. Non-affiliated voters, meanwhile, may appreciate the dominance of “Recovery” in 2010 and recognize that it, and not last year’s “Relapse” — which snagged a pair of Grammys in the rap category — marks his true comeback.

Against Him: The country block is just as unified and probably larger than rap’s body of voters, which could make Lady Antebellum his stiffest competitor. And the general Grammy votership, which has proven conservative in the past, may favor the cleaner and more melodic fare nominated alongside him.

Spoiler: Fellow MC Jay-Z is up for six Grammys — just as many as Ladys Gaga and Antebellum. His “Empire State of Mind” collaboration with Alicia Keys has massive appeal, and the rap block could decide it’s time to reward his stellar career and leave Em in the cold in that category.

Prognosis: With 11 previous wins — and a .423 career Grammy batting average — Eminem has always gotten Recording Academy love. He’ll be strong in the rap categories and should take home Album of the Year.


Nominations: Six, including Album, Record and Song of the Year for “Need You Now.”

In Their Favor: “Need You Now” was a HUGE crossover hit between country, pop and Adult Contemporary, and Lady A was ubiquitous throughout the year, on tour with Tim McGraw and later on its own, playing every manner of TV show and taking home multiple trophies at the Academy of Country Music, Country Music Association and inaugural American Country awards shows. It also snagged the Favorite Country Band, Duo or Group prize at the American Music Awards. And as the lone country nominee in the major categories, the trio represents a mighty block of voters.

Against Them: Pretty and polished as it is, “Need You Now” is the most milquetoast of the year’s nominees. The Grammys have certainly rewarded melodic love songs in the past, but there’s a sense of trying to get away from that and into edgier fare, which could hamper Lady A’s chances.

Spoiler: Miranda Lambert made a big footprint in the country world this year, and while they don’t share many categories she’ll give the trio a run for Best Country Song and Best Country album.

Prospects: Song of the Year — rewarding the composition rather than the recording — is Lady A’s most likely major category win, and fortunately Dave Haywood, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott are all co-writers and will get due credit.


Nominations: Six, including Album of the Year.

In Her Favor: The world went gaga for Gaga in 2010, and she was all over the place — on stage, on TV, on magazine covers, in social media. She made a massive footprint and a lot of friends, and she won 13 Billboard Music Awards during the past two years and eight MTV Music Video Awards in 2010. And her two Grammys last year showed she’s certainly on the Recording Academy radar. Gaga is also part of the Universal Music Group family, a massive conglomerate with plenty of registered Grammy voters (who, as we previously noted, also have loyalties to Eminem).

Against Her: There is a part of the voting populace that remains anti-pop and anti-spectacle; Madonna, for instance, has a scant seven Grammys to show for all of the sensation she’s caused since the mid-’80s. And “The Fame Monster,” Gaga’s entry in the Album of the Year category, is an odd duck, an eight-song EP that doesn’t quite have the heft or creative focus of a traditional album — even though it spawned the hits “Bad Romance,” “Telephone” and “Alejandro.”

Spoilers: Gaga has more outright competition in her own genre than either Eminem and Lady Antebellum. Katy Perry practiced a safer brand of titillation, while Cee-Lo Green’s “F*** You” was more outrageous. And sheer musicality may give writer-performer Bruno Mars, who’s up for seven Grammys, a leg up.

Prospects: “The Fame Monster” may be Eminem’s greatest threat for Album of the Year, but Gaga is more likely to take her Grammys home in the Pop — especially for her “Telephone” duet with Beyoncé — and Dance fields.


A half-dozen things we’re excited to see during this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony:

— Christina Aguilera tries to make up for her Super Bowl national anthem flub by taking part in a telecast-opening tribute to Aretha Frankln, joined by Martina McBride, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams and Best New Artist nominee Florence Welch of Florence & the Machine.

— Overall nominees leader Eminem will bring Dr. Dre on stage for the producer and occasional artist’s first live TV performance in more than a decade. Dre also joined his protégé in September at Detroit’s Comerica Park.

— Bob Dylan signed on as a late addition to perform with contemporary protégés the Avett Brothers and Best New Artist nominees Mumford & Sons.

— Cee-Lo Green will be joined by Gwyneth Paltrow and ... the Muppets. The prospect of Kermit and Miss Piggy singing “F*** You” is better than a Super Bowl ad.

— After last year’s “Road Warrior” look while dueting with Elton John, we can only imagine what Lady Gaga has planned for the performance of her new single, “Born This Way,” which was to be released on Grammy day but was pushed out Friday instead.

— Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger will join Raphael Saadiq to pay tribute to the late R&B great Solomon Burke. It will be Jagger’s first in-person performance at the Grammys; the Stones’ played via videolink when the group received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986.


The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards will be telecast at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, on CBS, WWJ-TV in Detroit. The Recording Academy’s official website, www.grammy.com, will be streaming live from the red carpet and the pre-telecast ceremony starting at 3:30 p.m. Oakland Press music writer Gary Graff will discuss the Grammys at 7:35 a.m. on WJR-AM (760) and on “Ann Delisi’s Essential Music” at 11 a.m. on WDET-FM (101.9).

Web Site: www.grammy.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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