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Grammy Awards 2014 -- Whose big night will it be?

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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With a formidable group of frontrunners to significant snubs, the 56th Annual Grammy Awards stack up as one of the more intriguing in recent memory.

Rapper/impresario Jay Z, who leads the pack with nine nominations, enjoys his status more for collaborations with other (wife Beyonce, Justin Timberlake) than for his own lukewarm "Holy Grail" album. Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars were outright slights for Album of the Year, while Lorde is inexplicably absent in the Best New Artist category. The news this year, it seems, is more about what's not than what is.

So what's to get excited about? Well, rest assured that by the time the ceremony wraps up in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 26, there will doubtlessly be at least a few surprises, red carpet faux pas, controversial comments and hot performances to keep tongues wagging and social media in overdrive.

It's all about the winners, however, so here's a look at the leading nominees and what kind of night they're likely heading into...

* Jay Z: Hey may have he most nominations but none in the four major categories (including Album, Record and Song of the Year) and mostly in the Rap field -- where he's competing with himself for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. As "Holy Grail" isn't his most shining moment, he may have to rely on Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" to outfit him with a trophy and his performance with Beyonce to be his shining Grammy moment.

* Justin Timberlake: That his comeback with "The 20/20 Experience" didn't merit a major category nomination is inexplicable. Look for him to take out some revenge in the Pop field, though winning in R&B and Rap might be a stretch.

* Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: After a huge year, this Seattle rap duo is the most likely nominee to sweep -- or at least bring home the largest trophy total (though, as big sports fans, they might be willing to trade those for a Seahawks win in the Super Bowl). The socially conscious hit "Same Love" penetrated the pop mainstream and won the pair a lot of industry (i.e., Grammy voter) friends. We're predicting a big payoff from its seven nods.

* Kendrick Lamar: The Compton rapper had a breakthrough year, too, as evidenced by his seven nominations. But Macklemore, Jay Z and Kanye will be formidable and, ultimately, insurmountable competition.

* Pharrell Williams: The performer/producer/songwriter/etc. rode his associations with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke (on "Blurred Lines") to seven nominations -- including the coveted Producer of the Year. A ubiquitous fixture in the music biz, he won't be walking away empty-handed.

* Bruno Mars: Even if he wins all four of his nominated category -- including Record and Song of the Year -- Mars is still criminally under represented for what he achieved both artistically and commercially last year. Then again, none of the other nominees will be playing the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show.

* Lorde: Unlike Bruno, four nominations -- including Record and Song of the Year for "Royals" -- seems just about right for this New Zealand singer's debut turn. Wins probably aren't in the cards, however -- which makes the snub for Best New Artist that much more vexing.

* Sara Bareilles: Two nominations is not a comparatively big deal -- unless one of them is the surprising inclusion of her "The Blessed Unrest" for Album of the Year. Hopefully she'll be surrounded by people who will tell her that it's an honor just to be nominated...

* Kacey Musgraves: This country newcomer will likely hear the same thing as Bareilles, even with five nominations, although as her genre's lone representative for Best New Artist she should not be counted out.

* Taylor Swift: Every time you want to count her out, thinking the country crowd resents her pop crossover, Swift just seems to win more awards. Country clearly still loves her, which makes her a player for all four of her nominations -- including Album of the Year for "Red."

* Drake: Ah, if only that wonderful "Saturday Night Live" episode had aired while the Grammy ballots were still out. He's another one who will come up against too much stiff competition from his Rap, R&B and Pop cohorts.

* Daft Punk: The French electronic duo is the cool kid on the block this year with five nominations, but the wins will likely come in categories such as Best Dance/Electronica Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical rather than for majors like Album and Record of the Year.

* Katy Perry: "Roar" made enough noise to snag the California gurl [cq] a pair of nominations, but she'll be a better contender next year when more of her "Prism" album is eligible.

* Robin Thicke: The massive summer success of "Blurred Lines" delivered three nominations for the singer, but Grammy voters are one group that probably didn't take kindly to the unrepentant pilfering of Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up" and may give Thicke a cold shoulder at the ballot box.

* Black Sabbath: Grammy voters love a comeback, which "13," Sabbath's first new album in 18 years and first with original frontman Ozzy Osbourne in 35, certainly was -- to the tune of three nominations. Plus we just want to hear Ozzy get up there and make a thank-you speech.

* Kanye West: The mouth that roars may have worked against Kanye during this Grammy cycle, even though he's taken home 21 trophies previously. "Yeezus" should be an Album of the Year candidate, but he'll have to settle for Best Rap Album from a scant two nominations.

The 56th Annual Grammy Awards take place at 8 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will be broadcast by CBS, and the E! Network will run red carpet coverage from 4-8 p.m. Performers include: Beyonce and Jay Z; Paul McCartney; Ringo Starr; Robin Thicke with Chicago; Taylor Swift; Katy Perry; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; Daft Punk with Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and Nile Rogers; Queens of the Stone Age with Dave Grohl, Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and nine inch nails; Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar; P!nk with Nate Ruess of .fun; John Legend and Keith Urban; Lorde; Metallica with Lang Lang; Lorde; Kacey Musgraves; Sara Bareilles with Carole King; and Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Blake Shelton. LL Cool J will host. Grammy Live at www.Grammy.com will run continuous programming from noon, including the Pre-Telecast Ceremony at 4 p.m.

Gary Graff will be previewing the Grammys at 7 a.m. Sunday on WJR-AM (760) and at 11 a.m. on "Ann Delisi's Essential Music" on WDET-FM (101.9). He'll also be blogging during the show at www.scribblelive.com and @GraffonMusic on Twitter.

Web Site: www.grammy.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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