It’s relatively safe to make some predictions for tomorrow’s Grammy ceremony in Los Angeles:
1. Adele will carry off the lioness’s share of top awards.
2. She will actually be singing.
3. Kanye West will be mightily mad whatever happens.
4. The Rev. Jesse Jackson will be pretty annoyed too.
5. The losers will drown their sorrows, as will many music executives. The Grammys are struggling to stay relevant as the whole shebang resembles a last hurrah for the record industry.
Adele is up for six awards and has the edge thanks to the quality of “21,” which has scooped up commercial and critical honors and should bag Album of the Year. This isn’t to write off Bruno Mars and Foo Fighters, who have six nominations too and will be unlucky to come away totally empty-handed. They are joined in the best-album fight by Lady Gaga and Rihanna, though the bets are against either of the dance divas winning.
“Rolling In the Deep” should bag the Song of the Year (for songwriting), Record of the Year or maybe both for Adele. Her “Someone Like You” is up for Best Pop Solo Performance.
Adele’s performance at the Grammys (and Brit Awards on Feb. 21) wasn’t certain because she had throat surgery last year. Now she’s tweeting again, on song and on Twitter: “Singing at the Grammys. It’s been so long I started to forget I was a singer! I can’t wait, speak soon xx.”
West is nominated for seven awards, more than anyone else, yet he is passed over on the best-album list for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” His petulant storms of ego in victory speeches can be amusing or embarrassing. He is touching on the long-running complaint that black artists are often relegated to the rap or R&B sections.
Cue the entry of the Rev. Jackson, who’s angry at the decision to cut the number of awards to 78 from 109, with Latin Jazz and the gender-based vocal awards scrapped.
To most people this reduction surely makes sense: The Grammys were devalued by confusing, overlapping categories. It was getting to the stage that there would soon be one for best flame-throwing bodice (Lady Gaga) or best bandana-in-guitar-performance (the Edge). Even now there are multiple prizes for gospel and Christian music as well as awards for regional Mexican and New Age releases.
The Rev. Jackson would do better to protest at favoritism by members of the U.S. Recording Academy. Alison Krauss has 26 Grammys, Pat Metheny 18 and Chick Corea 16. The Beach Boys won none. (No bad feelings: They have a lifetime-achievement award, and surviving members are reuniting for the show before a 50th anniversary tour.)
Grammy backslapping will continue as long as a big win boosts sales. Yet the phonograph statuettes are looking increasingly tarnished and dated. Few shops sell CD singles and downloads are everywhere. Internet piracy leeches still more revenue. Some acts are coming to rely on T-shirt sales and ringtones rather than music.
The Grammys are harder to predict than the Oscars. Last year’s win for alternative act Arcade Fire gives hope to a band like Wilco, nominated for best rock album with the exceptional “The Whole Love.” And Bon Iver should be named Best New Artist to remind us that there is justice in this world.
All CDs are at prices from about $13 in the U.S. or 9 pounds in the U.K. Download rates vary across services.
The 54th Grammy ceremony takes place on Feb. 12 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)