Look for Justin Timberlake to score a "TKO," to cite the title of his current hit, at the American Music Awards on Sunday. He's the front-runner in all five categories in which he's nominated. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are out front in four categories; Taylor Swift, in three.
The AMAs aren't that hard to predict. Unlike the Grammys, the AMAs are all about popularity. (Popularity never hurt at the Grammys either, but that's not what they're intended to measure.) In most cases, the best seller will win on Sunday. In a few cases, the artist or record that is hotter right now may score an upset over another nominee that has sold more copies overall.
Here are the nominees and likely winners in all 22 categories.
Artist of the Year. Nominees: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake. I discussed this category in depth in a blog that ran earlier this week. Here's a link. Bet on: Timberlake.
New Artist of the Year. Nominees: Florida Georgia Line, Ariana Grande, Imagine Dragons, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Phillip Phillips. Four of these acts have million-selling albums. Grande was nominated on the strength of her top 10 single, "The Way," but her album hasn't done nearly as well as the others.' If this goes to the act with the biggest album, that's Imagine Dragons. If it goes to the act with the biggest single, that's Macklemore. Here's the tie-breaker: Macklemore is also nominated for Artist of the Year. Bet on: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Single of the Year. Nominees: "Cruise" by Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly, "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell. Each of these songs has sold more than 6 million copies. "Thrift Shop" has sold more than 7 million, but "Blurred Lines" has sold more copies in 2013. As a result, it may seem fresher and hotter now. Bet on: Thicke.
Top Soundtrack. Nominees: Great Gatsby: Music From Baz Luhrmann's Film, Les Miserables, Pitch Perfect. Pitch Perfect sold more albums and more individual tracks than its rivals, thanks to the surprise top 10 success of Anna Kendrick's "Cups (Pitch Perfect's When I'm Gone)." Bet on: Pitch Perfect.
Favorite Male Artist. Nominees: Bruno Mars, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake. Timberlake's album has sold the most copies, but Mars' album is responsible for the most song downloads. This would be the second win in this category for either of these stars. This one is going to be close, but it just feels like it's going to be Timberlake's night. Bet on: Timberlake.
Favorite Female Artist. Nominees: P!nk, Rihanna, Taylor Swift. Swift's album has sold more than her rivals' albums combined. She's also ahead in song downloads. This would be her second win in this category. (It would also be Rihanna's second win.) Bet on: Swift.
Favorite Band, Duo or Group. Nominees: Imagine Dragons, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, One Direction. One Direction's album sold more copies than the other two. Macklemore's album was responsible for the most song downloads. Imagine Dragons are a close second in both categories. This is another close one. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are closest in character to the last two winners, the Black Eyed Peas and Maroon 5. Bet on: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Favorite Album. Nominees: One Direction's Take Me Home, Swift's Red, Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience. Swift's album, which came out in late 2012, has sold the most copies, but Timberlake's album sold more copies in 2013, so it may seem fresher. Timberlake's first solo album, Justified, won in this category in 2003. Bet on: Timberlake.
Favorite Male Artist. Nominees: Luke Bryan, Hunter Hayes, Blake Shelton. Bryan's current album, Crash My Party, has outsold the albums by his rivals. Bryan won in this category last year. Shelton won the year before that. Bryan is vying to become the first artist to win here two years running since Tim McGraw a decade ago. Bet on: Bryan.
Favorite Female Artist. Nominees: Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood. Swift's latest album has sold more than twice as many copies as Underwood's latest, and nearly four times as many copies as Lambert's latest. This would be Swift's sixth consecutive win in this category, the longest streak here since Reba Entire won eight in a row from 1988 through 1995. Bet on: Swift.
Favorite Band, Duo or Group. Nominees: The Band Perry, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum. Lady A has won in this category three years running, but Florida Georgia Line is way out front both in album sales and song downloads, thanks to "Cruise." Bet on: Florida Georgia Line.
Favorite Album. Nominees: Bryan's Crash My Party, Florida Georgia Line's Here's To The Good Times, Swift's Red. Again, Swift towers above her rivals. It would be her third win in this category. Bet on: Swift.
Favorite Male Artist. Nominees: Miguel, Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake. This is probably between the two "blue-eyed soul" stars. Either would be the first white artist to win in this category since George Michael in 1989. Timberlake had the year's best-selling album in any genre; Thicke had the year's best-selling single in any genre. How to break the tie? JT had three 2-million-selling hits during the year, to just one for Thicke. Bet on: Timberlake.
Favorite Female Artist. Nominees: Ciara, Alicia Keys, Rihanna. Rihanna's nominations for Artist of the Year and Favorite Female Vocalist Pop/Rock may give her an edge here. It would be her fourth win in the category. That would put her in a tie with Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey for the most in the category's history. Bet on: Rihanna.
Favorite Album. Nominees: Rihanna's Unapologetic, Thicke's Blurred Lines, Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience. Timberlake's album sold more than twice as many copies as Rihanna's. But hers was responsible for more individual song downloads. Both are past winners in this category. Timberlake won in 2007. Rihanna won the last two years. If Timberlake wins, he'll become the first white artist to win twice in this category. Bee Gees and George Michael each won once. Bet on: Timberlake.
Favorite Artist. Nominees: Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. This is between Jay Z (a two-time winner in this category) and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The duo's Artist of the Year nomination gives them the edge. Bet on: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Favorite Album. Nominees: Jay Z's Magna Carta…Holy Grail, Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d city, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' The Heist. All three of these albums are million-sellers, but The Heist has sold the most. And its song download sales tower over its rivals. Jay Z won in this category with The Blueprint 3. Bet on: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Favorite Artist—Adult Contemporary. Nominees: Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, P!nk. Each of the nominees has sold more than 1.5 million copies of their latest albums. Mars and P!nk were also nominated in Pop/Rock categories, but Maroon 5 came up short in Pop/Rock this year. The Artist of the Year nomination for Mars suggests that he's the front-runner. Bet on: Mars.
Favorite Artist—Alternative Rock. Nominees: Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons. Mumford's latest album, Babel, sold more than Imagine Dragons' album, but the Dragons' single, "Radioactive," was a blockbuster. Bet on: Imagine Dragons.
Favorite Artist—Electronic Dance Music (EDM). Nominees: Avicii, Daft Punk, Calvin Harris, Zedd. Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" (featuring Pharrell Williams) has sold a little more than Avicii's "Wake Me Up!" Daft Punk also had a #1 album, Random Access Memories, which should give them the edge. Bet On: Daft Punk.
Favorite Artist—Latin. Nominees: Marc Anthony, Prince Royce, Romeo Santos. Santos hasn't had a new studio album since 2011's Formula Vol. 1. The other nominees had new albums this year. Anthony's greater fame may give him an edge. He won in this category in 2004. A second win would enable him to match his ex-wife, J. Lo, who won here in 2007 and 2011. Bet on: Anthony.
Favorite Artist—Contemporary Inspirational. Nominees: tobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Matthew West. It's between tobyMac (who won last year) and Tomlin. Their latest studio albums, Eye On It and Burning Lights, both reached #1 on the all-genre Billboard 200, a great achievement for a contemporary Christian album. Tomlin's album came out this year and so may seem fresher. Bet on: Tomlin.