Mumford & Sons’ Babel and Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange are the two albums that absolutely, positively can’t miss receiving Grammy nominations for Album of the Year. Babel, Mumford & Sons’ sophomore album, is one of the year’s best-sellers. It topped The Billboard 200 for three weeks in October. Channel Orange, Ocean’s freshman album, debuted and peaked at #2 in July.
Mumford & Sons’ 2010 debut album Sigh No More wasn’t nominated for Album of the Year, but a song from the album, “The Cave,” was a finalist for Record and Song of the Year last year.
The Grammy nominations will be announced on a live TV special on Dec. 5. LL Cool J and Taylor Swift are set to co-host the one-hour show. The awards will be presented on Feb. 10.
The Black Keys’ El Camino is also likely to receive an Album of the Year nomination. The album debuted and peaked at #2 in December. The duo’s last album, Brothers, was voted Best Alternative Music Album of 2010. (It beat Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, which went on to win Album of the Year. This suggests that Brothers might have won Album of the Year if it the panel of Grammy insiders that determines the nominations in the top four categories had put it in the finals.)
Leading contenders for the two remaining spots include Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, Rihanna’s Talk That Talk, Drake’s Take Care, Bob Dylan’s Tempest, Neil Young with Crazy Horse’s Americana, The Lumineers’ The Lumineers and P!nk’s The Truth About Love.
Coldplay and Rihanna were nominated for Album of the Year with their previous studio releases, Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends and Loud, respectively. Coldplay’s latest album didn’t have the same impact as that 2008 work, but Rihanna continues to be at her peak.
Here are quick comments about these other leading contenders. The panel usually looks to have a diverse field of finalists, which might help Drake, the likeliest hip-hop representative. Two Dylan albums (not counting collabos) have received Album of the Year nominations. Americana would be Young’s first Album of the Year finalist since Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Déjà vu in 1970. The Lumineers, whose “Ho Hey” is a top 20 hit, are also likely candidates for Best New Artist. P!nk has never been nominated for Album of the Year, and may be due.
Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee was one of the year’s best-selling albums and could also receive a nomination. But I wouldn’t bet on it. The album consists of Richie teaming with current country stars to perform his best-known pop and R&B hits from the 1970s and 1980s. The genre-bridging aspect will probably appeal to some of the panelists. But others will argue that the nominations should go to the best music of 2012, not songs that are decades old. Ray Charles’ 2004 duets album, Genius Loves Company, won Album of the Year, but Tony Bennett’s subsequent Duets albums weren’t nominated for the top award, probably for just that reason. Richie won Album of the Year for 1984 with Can’t Slow Down, but the songs then were new.
Other albums that have a shot at a nomination include Gotye’s Making Mirrors, .fun’s Some Nights, Miranda Lambert’s Four The Record, Little Big Town’s Tornado and Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream.
Gotye’s album features “Somebody That I Used To Know” (featuring Kimbra), the best-selling song of the year and the favorite to win for Record of the Year. Raitt received three Album of the Year nominations between 1989 and 1994.
Still more possibilities include Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball, Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged, John Mayer’s Born And Raised, Maroon 5’s Overexposed, Dave Matthews Band’s Away From The World, Nas’ Life Is Good and Paul McCartney’s Kisses On The Bottom.
McCartney has received nine Album of the Year nominations (counting the Beatles). Springsteen has received two. Mayer and Dave Matthews Band have each received one.
Emeli Sande’s Our Version Of Events has been critically hailed, but hasn’t been a major seller. If the nominations were based strictly on the votes of rank-and-file members, it probably wouldn’t be a serious contender. But since 1995, nominations in the top four categories have been determined by a panel of Grammy insiders. As a result, Sande’s album has a real (if still outside) chance of breaking in to the finals.
All of these albums will also be competing for “genre album” awards. The P!nk, Mayer, Rihanna and Maroon 5 albums are likely to be nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album. The .fun album is also a potential contender for that award.
The Black Keys, Coldplay, Neil Young with Crazy Horse, Springsteen and Dave Matthews Band albums are the likely nominees for Best Rock Album. (Note that the Grammys slotted Young’s Americana album here rather than in the Best Americana Album category.)
The Richie, Lambert, Little Big Town and Zac Brown Band albums are likely to be nominated for Best Country Album.
The Mumford & Sons album is the front-runner to win for Best Americana Album. The Raitt, Lumineers and Dylan albums are also likely to be nominated in that category.
Ocean’s album is a cinch to win for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Sande’s album is a candidate for a nomination in that category. (This is a new category this year. It’s an adaptation of a former category, Best Contemporary R&B Album, which was dropped last year as part of a major Grammy overhaul.)
Drake’s album is the front-runner to win for Best Rap Album. Nas’ album is also likely to be in the running.
Gotye’s album is the front-runner to win for Best Alternative Music Album.
McCartney’s album is the front-runner to win for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Note: Taylor Swift’s Red was released after the end of the eligibility year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012. So it wasn’t among the 756 albums on this year’s eligibility list.