On Friday night (Dec. 6), the nominations for the 56th annual Grammy Awards will be unveiled during the "Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! -- Countdown to Music's Biggest Night," which means that there are only a few more days to speculate about the major categories. Last year's ceremony featured a diversely spread smattering of big winners -- Mumford & Sons! fun.! Gotye! -- and this year's nominees could very well range from French robots to a New Zealand teenager. There will be surprises for sure, but half the fun of the "Grammy Nominations Concert" is trying to guess who's going to be getting excited calls on Friday night before the names are officially read.
So which albums, songs and artists can we expect to have memorable nights? Check out our prognostications for the four major Grammy Awards categories -- Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist. Note: these are unofficial predictions, with no prior knowledge of Friday night's results.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
After Mumford & Son's "Babel" took home the top album prize at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards less than five months after its commercial release, this year's crop of nominees could include a handful of albums that have been sitting on (or flying off of) retail shelves for over a year. Taylor Swift's "Red" -- another smash success with multiple hits, a stadium tour and critical acclaim -- and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "The Heist," which contained a pair of inescapable No. 1 singles, are both expected to make the shortlist despite being released way back in October 2012 (the Grammy eligibility period runs from the beginning of October through the end of September). Likewise, another 2012 release, Bruno Mars' "Unorthodox Jukebox," follows the singer-songwriter's AOTY nominee "Doo Wops & Hooligans" and took Mars to the next level as a mainstream artist. And Justin Timberlake was asked to perform two songs at last year's ceremony before "The 20/20 Experience" was even released, which is a pretty good indicator that JT will be sporting a suit and tie come Grammy night.
That fifth slot is mighty tough to call, though. There are multiple hip-hop albums that could land it and not be a complete shock, including Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city," Drake's "Nothing Was The Same," Kanye West's "Yeezus," Jay Z's "Magna Carta… Holy Grail" and even J. Cole's "Born Sinner." Maybe a critically beloved newcomer like HAIM, Lorde or Kacey Musgraves sneaks in, or perhaps the head of the indie rock class -- this year, it's Vampire Weekend for "Modern Vampires of the City" -- gets a ticket to the dance, a la Arcade Fire three years ago. But our bet is on "Random Access Memories" by Daft Punk, a veteran electronic act that everyone loves and has never been more relevant. It might just be the robots' time to get lucky.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
Lorde's "Royals" is being performed at the "Grammy Nominations Concert Live!!" and ruled the Hot 100 for nine weeks, so look for the New Zealand newcomer to make the final five here. Meanwhile, Timberlake, Daft Punk and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis included well-loved singles on their blockbuster albums, so bet on "Mirrors," "Get Lucky" and "Thrift Shop" to appear in the Record of the Year category as well. Could Florida Georgia Line's summery "Cruise," Mars' "Locked Out of Heaven," P!nk's "Just Give Me a Reason" or Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" sneak in here? Absolutely. But if you're looking for a solid bet, take "Roar" by Katy Perry, who scored an Album of the Year nod with 2010's "Teenage Dream" (but whose "PRISM" isn't eligible in that category until next year).
SONG OF THE YEAR
The songwriting category will likely double up with Record of the Year with Lorde's "Royals" and Timberlake's "Mirrors," while Macklemore & Ryan Lewis submitted their stirring gay rights anthem "Same Love" in this category, and will likely score again. Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise," which won Single of the Year at the CMA Awards last month, should roll its windows down and ride up to the Grammys as a Song of the Year contender. That leaves a whole lot of deserving songs vying for the final slot, including Musgraves' "Merry Go Round," Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble" and Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools (Drank)." But we think this is where Imagine Dragons, one of the biggest breakout acts of 2013, finally appears, for "Radioactive."
BEST NEW ARTIST
Speaking of Imagine Dragons' breakout year, the "Demons" dudes are likely to represent the rock diehards in the Best New Artist category, which gave artists like Alabama Shakes, the Lumineers and (eventual victor) fun. all nods last year. Expect more Lorde in this category as well, as her debut album, "Pure Heroine," was released just prior to the Grammy deadline. And Macklemore & Ryan Lewis should make it a clean sweep in the four major categories by snagging a spot here. That leaves a pair of rising artists, respectively, from the world of hip-hop and country music: Kendrick Lamar has a great shot at joining his buddies J. Cole and Drake (nominated two and three years ago, respectively) as a Best New Artist nominee, while Kacey Musgraves -- the CMA winner for Best New Artist -- should edge out Florida Georgia Line and represent her genre. But don't underestimate artists like Ariana Grande, HAIM, Capital Cities, Icona Pop and Of Monsters and Men in this category, either.