Let’s see how out of touch I am! I’m 31, a music lover/singer/player/hobbyist, and my love of what I thought was the best of popular music died in a four year span that saw the deaths of Tupac, Biggie, Kurt and Brad Nowell. I still listen to some pop, but mostly in an attempt to keep my brain occupied while I attempt to jog. This, plus my Pandora addiction means I’m clearly more informed than half the previous winners who I’m betting spend all of 10 minutes checking boxes.

Here’s exactly what I did to write this out of touch diatribe: I googled Grammy nominees, I clicked through Wikipedia, I printed the list. For categories I had an opinion on, I jotted down why. For every category I picked who I would pick to win if I had to put money on it and how I came to that decision. The selections are fairly arbitrary, but so are the Grammys, a show that gives away awards to true artists during commercial breaks for its 3-hour pop infomercial…and also during “ceremonies held earlier…” If we’re being honest, you haven’t heard of half these people either.

Your host is LL Cool J. If that doesn’t excite you everything will. Is there actually someone out there detached enough to believe that having the guy who didn’t wear a shirt for twenty years twenty years ago host the show is going to result in a single extra viewer? If so, he or she should executive-produce the least-prestigious prestigious award show in American history.

Record of the Year

Will Win: “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele

Should Win: “The Cave” – Mumford and Sons

Get used to Adele as my odds-on choice for about everything. The Grammy voters are notoriously traditional, much more than Oscar voters. Perhaps I’m naïve, but other than a penchant for safe films as best picture the last few years, the Oscars still seem to award individual greatness/lighting in a bottle, whereas with the Grammys, if you’ve got two you’ve probably got 20. This of course is based on pure speculation and zero research, the exact same formula your typically uniformed Grammy voter uses. In other words, go with the name you know instead of bothering to listen to every nominee. No one’s name was heard more than Adele’s in 2011, and it wasn’t the first year Grammy voters had heard of her, either.

My love for “The Cave” is based almost entirely by their performance of the song at some musical festival I saw on Palladium. Have you watched a live concert in HD yet, especially a festival where you get to watch 50000 jubilant dirty people bounce around with joy without having to get dirty yourself? It’s amazing. Anyway, this festival performance moved me to the point that it might’ve gotten a little dusty and my eye ducts might’ve produced moisture to combat this dust. This band plays the hell out of their instruments and the man up front sings the hell out of their songs. The only other thing I could ask for is a standup bass…oh that’s right, they have a guy who plays the hell out of a standup bass.

Album of the Year

Will Win: 21 – Adele

Should Win: 21 – Adele

The other reason Adele is going to win a ton of Grammys is that her album was actually, definably, good. Maybe not great, but when the pop music landscape is the murky cesspool we’re currently inhabiting, good might mean great. Look how young she is.  Look at the decade of awful pop we just closed that she grew up in. And yet still she was somehow able to come out of it and still write pop songs as beautiful and authentic as “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep”? I’d like to think Grammy voters are awake to the fact that when Amy died, Adele became head-and-shoulders better than the rest. 

Song of the Year

Will Win: “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele

Should Win: “All of the Lights” – Kanye West

I am a huge fan of 90s hip-hop. If you tune out everything he says and does other than his recordings, Kanye is the artist that most embodies the joy of that decade. If you listen to that track with headphones, and read the lyrics, it’s a powerful song on every level. Adele is a fine choice and Mumford’s “The Cave” wouldn’t bother me either, but Kanye is starting to conquer the lyric part of the equation as well. And anyone who insists on constantly raising the bar deserves accolades, no matter how insufferable that person may be when they aren’t working on their artistry.

Best New Artist

Will Win: Nicki Minaj

Should Win: Bon Iver

I love Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” so much I could burst. It’s recorded impeccably, it yearns arrestingly, and it’s simplicity is it’s genius. The problem is that wasn’t the song nominated for Record of the Year and the rest of the album is only okay. Still, what a song. I’m not mad if Minaj wins because her verse on Kanye West’s “Monster” is ridiculous and she was much more interesting to look at than Madonna during the halftime show. The Band Perry sounds like an Alison Kraus rip-off, J. Cole’s biggest “hit” begins with the chorus from Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” and Grammy voters just aren’t ready for Skrillex.

Best Pop Solo Performance

Will Win: “Someone Like You” – Adele

Should Win: “Firework” – Katy Perry

My argument for Perry is that “Firework” is one of the purest pop songs I’ve heard sinceBrittany’s heyday. If you’re awarding it based on poppy-ness, she’s the choice. If you’re truly basing it on performance, Adele is worthy, and so is Bruno Mars, who, to anyone over 25, is a haircut. But he can perform, that’s for sure. Lady Gaga is spent and never coming back. Pink? See Gaga, Lady.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Will Win: “Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster the People

Should Win: “Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster the People

This is a song that I have yet to tire of. I’m not as high on the rest of the album as other people, but my age means I bought plenty of awful tapes and cds for the sake of one song on the album. This song’s so good that even if the rest of the album was bad, I wouldn’t be upset. The song also sounds like it’s at least ten years old, which obviously adds extra credibility in a Grammy preview such as this. 

This also looks to be the most wide-open category of the night, not to mention the strongest. Tony Bennet and the woman he outlived, Amy Winehouse, The Black Keys’ “Dearest,” and Coldplay’s “Paradise” would all be justifiable choices. No, guy from The Voice and Xtina, if the Grammy voters have any dignity at all, there will be no award for you.

Best Pop Instrumental Album

Will Win: Brian Setzer

Should Win: n/a

Remember Brian Setzer? Those were fun days, huh? It’s the only name I recognize in the category other than Dave Koz who makes Michael Bolton seem edgy.

Best Pop Vocal Album

Will Win: 21 – Adele

Should Win: 21 – Adele

A vocal category should be about the voice, and regardless of her potential longevity after surgery, her voice on this album is as sutry, somber, and sentimental as ever. She’s the opposite of “breathy,” currently the worst trend in music. Your other contenders: Bruno Mars who has lip-synced every performance I’ve ever seen (not his fault, he’s dancing his haircut off), Cee Lo (my second choice), Lady Gaga (who can’t actually sing, to anyone actually paying attention) is the living embodiment of the emperor’s new clothes, and Rihanna, who sings with the help of our friends at modern studio magic.

Best Dance Recording

Will Win: “Raise Your Weapon” – Deadmau5

Should Win: “Barbra Streisand” – Duck Sauce

I actually like a few of the candidates in this category. DeadMau5 will win because pictures of him and his giant mouse head appear in enough supermarket rags to make an impact in the minds of voters. Duck Sauce is catchy, Skrillex is scary, and Swedish House Mafia has received quite a bit of press in the few newspapers I read. 

Best Dance/Electronica Album

Will Win: 4×4=12 – Deadmau5

Should Win: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites – Skrillex

If Dance/Electronica is legitimate enough to warrant a Grammy category, then Skrillex’s effort here is legitimate enough to be considered an album in every sense of the word.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

Will Win: Duets II – Tony Bennett

Should Win: Duets II – Tony Bennett

Traditional is the key here. Susan Boyle had her run, Harry Connick’s album is a live one, Barbra Streisand has fallen off a cliff in terms of relevancy, and they’re not giving a Grammy to Seth MacFarlane. Sorry, it’s just not that cool a group.

Best Rock Performance

Will Win: Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall – Coldplay

Should Win: Lotus Flower – Radiohead

And now begins my love of Radiohead diatribe: still the best band. They continue to bend the bar they raise every time they decide to bless our existence with new music. Although it’s probably only my third favorite song on the album, it’s still better than anything else on the list. Mumford and Sons are nominated again here, as well as the Foo Fighters and The Decemberists. That’s all well and good, but they’re not Radiohead, and their songs aren’t “Lotus Flower.”

Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance

Will Win: “White Limo” – Foo Fighters

Should Win: “On the Backs of Angels” – Dream Theater

This is where Grammy voters will choose to reward a very good album by a very consistent band. The Foos have aged better than the Chili Peppers, Incubus, System of A Down, whatever super group Dave Navarro and Chris Cornell are in this week, and a slew of other potentially interesting but ultimately forgettable contenders. The good thing about the band is that you know what you’re getting. The bad news is that you know what you’re getting.

Dream Theater rocks a little harder, and that’s the category. It’s another song that seems like it was cut out of the last great days of flying V guitars. Megadeth rocks too hard for voters, Sum 41 isn’t metal, or hard, or rock. Mastadon is not an outfit I’m currently familiar with.

Best Rock Song

Will Win: “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” – Coldplay

Should Win: “Lotus Flower” – Radiohead

Coldplay has to win something, right? My reasoning here is the same as the reasoning why the Foo Fighters should win the previous category; it’s recognition well deserved.  Radiohead should still obviously win, but I don’t expect everyone to share my keen eye for brilliant music. You may recognize our other nominees by their 300 nominations a piece: Mumford and Sons, The Decemberists, and the Foo Fighters.

Best Rock Album

Will Win: Wasting Light – Foo Fighters

Should Win: Foo Fighters

Don’t sleep on Wilco, though. Critics love Wilco with a passion not seen since Rufus Wainwright. The Chili Peppers’ album was horrendous and uninspired, Jeff Beck could be a possibility if voters are older than I think, and the Kings of Leon have a shot if voters really respect the struggle.

Best Alternative Music Album

Will Win: The King of Limbs – Radiohead

Should Win: Radiohead

Another strong category. I listened to Death Cab’s Codes and Keys up and down the California grapevine this fall and enjoyed it immensely, so it’s a fine runner-up. Bon Iver isn’t up to Radiohead’s shinbone, Foster The People’s album is a small star that was eclipsed by a sun called “Pumped Up Kicks,” and for My Morning Jacket it’s just a pleasure to be nominated.

Best R&B Performance

Will Win: “Is This Love” – Corrine Bailey Rae

Should Win: Rae

A beautiful song, a wonderful voice, and the only one I’d heard before youtubeing the other 4 nominees and shutting each one off after 30 seconds.

Best Traditional R&B Performance

Will Win: “Good Man” – Raphael Saadiq

Should Win: Saadiq

An unbelievable performer, perhaps the only current singer I can think of that dances and moves like crazy and still sings live on top of it. He should teach breathing lessons to anyone else using choreography. Your other nominees include Cee Lo, Eric Benet, and R. Kelly. No thanks.

Best Rap Performance

Will Win: “Otis” – Jay-Z and Kanye

Should Win: ditto

The only good song on their incredibly overhyped album, so why not give it to them? Lupe Fiasco is too well-spoken to fit the box this category has created for itself, Chris Brown still beat up Rihanna, Nicki Minaj’s outfit may be a performance but the song wasn’t much of one, and “Black and Yellow” sounds like a song Masta P rejected 15 years ago because it was too boring, repetitive, and nonsensical.

Best Rap/Song Collaboration

Will Win: “I need a Doctor” – Dr. Dre, Eminem, Rihanna

Should Win: “All of the Lights” – Kanye

I explained my Kanye logic earlier, but Eminem has actually reached the point where he’s considered traditional enough to merit the nod (Dre’s probably reached the same level). Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, and Rihanna are also nominated. I’d bet my life all three songs sound like every other song on all three albums which also all sound identical.

Best Rap Song

Will Win: “All of the Lights” – Kanye

Should Win: “Otis” – Jay-Z and Kanye

My logic here is that, if possible, commercial rap should always include a sample of a song I already love. Thanks for keeping it real, guys.

Best Rap Album

Will Win: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

Should Win: West

The only hiphop/rap artist who makes actual albums. In the last 15 years, Danger Mouse’s Gray Album and Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 are the only two non-Kanye albums I can think of that are worthy of the “album” moniker. Lupe Fiasco, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and the Kanye/Jay-Z collaboration are your other nominees. Meh.

Country Awards

I don’t listen to country music. They have their own awards anyway, kind of like an end-of-the-year little league banquet, but with less talent. The one thing I do know is that people who love Country music don’t consider Taylor Swift “real country,” so I’d be surprised if she won any of the categories she’s nominated in. I’d go with George Strait, Martina McBride, and Blake Shelton in any category I was forced to choose from.

New Age/Jazz/Blues Awards

Sorry, never heard of ‘em.

Gospel/Christian Awards

Religiously-affiliated music should not be a part a general awards show, especially because all the deserving Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist artists seem to get snubbed every year.

Best Latin Pop, Rock or Urban Album

I may have a teenage nephew who may or may not be helping me at this point. Here I like Drama y Luz by Mana.

Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album

Huevos Rancheros by Joan Sabastian is clearly the choice.

Best Banda or Noreno Album

Los Tigres del Norte finally released the live album everyone’s been waiting to hear, so they should clean house here.

Other ramblings:

In spoken word, Patton Oswalt should win, but Louis C.K. is fine.  Tina Fey gets a Grammy for reading her book out loud. Alison Kraus has an amazing voice and never doesn’t deserve recognition. Eddie Vedder’s ukulele album was surprisingly wonderful.  There are a ton of visual-media categories that I don’t understand.  Best remix shouldn’t be a category. I hope I don’t fall asleep before the awards are over.