Taylor Swift/ Star Tribune photo by Kyndell Harkness

You will hear lots of familiar names when the Grammy nominations are announced Friday night during a primetime special -- the over-titled “The Grammy Nominations Concert Live – Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night” --- starting at 9 on Ch. 4. (Performers include Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Robin Thicke, Miguel, Keith Urban, T.I., Lorde and Earth, Wind & Fire.)

Swift, Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars had three of the biggest-selling albums of the eligibility period, Oct. 1, 2012-Sept. 30, 2013, and they will receive lots of nominations. But not all the key nominations will be as predictable as you think.

Why? Because the nominees in the Big Four categories are chosen by a blue-ribbon industry panel, not the Recording Academy members, who vote on nominees in all other categories.  The blue-ribbon panel has had a habit of reflecting of critical and/or hip tastes every once in a while. Hence, names like Kendrick Lamar and Kacey Musgraves might show up as finalists, especially for best new artist.

Here are one person’s predictions for the nominees in the Big Four contests. Winners will be announced at the 56th annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 26.


Lorde, the New Zealand teen who told us we’d never be “Royals,” should make the finals along with Imagine Dragons, the drum-beating, hit-making rockers from Las Vegas, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the Seattle crew that enjoyed some of the biggest mainstream rap hits in years. From country music, it’ll either be crossover “Cruise” hitmakers  Florida Georgia Line or clever singer-songwriter  Musgraves, who won the best new artist at last month’s CMA Awards. The other slot could go to either stand-out rapper  Lamar or U.K. soul/pop songbird Emeli Sande – or both. Maybe there will be six finalists instead of the usual five.

Outside shots: Ariana Grand, Ed Sheeran, Phillip Phillips and Of Monsters and Men.


Even though it was one of the year’s biggest records, Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” won’t make the cut because of the controversy and lawsuits that he allegedly cribbed parts of this tune from Marvin Gaye.  The Grammys don’t need another tainted winner like Milli Vanilli, the lip-synchers who won best new artist in 1989 and then had the trophy taken away. So I’m going with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Lorde’s “Royals” and one of Macklemore’s big hits – either “Thrift Shop,” the popular choice, or “Same Love,” the artistic and politic choice (though it might have a better shot at song of the year). That leaves two more slots to fill, with Mars’ “When I Was Your Man” probably grabbing one and perhaps Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason” or Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” snaring the other.

Outside shots: Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” Perry’s “Roar,”Aviici’s “Wake Me Up,” Kanye West’s “New Slaves” and Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.”


Remember, this is a songwriter’s prize whereas record of the year honors a single. Got that? Oftentimes, this category mirrors record of the year but not always. “Same Love” will likely get a nod here. Same with “When I Was Your Man” and “Royals.” “Just Give Me a Reason” should make the cut, too. Look for  Rihanna’s “Stay” – which doesn’t have a chance for record of the year – to receive recognition here.

Outside shots: The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two,” Musgraves’ “Merry Go Round” and Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”


Swift’s “Red” and Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience” were not only the two top sellers but they are artistically respected. Ditto for Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox,” the No. 4 seller. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Heist” is a likely finalist, which would give them nominations in all of the Big Four. But the panel might swing more toward West’s bold and controversial “Yeezus” as the year’s top hip-hop effort. The panel always seems to show some love for critically loved indie-rock acts, so Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City” could get a nod.

Outside shots: Drake’s “Nothing Was the Same,” Musgraves’ “Same Trailer Different Park,” Lamar’s “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” and Civil Wars’ “Civil Wars.”