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And the winners will be ...

Expect Mariah Carey and Kanye West to take home plenty of hardware at tonight's Grammy Awards, but watch the big categories go to U2.

Published February 8, 2006

Because that guy in the cubicle next to you will bet on anything, here are some helpful handicapping tips for tonight's 48th annual Grammy Awards, a.k.a. Mariah Watch 2006. Trust me: With these picks, I'm putting money in your pocket.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Mariah Carey, The Emancipation of Mimi; Paul McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard; Gwen Stefani, Love. Angel. Music. Baby.; U2,How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb; Kanye West, Late Registration.

Comeback kid Carey sure looks like a juicy pick for the night's biggest award, doesn't she? She tied rapper West and R&B rookie John Legend for most nominations (eight). Her hit-packed disc was the big seller of '05. Plus, she will no doubt flash more cleavage than a Dolly Parton lookalike contest.

But here's the problem: R&B stud Usher had last year's top-selling album and was a major noms leader, but his Grammy night turned out to be a bust. There's a lesson to be learned here: When it comes to the top prize, talent and quality are actually important. Some of the other categories? Not so much. So that means Carey will bring home plenty of hardware over the course of the evening, but this shiny sucker won't be one of them.

Last year, the late Ray Charles and his duets album, Genius Loves Company, turned the Grammys into a party with him as the posthumous guest of honor. McCartney could ride that same honor-the-old-guy wave. Then again, he's still alive, which is a major setback. So even though Stefani's album is my fave of all of them ("B-A-N-A-N-A-S!"), the top trophy will come down to Bono vs. Kanye. I'm going with U2, arguably the world's most popular band, sneaking past West, who will be generously compensated in other categories.

RECORD OF THE YEAR: Mariah Carey, We Belong Together; Gorillaz, Feel Good Inc.; Green Day, Boulevard of Broken Dreams; Gwen Stefani, Hollaback Girl; Kanye West, Gold Digger.

No question about it, Feel Good Inc. is the catchiest tune of the year. The funkadunk beat, the head-nod cameo from De La Soul - pure goodness. I'd normally discount an animated band, but the 'toon monkeys are doing a highfalutin' "duet" with Madonna during tonight's broadcast, so the Grammy folks are obviously digging them.

That said, I think the Gorillaz will come in second.

The always alluring Stefani is going to take this one, primarily because Hollaback Girl was the year's biggest digitally downloaded song - legally digitally downloaded song, that is. The recording academy likes to appear hip and tech-savvy. It's all about iTunes these days, kids.

SONG OF THE YEAR: Bless the Broken Road (performed by Rascal Flatts); Devils and Dust (Bruce Springsteen); Ordinary People (John Legend); Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own (U2); We Belong Together (Mariah Carey).

Remember: Record of the year goes to the artist and the producers; song of the year goes to the songwriter. Or, in the case of three of these entries, songwriters. Carey, Rascal Flatts and Legend needed help making their hits, but the Boss and U2 were strictly DIY. U2 might have the Edge, but Springsteen's song is politically charged and dutifully prez-tweaking. The liberals love that stuff. Get ready to chant "Bruuuce!"

BEST NEW ARTIST: Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane, John Legend, Sugarland.

The Grammy folks have a horrid history of botching this award - I still taste bile whenever I think of those swoony dopes in Maroon 5 topping Kanye last year - but this year, the deck has been stacked in favor of a sure thing: Take Legend, a handsome throwback with class to match.

BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE, BEST R&B SONG, BEST CONTEMPORARY R&B ALBUM: Don't worry about the other contenders. A giggling, jiggling Mariah is going to win each of these categories. See how that works? It's like a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party: Everyone goes home with a prize.

BEST RAP SONG, BEST RAP ALBUM: Again, pay no mind to the Game or 50 Cent. Kanye West will be shown some love, and these categories are where he'll get praised.

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM: Faith Hill, Fireflies; Alison Krauss and Union Station, Lonely Runs Both Ways; Brad Paisley, Time Well Wasted; Gretchen Wilson, All Jacked Up; Trisha Yearwood, Jasper County.

The attitude toward Nashville at the Grammys is one of whispered curiosity, as in "Hey, look how cute they are in their jeans and boots!" Paisley's album was gosh-darn good enough to do battle for album of the year. But crossover queen Hill is always doing something pretty on Entertainment Tonight. So blame Mary Hart when Faith is victorious.

BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM: Arcade Fire, Funeral; Beck, Guero; Death Cab for Cutie, Plans; Franz Ferdinand, You Could Have It So Much Better; the White Stripes, Get Behind Me Satan.

Be thankful that the Grammys are getting hipper. Just don't expect them to get too hip with this pick. The White Stripes' Jack White was a hit at last year's fiesta, buddying around with Loretta Lynn, whose award-winning Van Lear Rose album he produced. Still, Beck remains the most familiar (and most commercially sound) artist on this list, so go with Guero to score the goods.

BEST ROCK ALBUM: Coldplay, X & Y; Foo Fighters, In Your Honor; the Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang; U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb; Neil Young, Prairie Wind.

This is your slam-dunk pick of the night: U2 is nominated for album of the year, which means it's one of the five best albums of any genre. Wouldn't it look bone-headed if, say, the Stones beat U2 here with a mediocre disc. Exactly. So expect not one, but two long-winded speeches in which Bono will make you feel really bad about your apathy regarding Third World debt.

So there you go. Happy Grammys, everybody. When you're counting your winnings, think of me.

Sean Daly can be reached at or 727 893-8467. His blog is at music.

The 48th annual Grammy Awards airs at 8 tonight on WTSP-Ch. 10.

[Last modified February 8, 2006, 06:24:23]

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