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If you compare the Grammys with other major awards, they don’t make a lot of sense. You can suss out the front-runners at the Oscars pretty easily even if you’re just a casual observer of Hollywood culture, and the same goes for the Emmys and Tonys. The music industry, however, is more fragmented all the time, and it’s difficult to get a sense of consensus within that world unless someone like Adele comes along and hits the perfect sweet spot of massive sales, critical acclaim, and intergenerational appeal. There are no obvious winners at this year’s Grammy Awards, but there’s a lot of worth contenders, which could potentially make this one of the few genuinely surprising awards shows. Here’s a guide to who should win — and who probably will win — in all of the top categories.

Record of the Year

Record of the Year

  • The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy” 
  • Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe, “We Are Young”
  • Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know”
  • Frank Ocean, “Thinkin’ Bout You”
  • Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

This category is a perfect example of why this year’s Grammys are very difficult to call — everything here is pretty good and very popular, and has a legit chance at winning. But Gotye and Fun.’s songs will probably be written off as fluke hits by long-term voters, and Frank Ocean and Black Keys are probably a little too niche to win the top category. So it’s really down to Taylor and Kelly, and Kelly will win because she has more cred with older voters.

PROJECTED WINNER: Kelly Clarkson

Image by The Associated Press / AP

Album of the Year

Album of the Year

  • The Black Keys, El Camino 
  • Fun., Some Nights 
  • Mumford & Sons, Babel 
  • Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
  • Jack White, Blunderbuss

The Black Keys or Jack White cancel each other out — if it were only one or the other, it’d be a lock for this category. This comes down to either Frank Ocean and Mumford & Sons, and the Mumfords will prevail because they sold more records and appeal to an older crowd.

PROJECTED WINNER: Mumford & Sons

Image by Simone Joyner / Getty Images

Song of the Year

Song of the Year

  • Ed Sheeran, “The A Team”
  • Miguel, “Adorn”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”
  • Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe, “We Are Young”

Record of the Year is a category for honoring producers, and Song of the Year is for recognizing songwriters. So with that in mind, there could be a bias in favor of singer-songwriters Miguel and Ed Sheeran, but there’s a strong chance that Carly Rae Jepsen will take this for cowriting the most memorable pop hit of 2012.

PROJECTED WINNER: Carly Rae Jepsen

Image by Lionel Cironneau / AP

Best New Artist

Best New Artist

  • Alabama Shakes
  • Fun.
  • Hunter Hayes
  • The Lumineers
  • Frank Ocean

There’s an outside chance that The Lumineers or Fun. could win, but this category belongs to Frank Ocean. He’s nominated elsewhere, but voters will see this as the appropriate way to honor him and assume he’ll just keep making Grammy-worthy records in the future.

PROJECTED WINNER: Frank Ocean

Image by Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Best Rap Performance

Best Rap Performance

  • Drake featuring Lil Wayne, “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)”
  • Jay-Z and Kanye West, “N****s in Paris”
  • Nas, “Daughters”
  • Kanye West featuring Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz, “Mercy”
  • Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z and Andre 3000, “I Do”
  • All of these songs are excellent, but Kanye and Jay-Z have the most cred and broadest appeal. Odds are even that some poor presenter will have to figure out a way to announce the title without actually saying the “n” word.

PROJECTED WINNER: Jay-Z and Kanye West

Image by Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images

Best Rap Album

Best Rap Album

  • Drake, Take Care
  • Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1
  • Nas, Life Is Good
  • The Roots, Undun
  • Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don’t
  • 2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story

Nas and The Roots will get some love from older voters, but Drake is the only artist here whose album was both massively successful and critically acclaimed, so he’s got a lock on this.

PROJECTED WINNER: Drake

Image by Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Best Pop Solo Performance

Best Pop Solo Performance

  • Adele, “Set Fire to the Rain (Live)”
  • Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”
  • Katy Perry, “Wide Awake”
  • Rihanna, “Where Have You Been”

The very fact that a live recording of an old Adele song is in this category is evidence that you just can’t underestimate how much Grammy voters loooooooove her. But it’s more likely that Kelly Clarkson will take this, since “Call Me Maybe” will be dismissed as a one-hit wonder by some voters, and Katy and Rihanna’s songs are kinda lackluster compared with their other hits.

PROJECTED WINNER: Kelly Clarkson

Image by Danny Moloshok / Reuters

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

  • Florence + The Machine, “Shake It Out”
  • Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe, “We Are Young”
  • Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know”
  • LMFAO, “Sexy and I Know It”
  • Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa, “Payphone”

Florence would win this in a just world, but this is the real world, and Maroon 5’s song was a massive hit. This is the perfect way for Grammy voters to recognize Adam Levine’s enduring success without having to put his band in a major category.

PROJECTED WINNER: Maroon 5

Image by Danny Moloshok / Reuters

Best Dance Recording

Best Dance Recording

  • Avicii, “Levels”
  • Calvin Harris featuring Ne-Yo, “Let’s Go”
  • Skrillex featuring Sirah, “Bangarang”
  • Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin, “Don’t You Worry Child”
  • Al Walser, “I Can’t Live Without You”

The virtually unknown producer Al Walser scammed his way into a nomination by spamming Grammy voters with emails to boost his name recognition, so that just shows you how little the voting body knows about dance music. Skrillex has the most name recognition here and won a Grammy last year, so he’ll almost certainly win again this year.

PROJECTED WINNER: Skrillex

Image by Andrew Benge / Getty Images

Best R&B Performance

Best R&B Performance

  • Estelle, “Thank You”
  • Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Ledisi, “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)”
  • Luke James, “I Want You”
  • Miguel, “Adorn”
  • Usher, “Climax”

This is another category where name recognition outside of the hardcore genre base goes a long way. This one comes down to Miguel and Usher — the latter has more longevity, but the former is very hot right now. This could go either way.

PROJECTED WINNER: Usher

Image by Charley Gallay / Getty Images

Best R&B Song

Best R&B Song

  • Miguel, “Adorn”
  • Tamia, “Beautiful Surprise”
  • Trez Songz, “Heart Attack”
  • Anthony Hamilton, “Pray for Me”
  • Elle Varner, “Refill”

Miguel is up for a lot of awards, but this is the only place where he seems like a surefire winner. Elle Varner could take it, maybe, but that’s kind of a long shot.

PROJECTED WINNER: Miguel

Image by Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Best Urban Contemporary Record

Best Urban Contemporary Record

  • Chris Brown, Fortune
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

Only three albums in this poorly defined category! Frank Ocean is the most likely winner here, which could incite another temper tantrum from the notoriously volatile Chris Brown.

PROJECTED WINNER: Frank Ocean

Image by Jason Kempin / Getty Images SEE MORE HERE

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