We’ve been counting down to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards by highlighting a category a day, but today we tackle the Big Four: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist.  The entire Grammy voting body can vote for this quartet and they are considered the most precious of the 109 trophies handed out.  There are some surprises in each of the four categories, so hang on tight, here we go.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

“Nothin’ On You,” B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars
“Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem featuring Rihanna
“F*** You,” Cee-Lo Green
“Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
“Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum


It just goes to show what a big year it was in pop when it’s easy to come up with at least  four other songs that could have easily been in this category: Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,”  Sade’s “Soldier of Love,” Bruno Mars‘ “Just the Way You Are” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.”
Record of the year goes to the producer, engineer and artist so the criteria is how does the performance sound. For our money, “F*** You” is the best sounding record in the bunch with its razor sharp, bouncy  production, but we have a feeling every award Eminem is up for is his to lose.

The winner: “Love the Way You Lie”

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

“The Suburbs,” Arcade Fire
“Recovery,” Eminem
“Need You Now,”  Lady Antebellum
“The Fame Monster,”  Lady Gaga
“Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry


At 38, Eminem is the grand old man in this category. That’s quite a change from when Grammy voters usually pick some geezer to slot in here. Clearly missing from this selection is Sade’s first album in 10 years, “Soldier of Love,” which seemed like shoo-in for album of the year when it came out last February.  It could be very telling that Lady Gaga received no nominations for song or record of the year. I’m taking it as a sign that this award is going to “Recovery”: there’s not enough buzz on “The Suburbs,” and voters aren’t going to award a country artist  here two years in a row after honoring Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” last year.

The winner: “Recovery”

SONG OF THE YEAR

“Beg Steal or Borrow,” Ray Lamontagne, songwriter (Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs)
“F*** You,” Cee Lo Green, Philip Lawrence & Bruno Mars, songwriters ( Cee Lo Green)
“The House That Built Me,”  (Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
“Love the Way You Lie,” Alexander Grant, Holly Hafferman & Marshall Mathers, songwriters (Eminem featuring Rihanna)
“Need You Now,” Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)

 
No offense to LaMontagne, but what is he doing here?  “Beg Steal or Borrow”is a fine song, but not worthy of being in this category.  What about Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man” or Sade’s “Soldier of Love?” This award goes to the songwriter(s), so it’s best to think about the song if you heard it with no bells and whistles, played on an acoustic guitar or keyboards. By that standard, it’s new country standard “The House That Build Me,” a simply beautiful and heartwrenching tune.

The winner:  “The House That Built Me”


BEST NEW ARTIST

Justin Bieber
Drake
Florence & The Machine
Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding

 Neither Nicki Minaj nor Bruno Mars were eligible because they had not yet released an album by the Sept. 30 cut-off.  In one of the biggest snubs of the 2011 Grammys, voters decided they wanted nothing to do with Ke$ha despite her making lots of money for the industry. We take that as a good sign, but then the Grammys overcompensated by putting Esperanza Spalding in here, sending millions of people running to their computer to Google her name. They couldn’t similarly ignore Justin Bieber or maybe they let their kids cast their vote, but his inclusion should come as no surprise given that former teen idols Jonas Brothers were nominated for this award in 2009.  The clear winner is Drake, who had one of the best selling albums of 2010 and stood out in a pack of new urban-leaning pop male artists.

The winner: Drake

Whom do you want to win?

Follow Hitfix for complete coverage of the Grammys Sunday night. I’ll be live blogging the  Grammy Awards starting at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST. We’ll also have red carpet photo galleries and other features for your one-stop shop for all things Grammy.

A look back at our other 2011 Grammy Predictions:

Best solo rock vocal performance

Best Pop Vocal Album

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Best Contemporary R&B Album

Best Short Form Music Video

Best Female Country Vocal Performance

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

Best Alternative Music Album