Sure, we all know Adele’s “21” is a shoo-in for a Grammy nomination for album of the year, but after the British thrush’s second effort, who will likely land a nod among the top five slots?

We know the Grammy Awards aren’t until Feb. 12, 2012, but next Friday, Sept. 30, marks the last release day of eligibility for an album to be considered. Any album put out between Oct. 1, 2010 and Sept. 30, 2011 falls within the qualifying period.

That means that a number of sets still to come in 2011 will have to wait until the 2013 ceremony for their chance to snare the golden gramophone, including new titles from Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Drake, Tom Waits, Miranda Lambert and Lou Reed/Metallica.

[More after the jump...]


There are some considerations as well that may alter the normal landscape:  In April, the Recording Academy, the body that oversees the Grammy Awards, announced a restructuring that culls the number of award categories from 109 to around 78, and combines many genres that have previously had their own category will now have to share with likeminded musics. That won’t necessarily change what we see in the very mainstream Album of the Year category unless there is some major push to placate some of those very disgruntled niche music makers by considering a wider choice. 

Below are my predictions for nominees for Grammy Album of the Year in order of how sure I am they will get a nod. The nominations will be announced in December. We’ll see how close I come...

SURE BETS

“21,” Adele: An absolute sure bet for a nomination and the clear frontrunner to take home the award. Sure, there’s a tiny bit of an Adele backlash starting, for no good reason, but between the critical adoration, the commercial success and Columbia’s pitch-perfect marketing campaign, Adele can go ahead and start clearing a space.

“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” Kanye West:
Not only is he a lock for a nomination because every one of his previous albums has received one, except "808s & Heartbreak," but “Fantasy” is also a great, complex, troubling, uplifting album that totally lives up to its title. No one will ever think he is more deserving than Kanye himself, but voters adore his work.

TOP CONTENDERS

“Speak Now,” Taylor Swift: She walked away with the award in 2010 for 2009’s “Fearless.” The new car smell may be gone for Swift, but it’s been replaced with the respect for an artist whom everyone believes is the real deal for a very long career. Plus, she comports herself in a way that is 100% unassailable and she will get support from both the pop and country communities

“4,” Beyonce: Far from her strongest album either commercially or critically, “4,” nonetheless, has a great shot because the Grammy folks love Beyonce and since she announced her pregnancy, people just want to wish her and her baby well. We bet she’d like a Grammy as a baby present way more than a Tiffany rattle. 

“So Beautiful or So What,” Paul Simon:
If Concord can renew the buzz, this album was the best-received set from Simon since “Rhythm of The Saints,” which received a nomination in 1992. It is definitely more “so beautiful” than “so what.”

“Wasting Light,” Foo Fighters: 
Grammy voters like to include a rock album in the final five so they look hip. There aren’t that many worthy contenders this year, but “Wasting Light” should be under consideration no matter what the year.

“Own the Night,” Lady Antebellum:
Country  pop trio’s third set will be fresh in the Grammy voters mind, as will its impressive first week sales tally of nearly 350,000. On the other hand, many folks feel Lady A was rewarded more than fairly earlier this year when the co-ed group took home five awards. Jason Aldean's "My Kinda Party" is a stone-cold smash, but will be likely overlooked, although"Dirt Road Anthem" may clean up in song categories.

“Born This Way,” Lady Gaga: No, the album has not performed as well as everyone thought it would, but it’s closing in on 1.8 million in the U.S. alone, and that’s not counting all the individual track sales. Plus, there is no one who works harder out there than Lady Gaga

POSSIBILITIES
 


“Watch The Throne,” Jay-Z and Kanye West: No, I don’t think the album lives up to its potential either and West’s solo album hurts “Throne’s” chances in the main album category, but some voters select on name recognition and this has a double blast of that.

“Tha Carter IV,” Lil Wayne:
This album was so anticipated for so long and did so well its opening frame that  many folks may simply forget that it isn’t particularly good.

“Loud,” Rihanna:  After the darker-than-dark “Rated R,” Rihanna emerged from the shadows back into the light with this hit-packed set. Six Top 10 tunes so far.

“I’m With You,
” Red Hot Chili Peppers: See Foo Fighters.  Although this album isn’t as strong as “Wasting Light,”  Grammy voters like RHCP and need some valid rock choices.

“Doo Wops & Hooligan,”
Bruno Mars: We’re aware that Mars garnered something like seven nominations last year between his work as an artist and as a producer. However, as you may recall, he was not nominated for best new artist because he had not released an album. In either a colossal screw-up or a brilliant move “Doo Wops” came out on Oct. 4, four days after eligibility ended. Will voters remember how much they loved Mars last year?

DARK HORSES

“Barton Hollow,” Civil Wars: This is really not likely, but critics love the Nashville co-ed duo and they had an amazing chart ride at the beginning of the year for  this truly lovely album.

“Ghost On the Canvas,” Glen Campbell: The multiple-Grammy winner’s swan song has been universally applauded for its strong music choice, production and sensitivity in dealing with Campbell’s recent Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis. Yes, sentimentality may play into it, but if Campbell gets a nod, the music can totally stand up on its own.

“Stone Rollin’,” Raphael Saddiq:
This soul/rock/funk gem didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved, but sometimes Grammy voters surprise us with their smarts when it comes to honoring overlooked releases.



Who did I leave out? Who are your favorites that you would like to see nominated?