On Dec. 1, The Recording Academy will announce Grammy nominations including Best New Artist, but some of the most obvious names will be missing.

Nicki Minaj and Janelle Monae, both of whom would seem to be shoo-ins, won’t be on the ballot because neither meets the Recording Academy’s eligibility requirement.

Nicki Minaj isn’t allowed because her debut album, “Pink Friday,” came out after the Sept. 30 cut off. “The current eligibility requirements state that the artist must have released, as a featured performing artist, at least one album but not more than three,” according to the rules. The eligibility period for the upcoming Grammys ran Oct. 1, 2009-Sept. 30, 2010. Similarly, Bruno Mars, who also stood a strong chance, released his debut, “Doo-Wops $ Hooligans” too late.

Monae’s case is a little more complicated. She released an EP that was previously nominated, and, according to a Recording Academy representative, anyone previously nominated for a “body of work” such as an EP or full LP, is not eligible in the new artist category. Both she and Minaj are, of course, eligible in a slew of other categories.

The Recording Academy is always reviewing the eligibility requirements and updating them. For example, after Lady Gaga was ruled ineligible last year because “Just Dance” had been nominated in the dance category, the rules were changed this summer to allow an artist whose single had previously been nominated to still be eligible. The rule changes usually occur too late to help the artist whose circumstances prompt the re-examination, but we give credit to the Recording Academy that it has shown willingness to adopt and change with the times.

One of the most famous changes was to allow artists who had been featured on other acts’ records to be eligible for best new artist. That change came about after Whitney Houston was ruled ineligible for the category because she had duetted with Teddy Pendergrass. In other cases, the Academy has made the rules more restrictive. After Shelby Lynne won best new artist after her eighth album release (or something like that), the three-album limit was imposed. As we move more into the digital era and continue in a singles-driven world, we expect to see more changes. Oh, and if you’ve previously won a Grammy in any category, don’t even try to pretend you’re a new artist.

It’s a very strong field this year with no clear winner. Here’s whom we believe will be the leading nominees (with a few extra acts thrown in to hedge our bets). Five artists will get the nod.

Justin Bieber:
He and Drake are the leading contenders here.  Bieber may suffer because of his teeny bopper status, just as the Jonas Bros. were locked out a few years ago.

B.O.B.: He’s had such a strong year, but voters may believe that much of his popularity is due to his co-stars, such as Hayley Williams, Bruno Mars or Rivers Cuomo more than due to his talents.

Drake: He’s the male Nicki Minaj in that he’s guested on so many people’s records that by the time his solo debut finally came out (and we’re no including the previous mix tapes), we felt like we already knew him.

Ke$ha: It’s a long shot because the Grammys like to pretend they’re too highbrow to recognize someone as low class as Ke$ha, but you can’t deny the impact she has had over the past year after coming out of nowhere.

Mumford & Sons: A cinch for the alternative voters, although they may not have enough mainstream support to push this British new folk outfit all the way too the top.

Florence & The Machine: 
She wasn’t even a possibility until she blew everyone away with her performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards in Septmeber. And now she’s a prime contender.  Adele was the last female Brit to win this award two years ago.

Other possible contenders: The Avett Bros., Susan Boyle, Adam Lambert,  Ryan Bingham, Jason DeRulo, Taio Cruz,  Neon Trees, Orianthi, Mike Posner and Grace Potter & The Nocturnals.

Whom do you hope to see nominated?

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