2011 Grammy Predictions: Best Contemporary R&B Album

Could Chris Brown actually win?

As we continue our countdown to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards, we’re predicting a category a day. Today we look at Best Contemporary R&B album. We cannot tell you the difference between this category and the Best R&B album category and we defy you to find anyone who can with a description that makes sense. For example, R. Kelly is considered contemporary R&B, but John Legend is just regular old R&B The two categories would be much stronger if they were combined.... discuss.

Best Contemporary R&B Album

“Grafitti,” Chris Brown
“Untitled,” R Kelly
“Transition,” Ryan Leslie
“The Archandroid,” Janelle Monae
“Raymond v. Raymond,” Usher

No way, no how is the Recording Academy awarding Chris Brown a Grammy.  It’s too soon--whether that’s fair or not, that’s just the truth (Interestingly, Brown has already announced that he won't attended the Feb. 13 ceremony, even though he's up for three awards). R Kelly and Ryan Leslie don’t necessarily deserve to be here. “Untitled” is far from an exemplary Kelly album and Leslie isn’t high profile enough to win. So it comes down between Usher and Janelle Monae. “Raymond v. Raymond” is a fine album, chockfull of hits and continues a more mature path Usher has gone down since “Here I Stand.” Having said that, the runaway winner here is Monae’s “The Archandroid,” a breakthrough blend of R&B, jazz, pop, soul and rock.  The album made many  “best of 2010” lists, including mine and colleague Katie Hasty’s, for good reason: it is one of the most inventive albums of any genre to come out in several years.

Winner: “The Archandroid”

Our previous predictions:

Best Alternative Music Album

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

Best Female Country Vocal Performance

Best Short Form Music Video



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<p>Leighton Meester</p>

Leighton Meester

Credit: AP Photo

For Leighton Meester, 'The Roommate' is like the flu

Why the starlet made the stinker? 'God, I don't know'

“The Roommate,” starring Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly, is getting savaged by reviewers, including our own Alonso Duralde, and it turns out that Meester might not be so fond of it herself. 

Meester plays Rebecca, your garden-variety psycho, who takes over the life of her at-first unsuspecting roomie, Sara.

“I really felt zero in common with [Rebecca] and you have to somehow rationalize their decisions,” Meester recently told HitFix during a press roundtable for “Country Strong.”

“None of [Rebecca’s] decisions are based on some rational view of anything. Everything she does is from having a mental disorder and not being able to become right again. She justifies everything with ‘You don’t love me’ or “Love me. Love me.’ She’s just off the deep end.”

[More after the jump...]

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<p>will.i.am (OK, and Fergie, too)</p>

will.i.am (OK, and Fergie, too)

Credit: AP Photo

Hitfix Interview: Will.i.am talks Black Eyed Peas at the Super Bowl

How many outfits can he wear in 12 minutes?

Sunday (Feb. 6) will mark the Black Eyed Peas’ second appearance at the Super Bowl. Don’t worry if you don’t remember the first time. It was for a small audience.

“Last year when The Who played, the Dolphins owner gave us a VIP booth,” will.i.am recalls. “Right before the Who went on for halftime, they played ‘I Gotta Feeling.’ We jumped outside [our suite] and we were jumping up and down. The whole section turned around.”

When they take the stage Sunday at Arlington, Texas’s Cowboy Stadium, the Peas will have considerably more people watching: Like 100 million more. And they are ready. While much of the 12-minute performance remains a secret, will.i.am promises it will be interactive, possibly involving the field, not just the stage. He also says he’s trying to fit in eight costume changes, and he’s not kidding. On Thursday, the AP reported that the Black Eyed Peas would be joined by Slash and Usher during their performance.

Even before the group’s impromptu appearance last year, they have been preparing for this moment for a long time. In an interview I did with will.i.am that first appeared in Variety in January, he noted that the Peas have played two season kick-off concerts and a number of Super Bowl pre-shows, all in a bid to get to the big game.

“We’ve been working our way up to play the Super Bowl. We worked hard,” he says.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Josh Ritter</p>

Josh Ritter

Sundance Interview: Josh Ritter on songs, new novel, 'blood and guts'

Why does the singer/songwriter hate protest songs?

PARK CITY—Josh Ritter has been named one of the “100  Greatest Living Songwriters”  by Paste Magazine for good reason. As he showed here in his two packed shows at the ASCAP Cafe, his songwriting is literate and beautifully detailed, and often wrapped in shimmering melodies. He put it best himself when he told The New York Times, “I play rock ‘n’ roll with lots of words.”  If Bob Dylan, John Prine and Paul Simon had a collective son, he’d sound like Ritter. We spent a few minutes with Ritter after his second performance at Sundance and talked about his disdain for preachy songs, his first novel, and bruised hearts. His song “Change of Time” can also be heard in the trailer for Natalie Portman’s new movie, “The Other Woman.”

This is your second time performing at Sundance. What do you get out of it?

Oh, it’s amazing. For me, any show that’s a little different than normal is always good. I love performing, i love touring and it’s just really great, but when you get a chance to come and see how the other half, the movie community, lives, it puts your own life and what you’re doing in perspective. I love it because it’s out of the ordinary.

You’re playing solo here instead of with your full band. How is that different for you?

You have an enormous amount of freedom. If something’s not going a certain way, you just change it. You don’t have to explain to the drummer later. My band, they cover up most of my mistakes. Most of the time, anything that happens on stage, whether it’s acting or playing music, it’s kind of a metaphor for the rest of my life. You go up on stage to remind yourself that it’s normal to mess up and it’s normal for things to go bad and to go from bad to worse and it’s all about how you handle it. And that is something that certainly shows up more when you’re playing solo. When you fall down, no one is there to pick you up.

One of  your songs, “Change of Time” was used in “Parenthood” and in the trailer for Natalie Portman’s new film, “The Other Woman.”  What do placements mean to you in terms of financial security and exposure.

My personal feeling on this stuff is we follow our heroes  and we look up to them for the choices they make. I’ve always appreciated the high degree of artistic integrity, but I believe that those sorts of perimeters change over time. It’s impossible to sell a million records now unless you’re one of a very few people and, for someone like me, the chance to write more songs is kind of paramount and if [the placement] can introduce people to my music and it can help me pay the bills and bring my band on the road, all that stuff is fantastic. There is stuff I wouldn’t authorize my music to play for, but those decisions are made at the time and it’s always a pleasure when somebody finds a spot for something that is in part of their vision.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Lady Gaga's &quot;Bad Romance&quot;</p>

Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance"

2011 Grammy Predictions: Best Short Form Music Video

Can Johnny Cash beat Eminem or Lady Gaga?

As we continue our countdown to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards, we’re predicting the winner in a category a day. Today we look at Best Short Form Music Video, which includes one of the more interesting video projects we’ve seen in recent years that deserves more attention than it initially received.

Best Short Form Music Video

“Ain’t No Grave/The Johnny Cash Project” (Johnny Cash)
“Love The Way You Lie (Explicit Version),” Eminem & Rihanna
“Stylo,” Gorillaz, Mos Def & Bobby Womack
“F*** You,” Cee Lo Green
“Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga

If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check out the “Ain’t No Grave” video and backstory here.  It’s video as social experiment. Fans/artists manipulated pre-selected images to create their own frames that then were edited into the black & white video. It speaks to the power of music as a singular and collective experience and is very moving.  It goes so far beyond video as promotion, although it is that as well, that it deserves its own category. Having said that, unless Grammy voters have really spent time with it, it will likely be completely dismissed in favor of the other four more traditional form videos here. As colorful and fun as it is, “F*** You” breaks no new ground. We would have replaced it with Katy Perry's cotton-candy-colored "California Gurls" video here. “Stylo” is fantastic, but kind of “more-of-the-same” from our favorite animated reprobates. That leaves “Love the Way You Lie” and “Bad Romance.”  Eminem’s video has the sexy stars and controversial content, but Lady Gaga’s pod people video is a work of art that remains fascinating and worth dissecting all these months since its release.  The last scene still gets us. It’s like something out of the Faulkner short story “A Rose for Emily” via John Waters.

Winner: “Bad Romance”

Our previous predictions:

Best Alternative Music Album

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

Best Female Country Vocal Performance


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<p>Britney Spears &quot;Femme Fatale&quot;</p>

Britney Spears "Femme Fatale"

Credit: Jive

Britney Spears reveals 'Fatale'-istic title of new album

New set is 'a tribute to fun, flirty women'

Britney Spears goes from “Circus” performer to “Femme Fatale.” Her new album, out allegedly March 15, is called “Femme Fatale” because, according to  her label, Jive Records, the set is “a tribute to bold, empowered, confident, elusive, fun, flirty women and men.” Doesn’t that sound more like a perfume?

Anyway, Max Martin and Dr. Luke executive produced the album and their paw prints are all over first single, “Hold It Against Me,” which shot straight to the top of the Billboard 100 the week of release.

Jive isn’t admitting that March 15 is the release date, despite the fact that it leaked out in an internal memo last week, but these things are always subject to change, so keep tuned to Hitfix for updates.


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<p>Carrie Underwood</p>

Carrie Underwood

Credit: Evan Agostini/AP

2011 Grammy Predictions: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

We'll tell you why LeAnn Rimes, Gretchen Wilson and Jewel are nominated

Our countdown to the 2011 Grammy Awards, to be held Feb. 13 at Los Angeles' Staples Center, continues today as we turn to country, a field that continues to baffle Grammy voters.

Best Female Country Vocal Performance

“Satisfied,” Jewel
“The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert
“Swingin’,” LeAnn Rimes
“Temporary Home,” Carrie Underwood
“I’d Love To Be Your Last,” Gretchen Wilson

The Grammys are notoriously out of step when it comes to the country field. Occasionally they get it right, but that seems almost more by accident than by knowledge. For example, let’s compare the singers nominated here with those nominated for the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards: Lambert and Underwood are up for both, but the ACMs then picked the much more appropriate Reba McEntire, Lee Ann Womack and Taylor Swift. October’s Country Music Assn. Awards nominated the same females as the ACMs, but swapped out Womack for Martina McBride. So how the hell did Rimes, Wilson and Jewel get in here for most prestigious music award there is? Who the hell knows, but it might be time for the Grammys to rethink who gets to vote in the country categories and make it a little more restrictive.  I’m not saying that the Grammys have to be in lockstep with these other shows (that are voted on by the country music industry) or that they aren’t all fine singers, but Rimes, Wilson and Jewel are nominated for performing songs that were in no way hits (remember that country is still a very radio-dominated format). What year do the Grammy voters think it is?  Venting my spleen is pointless here, thank goodness, because there’s no way Rimes, Wilson or Jewel are winning (again, ladies, this is no commentary on your singing abilities) unless the voters in the know split their votes between Underwood and Lambert.  If we go totally on vocal prowess, former best new artist recipient/"American Idol" winner Underwood wins, but Lambert’s delivery on “The House That Built Me,” which also had the bigger buzz since it is up for both song and record of the year, is so heartfelt and touching that a win may be undeniable.

Winner: “The House That Built Me,” Miranda Lambert

Our previous 2011 Grammy predictions:

Best Alternative Music Album

Best Female Pop Vocal



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<p>Katy Perry on 'How I Met Your Mother'</p>

Katy Perry on 'How I Met Your Mother'

Credit: CBS

Watch: Katy Perry on 'How I Met Your Mother'

We're not saying she's dumb, but....

Katy Perry will be in her more natural setting—the 2011 Grammy Awards— on Feb. 13, but before that, she’ll show up  on  “How I Met Your Mother” on Feb. 7. "How I Met Your Mother" is on CBS and the Grammys are on CBS. Hmmmm.

She plays the cousin of Zoey, played by Jennifer Morrison, and is so naive that she thinks, well, see for yourself in the clip below. Let’s just say we could sell her the London Bridge. Everyone calls her Honey, as in "Oh, honey..." They probably also say "Bless her heart," about her a lot.


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Watch: Rihanna plays kitten with a whip in video for 'S & M'

Watch: Rihanna plays kitten with a whip in video for 'S & M'

Is she pushing the envelope or just pushing stereotypes?

“Mommy, what’s a ball gag?” If Rihanna has any underage fans left after “Rated R” scared most of them away, expect to have to answer that question after watching her new video for “S&M,” the latest single from "Loud."

Once you have a song with that as the title, you can’t really be surprised if there’s bondage, ball gags and rubber suits involved, can you? It may have been fun if Rihanna had gone and made the sweetest, purest video ever for a song about “sex in the air, I love the smell of it. Sticks and stones may break my bones/but chains and whips, they excite me," but instead she went for the obvious.

The broader, "high-brow" concept here is that her real S&M relationship is with the press. We see her behind plastic during a press conference, as headlines, presumably some of them real, about her “daddy issues” or her voice “crackling and popping” scroll by.  The reporters are “gagged,” and she even gets Perez Hilton, whose 15 minutes of fame are soooo over, to parade around on all fours on a leash and pretend to pee on a fire hydrant. She's never involved with a man in the film, just the press, including a kiss on the taped lips of a female journalist. Way to puss out, Rihanna.

[More after the jump...]

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

2011 Grammy Predictions: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

Does the statue go to Lady Gaga, Beyonce or Katy Perry? Where's Rihanna?

As we continue our countdown to the Feb. 13 Grammy Awards, we’re predicting a category a day. Today we pit Lady Gaga against Katy Perry and Beyonce in the best female pop vocal performance category.

Best female pop vocal performance:

“King of Anything,” Sara Bareilles
“Halo” (Live), Beyonce
“Chasing Pirates,” Norah Jones
“Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga
“Teenage Dream”  Katy Perry

What? No Ke$ha? We kid. Although nothing would have surprised us in this year where pop is absolutely king (and queen) at the Grammys. Seriously, we are a little taken aback that Rihanna didn’t earn a spot at the table. We know the Grammys love Norah Jones on principal alone, but Rihanna’s  “Rude Boy” or “Only Girl (In the World)” should have gotten either Jones’ place for “Chasing Pirates” or Beyonce’s slot for a live version of “Halo” (C’mon! The recorded version won this award last year).  That is if we look at it solely as a popularity song contest.

If we really do look at it as a vocal contest, it becomes a different ball game (and Bareilles or Jones should win), but we don’t think the Grammy voters will see it that way, so we’re not either. We’re still baffled over “Bad Romance’s” exclusion in song and record of the year, so we’re giving Lady Gaga the award here because she both deserves it and out of sympathy.

Winner: “Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga

Tell us which artist you think should win.

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