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The Recording Academy, which hosts the 53rd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, is having an identity crisis.Is it an awards show that bows to commercial success, with its questionable nomination for Katy Perry's lightweight "Teenage Dream" as Album of the Year? Is this the same awards show that once bestowed a Grammy on Milli Vanilli?Or is it an awards show modeled after the Academy Awards, which sometimes rewards films with little regard to whether anyone actually saw them hence last year's "The Hurt Locker" besting "Avatar" for Best Picture?Nominations for this year's top awards are split, with worthy acts such as Arcade Fire, Eminem and Miranda Lambert competing against lesser acts such as Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum and Justin Bieber.We'll find out who will come out on top on Sunday, Feb. 13, when the Grammys will be awarded at Los Angeles' Staples Center.Here's one unusual aspect of this year's Grammys: You can contribute to the ingenious Johnny Cash tribute video "Ain't No Grave," part of an ongoing art installation that premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival, and consider yourself a Grammy nominee. (See more details below.)
Here are The Tribune's picks on who will win the award, and who should win the award.Record of the Year(awarded to artist, producer, and engineer and/or mixer)"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 AntebellumWho will win •Four of the five nominations are in the hip-hop category, so there could be a canceling-out effect that would benefit Lady Antebellum. But voters from The Big Apple, as well as music lovers everywhere, love anthems about New York City, so Jay-Z and Alicia Keys will walk away with the award, especially because of its superior production values.Who should win •"F- You" is as whimsical as the name Gnarls Barkley, while "Love the Way You Lie" is a great song that's as serious as a heart attack. I like Cee Lo, but Eminem gets my love.Album of the Year"The Suburbs," Arcade Fire"Recovery," Eminem"Need You Now," Lady Antebellum"The Fame Monster," Lady Gaga"Teenage Dream," Katy PerryWho will win •Although there's still distaste for Eminem in the music industry for past (and in some cases, present) musical statements perceived to be homophobic and misogynist, Eminem's "Recovery" is a return to form for an important, relevant musician. And academy voters love success stories from people overcoming trials to regain glory.Who should win •While Eminem would win in any other year, Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" highlights the significance of indie music. And it's a grand-sounding concept album that resonates and emboldens the outsider in all us.Song of the Year (awarded to songwriter)"Beg Steal or Borrow," Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs"F- You," Cee Lo Green"The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert"Love the Way You Lie," Eminem featuring Rihanna"Need You Now," Lady AntebellumWho will win • If the night turns out be a Eminem landslide, he could win this category. Academy voters would probably prefer Gwyneth Paltrow and the "Glee" cast's sanitized version of Cee Lo Green's song better. But this award will go to Lady Antebellum, since it was a country and pop crossover hit, attracting the most voters. And who can't relate to the lyrics (with the exception of those who have never nursed whiskey at a quarter after 1 a.m.)?Who should win •Finally Ray La-Hard-to-Pronounce-Name and Miranda Lambert (though she didn't write the song) get some much-needed attention, but neither song represents their finest moments. While I like any song with an F-word in the title, Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" is the single of the year for Rihanna's unforgettable and poignant vocal hook and Eminem's searing, cathartic and emotional chronicle of relationship warfare.Best New ArtistJustin BieberDrakeFlorence & The MachineMumford & SonsEsperanza SpaldingWho will win • With his movie opening, this is Justin Bieber's weekend. The 16-year-old singer is a sure-fire bet for Best New Artist based on his dominant impact on pop culture.Who should win • While Florence & The Machine deserve recognition for injecting unique creativity into the pop world, I also have a soft spot for Mumford & Sons. Their innovative take on Americana is beguiling, especially since they are British. But I think Esperanza Spalding should win, even though she's been around for a while; anyone who saw the jazz bassist and singer's performance at the 2009 Park City Jazz Festival knows why she'll be a leader of a new generation of jazz artists.Best Dance Recording"Rocket," Goldfrapp"In for the Kill," La Roux"Dance in the Dark," Lady Gaga"Only Girl (in the World)," Rihanna"Dancing on My Own," RobynWho will win • Lady Gaga's nomination should have been reserved for her much-better and much-more-popular songs. Rihanna is the biggest name here, so she should triumph over the unknown nominees.Who should win • Rihanna's dance-club anthem is an intoxicating slice of Euro-pop. With her warm, seductive vocal stylings over cold, strobing synths, this is an unlikely pairing that works superbly.Best Rock Song"Angry World," Neil Young"Little Lion Man," Mumford & Sons"Radioactive," Kings of Leon"Resistance," Muse"Tighten Up," The Black Keys Who will win • In a tough category, these five strong songs all are deserving. Neil Young's "Angry World" is aided by Daniel Lanois' eerie and echo-laden production, and voters love established artists who have often been overlooked.Who should win •Muse and Kings of Leon were huge in 2010, though Muse's "Resistance" pales in comparison to its own "Uprising." Kings of Leon's "Radioactive" missed being the hit that "Use Somebody" was, but it's no less electric and rousing, with an anthemic chorus that's equally cryptic and poetically illuminating. Plus great guitar work, too.Best Rap Song"Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z & Alicia Keys"Love the Way You Lie," Eminem featuring Rihanna"Not Afraid," Eminem"Nothin' on You," B.o.B. & Bruno Mars"On to the Next One," Jay-Z & Swizz BeatzWho will win • Dual nominations for Eminem will cancel each other out. "Empire State of Mind" will garner Jay-Z & Alicia Keys the award.Who should win •"Love the Way You Lie" was the best single of the year in any genre.Best Country Song"The Breath You Take," George Strait"Free," Zac Brown Band"The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert"I'd Love to Be Your Last," Gretchen Wilson"If I Die Young," The Band Perry"Need You Now," Lady AntebellumWho will win • When a song is nominated for Record and Song of the Year, it will win its genre, so Lady Antebellum will take this award home.Who should win • I can't decide whether The Band Perry's "If I Die Young" is maudlin or brilliant. But Miranda Lambert made the best country album of the past several years, and she should be recognized for her artistic leap. She's an insightful writer and a talented song interpreter she didn't write this particular song. She sounds as if her favorite dog really is buried in the yard, as the song reveals.Best Short Form Music Video"Ain't No Grave," The Johnny Cash Project"Love the Way You Lie," Eminem & Rihanna"Stylo," Gorillaz, Mos Def & Bobby Womack"F- You," Cee Lo Green"Bad Romance," Lady GagaWho will win • Anything associated with Johnny Cash has a shot, though many voters don't know about the nominated video. Cee Lo Green's video is the most amusing and friendly video ever made with the F-word in the title. "Love the Way You Lie" is too intense for some (and has too much Megan Fox for others). Despite "Stylo" featuring road rage between Bruce Willis and cartoon characters, Lady Gaga was the most visually interesting musician of the year, and her videos cemented that status. More than 342 million page views of that YouTube video further underscore that.Who should win •"Ain't No Grave" was a 2011 art installation at the Sundance Film Festival, and it's a global collective art project where each of us can contribute to this ever-evolving video. It's an ingenious idea, which allows fans to commune with the final recording of the late country icon in a small, meaningful way. Contribute now at http://www.thejohnnycashproject.com, and then you can consider yourself a Grammy nominee. It looks great on a résumé.