Yes, it's that time once again: On Wednesday night (December 5), the music industry officially kicks off its self-congratulatory season with the emphatically titled "Grammy Nominations Concert Live!!," during which Taylor Swift and LL Cool J will reveal the nominees in several key categories, including the so-called Big Four: Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist.
As is the case every year, the race for the 55th annual Grammy Awards is as unpredictable as ever, with artists like Frank Ocean, Mumford & Sons and Fun. likely to battle it out for the top awards. Of course, there will be plenty of dark-horse challengers too — everyone from Carly Rae Jepsen to Lionel Richie seem like locks to pick up a ton of nods, and shoot, even One Direction could be in the running.
So, as we prepare for the unveiling of the nominations, we turn to MTV News' resident Grammy experts, James Montgomery and Gil Kaufman, to get their predictions in the Big Four categories. Who will win it all? Well, you'll have to wait until February 10, 2013, when the Grammys air live from Los Angeles. And now, without further ado, let's get to the picks.
Album of the Year
Thanks to that pesky eligibility period, albums that seem like they were released eons ago — like the Black Keys' El Camino and Florence and the Machine's Ceremonials — are both in the running this year, and I bet both get AOTY nods. Frank Ocean might get squeezed out in other Big Four categories, but Channel Orange is a lock here. The same goes for Lionel Richie's big-selling comeback disc Tuskegee and Mumford & Sons' Babel. But who wins? Your guess is as good as mine. — Montgomery
Lots of Grammy bait in this category, even if there's not a runaway favorite. Mumford & Sons will, of course, act as Grammy catnip with Babel, as will Ocean with Channel Orange. The potential spoiler this year looks to be veteran Richie's Tuskegee, which is exactly the kind of comeback from an icon that the graying Grammy voters love. The Black Keys' El Camino won't win, but it'll get a nod anyway, as will Fun.'s Some Nights. My sleeper pick? Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball, because he's the Boss and the album had big themes and some bold (for Bruce) artistic choices. — Kaufman
Record of the Year
This one goes to the performer, producer and engineer of a particular song, which is why voters usually bestow it on a more, uh, traditionally arranged track. (Fun fact: No rap song has ever won in this category!) Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" won last year, and "Set Fire to the Rain" made it to the top of the Hot 100 this year, so it'll be nominated. So will a trio of inescapable smashes: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," Fun.'s "We Are Young" and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know." The final slot? Sure, it would be nice to see Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You" sneak in, but, c'mon, it's the Grammys; it'll be Mumford's "I Will Wait." — Montgomery
This one is a horse race between Gotye's inescapable "Somebody That I Used to Know" and the equally viral "Call Me Maybe" from Jepsen. Maroon 5 will get a bone for "One More Night," Fun. a toss for "We Are Young" and Taylor Swift will get to prepare another "Oh my God!" face for "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," one of the few chances she'll get, because Red came out after the nomination deadline. The possible spoiler is Ocean with "Thinkin Bout You." — Kaufman
Song of the Year
Handed out to the actual songwriter (or, in recent years, songwriters), it's where Grammy voters occasionally let their freak flags fly — i.e. giving the award to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." This year? Eh. Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own" gained a lot of momentum thanks to the Obama campaign, so I think it gets a nod, as will the Black Keys' "Lonely Boy" (though, if there's a spot where "Thinkin Bout You" slips in, it could be there). Mumford will get a nom for "I Will Wait," and here's where you'll see Swift sneak into the Big Four with "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together." — Montgomery
The songwriting award is another place where Ocean could take a trophy with "Thinkin." Oddsmakers are saying Drake might make a showing with "Take Care," and Springsteen could make a bid with the rousing financial-collapse anthem "We Take Care of Our Own." The Lumineers could be a dark horse with "Ho Hey," and Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" is being mentioned as well. — Kaufman
Best New Artist
Ah, BNA: By far the most unpredictable of the Big Four. One only needs to look back at previous winners to figure out that this category rarely makes any sense (though, to be fair, voters have had a pretty decent past decade). This year, though, there are a few no-brainers: Jepsen, Ocean and Fun. will all pick up nominations, and I suspect Gotye will do the same. As for the fifth spot? I'm going with Emile Sande — remember Esperanza Spalding? — Montgomery
I'll make this simple: Gotye, Carly Rae, the Lumineers, Ed Sheeran and Fun. will probably get nods. One Direction might sneak in, but the academy is unlikely to give them the nod. Oh, and all of that means Ocean won't win here — which is an outrage, but, then again, it's the Grammys we're talking about here. — Kaufman
Do you agree with our experts' Grammy picks? Let us know in the comments below!