A year after Amy Winehouse swept awards in five major Grammy categories, 2009 could be another big year for female artists. A handful of emerging women could receive a major boost — as Winehouse, Alicia Keys and Lauryn Hill have experienced in years past — if they take home gold on Sunday.
One of the categories with the strongest female representation is Record of the Year, which pits Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" against Adele's "Chasing Pavements," Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love," M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes," and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' "Please Read the Letter."
Krauss is the only woman to represent in the Album of the Year category, but Song of the Year includes nods for Sara Bareilles ("Love Song"), Adele ("Chasing Pavements") and Estelle ("American Boy"). And while the not-so-new Jonas Brothers seem to have the inside line on the Best New Artist award, they're up against some serious competition from British crooners Adele and Duffy, reggae-loving Philly native Jazmine Sullivan and country trio Lady Antebellum, which, despite the name, features only one female member.
Entertainment Weekly critic Leah Greenblatt said Adele and Duffy might cancel each other out and split the vote, paving the way for the JoBros to win, even though the brotherly group has been around for a while. "Grammy voters kind of need to be smacked over the head to notice an artist," she said. "They have a history of sort of nominating 'new artists' [who are] not actual new artists and giving the prize to people who have actually been around for a few albums. And they just couldn't ignore the Jonas Brothers this year, probably."
Regardless, Greenblatt said Adele and Duffy could have good nights, though she thought Duffy might suffer from the incessant Amy Winehouse comparisons. "She really didn't have the impact, and she doesn't have the problems that make her so compelling, and she's not in the tabloids," Greenblatt said. "She's just a girl with a great voice who does retro soul. A lot of people love her, but I don't think anyone is, like, so passionate about her." Adele, on the other hand, who is nominated for four Grammys, has a better chance, Greenblatt said, because she's also nominated in the Song of the Year category as well and a number of the female-only categories, in which her chances are strong.
As for the Pop Collaboration With Vocals race, no matter how you slice it, a woman's going to come out on top, with nominations for Alicia Keys with John Mayer ("Lesson Learned"), Madonna with Justin Timberlake and Timbaland ("4 Minutes"), Krauss and Plant ("Rich Woman"), Rihanna and Maroon 5 ("If I Never See Your Face Again") and Jordin Sparks with Chris Brown ("No Air").
Though a trio of women are up for Best Pop Vocal Album — Sheryl Crow, Duffy and Leona Lewis — with Grammy-catnip acts like the Eagles and James Taylor alongside them, that might be a tough one to pull out. The odds are better for a win in Best Dance Recording, as super-buzzed Lady Gaga ("Just Dance") as well as Madonna ("Give It 2 Me") and Rihanna ("Disturbia") face more-obscure-to-the-Academy acts like Sam Sparro, Hot Chip and a live track from Daft Punk.
With Lil Wayne, Coldplay and Ne-Yo leading the nominations race, Greenblatt said it's clearly a "man's year," but she's pulling for Leona Lewis to win a couple. "Because [she's] someone [who] went from zero, total unknown to basically a mega-star in a year, and she had two ginormous hits and two more singles coming off the album, and people like her, she's got an incredible voice and she's never naughty," she said.
She's the lone female nominee in the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals category, but it's possible Jennifer Hudson (with Fantasia) could pull off an upset against such veterans as Boyz II Men, Al Green, Raphael Saadiq and Anthony David with her song "I'm His Only Woman." The nomination comes in a year in which Hudson released a well-received debut album and suffered a personal tragedy with the murders of her mother, brother and nephew in Chicago. Hudson also has another chance in the Best R&B album category with her self-titled debut.
Newcomer Jazmine Sullivan has a number of chances to arrive on the Grammy stage, but she's facing a wily female veteran in Mary J. Blige in the Best Contemporary R&B Album category (not to mention Ne-Yo), and Hudson, Ne-Yo and Keyshia Cole in the Best R&B Song race.
"Someone has to pinch me, because I don't believe it," Sullivan told MTV News shortly after she heard about her five nominations. "I wanted to make the best project that I could. That's why I wrote it. All the songs are very personal to me, and for people to appreciate it, it feels good." Though she knows she faces stiff competition from the JoBros, Sullivan said Best New Artist is the one she'd like to win.
One artist Greenblatt said she doesn't expect to see onstage — other than for her performance — is Katy Perry, who is nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. "She seems like Grammy catnip. ... She's a big pop star, she's really fun to look at, she always wears a great outfit," Greenblatt said, adding that Leona Lewis could win the category but might have to overcome the same TV-talent-show stigma that painted "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson after her first album. On vocals alone, she predicted Lewis would still win, though, but warned to look for Adele as a possible dark horse if she doesn't capture any other major awards.
Will Lil Wayne grab all the gramophones? Is Katy Perry going to tell her girl rivals to kiss off? Can Coldplay march off with a win? MTV News is all over the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, so stay tuned for interviews, analysis and more before, during and after the big night, Sunday, February 8.