Sunday’s 56th annual Grammy Awards have the same distinction as in recent years: With no obvious front-runner, artists in nearly every genre are contending for a sliver of the pie.
Hip-hop titan Jay Z has the most nominations (nine), yet none of them are in the major categories beyond the rap field. His collaboration with Justin Timberlake, “Suit & Tie,” is at least up for best pop duo/group performance.
Critics James Reed and Sarah Rodman run down the list of the top categories to see who will win but also who should pick up the statue when the awards are handed out Sunday night in Los Angeles. The telecast will air on CBS starting at 8 p.m.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
“The Blessed Unrest,” Sara Bareilles
“The Heist,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Should win: “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.”
Will win: “The Heist,” which will give Grammy voters a shred of street cred, but not too much (which will shut out Lamar). Then again, Swift is a tried-and-true Grammy darling and commercial juggernaut, and “Red” was a good album that was widely liked by critics and fans.
Should win: Many of these albums were splendid, but artists not on the list — including Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars — would get my vote.
Will win: For the gifted Bareilles the nomination is the prize. The hip-hop artists may split the vote. As enjoyable as their album was, can two anonymous performers win? It seems likely perennial winner — and commercial powerhouse — Swift will be the victor.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Get Lucky,” Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams
“Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons
“Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars
“Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke, feat. T.I. and Pharrell Williams
Should win: “Get Lucky,” the perfect combination of sly and sleazy and catchy, and it wasn’t completely overexposed like Robin Thicke was.
Will win: “Blurred Lines.” You, and every Grammy voter (and her cousin and uncle and . . .), couldn’t get it out of your head last year.
Should and will win: Although Mars and Lorde were big hits, “Get Lucky” was ubiquitous. The trophy goes to the artist and producer, so Pharrell should be recognized for assisting in getting both “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” stuck in our heads, with the Daft Punk song getting the edge.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Just Give Me A Reason,” Jeff Bhasker, Pink, Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink feat. Nate Ruess)
“Locked Out of Heaven,” Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, and Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars)
“Roar,” Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry, Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)
“Royals,” Joel Little and Ella Yelich O’Connor, songwriters (Lorde)
“Same Love,” Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert, Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, feat. Mary Lambert)
Should win: “Royals,” hands down. This category honors the songwriter as opposed to the performer, and “Royals” was really about the lyrical content and not the performance.
Will win: “Royals,” for having the sly distinction of being mainstream while critiquing the mainstream.
Should win: I have a soft spot for the pathos, harmonies, and strong vocals of the Pink song featuring fun. singer Nate Ruess . . .
Will win: . . . but New Zealand teen upstart Lorde made a strong case for winning this with her fresh voice and approach.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Should win: Lamar, if only because he made the most interesting record out of the bunch. Sheeran’s appeal still eludes me.
Will win: Lamar. This category likes to cherry-pick from across genres, and it’s been a while since the Academy has tipped its hat to hip-hop (not since Lauryn Hill won in 1999). But this award also likes the dark horse, so don’t count out Blake, an indie electronic artist from England.
Should win: Country singer-songwriter Musgraves made a real splash with “Same Trailer Different Park” and is hopefully settling in for the long haul.
Will win: The energetic hitmaking duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were everywhere and likely have the best name recognition and an attractive hipness quotient for voters.
BEST ROCK ALBUM
“Celebration Day,” Led Zeppelin
Should win: Bowie. He returned, out of the blue, with a solid if not game-changing album that reminded you how much you missed him. Of course, the same could be said for Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. “Psychedelic Pill,” however, was just unlistenable without a hit of acid (so I’m told).
Will win: Queens of the Stone Age will let the heritage acts cancel one another out and leave Kings of Leon out in the cold.
Should win: With new albums from legends, one live celebration of a classic band, and two contemporary artists, this is an odd grouping; but Bowie surprised everyone with his return and how strong it was.
Will win: The old guard might want to right past wrongs and give Zeppelin a farewell prize.
BEST RAP ALBUM
“The Heist,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Should win: “Yeezus.” This is easily the toughest category to call this year, with a mix of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters from last year. Kanye got shut out of the big categories, making this victory his consolation prize.
Will win: “Yeezus.”
Should win: In another dense category with still competitive veterans duking it out with current kings and inventive upstarts, the polarizing West did make a compelling album.
Will win: If only to keep West from complaining, “Yeezus” will walk away with this one and no one will be mad from an artistry standpoint.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
“Same Trailer Different Park,” Kacey Musgraves
Should win: “Red.”
Will win: “Red.” This wasn’t Swift’s year to completely galvanize the nominations, but she’ll be awarded handsomely for the ones she got.
Should win: In a fair fight, Musgraves’s artistry would put them all on the mat.
Will win: Swift is the heavyweight in this category, although you’d get plenty of valid argument against the idea that “Red,” although a strong album that tracks her growth as an artist, is a country album.
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
“Lonerism,” Tame Impala
Should win: I’m torn: Case made my favorite album from last year, but the National wasn’t far behind her. Case’s record was probably too weird for most voters; ditto for Tame Impala’s “Lonerism.”
Will win: “Modern Vampires of the City,” one of 2013’s most decorated indie-rock albums that was both infectious and marked a step forward for Vampire Weekend.
Should win: In an incredibly competitive category with several great records — particularly by Neko and the National — Trent Reznor may have impressed the most with the consistency of quality over the long haul with NIN.
Will win: According to the buzzy-name recognition theory, Vampire Weekend’s got this locked up.James Reed can be reached at email@example.com. Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.