Norah Jones - Not Too Late
Paul McCartney - Memory Almost Full
Bruce Springsteen - Magic
Kanye West - Graduation
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Amy Winehouse and Bruce Springsteen are locks for nominations this year. Both albums were acclaimed bestsellers, so I expect they will be duking it out for the award. Kanye West is my third most likely. He's been nominated for both his previous albums, and, although this one probably wasn't quite as acclaimed, it was still a big hit, and the year's biggest hip-hop album. It gets harder for the fourth slot, but I'm going with longtime favorite Paul McCartney, who got good notices for this album. The downside is that he is sort of in the same demographic as Bruce Springsteen (male, older, traditional rock)--and this category, like Record of the Year, is generally a mix of the biggest albums across genres. Still, I think he'll have enough support to get in.
The fifth slot is really tricky though. Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad has been a hit factory, but dance pop albums rarely appear here. Maroon 5's It Won't Be Soon Before Long was also a strong performer, and would put a pop group in the mix, but when they had their big year in 2004 it didn't translate to general category nods (although that may have been an eligibility issue, since Songs About Jane took so long to catch on). If they want an alternative album in the mix they could go with previous nominee The White Stripes' Icky Thump, but I think they were really lucky to get their most acclaimed effort, Elephant, on 2003's shortlist. Likewise Linkin Park's Minutes to Midnight could have a shot, but that strikes me as a boring choice. If voters go for a traditional or contemporary R&B choice, they might turn to 2006's best new artist John Legend's Once Again or slighted-last-year Timbaland's guest-heavy Shock Value, but neither got as good reviews as their previous work (although that didn't stop Mariah Carey in 2005). M.I.A.'s Kala got stellar reviews, but wasn't a major hit. Feist could get it for The Reminder, but I think she'll get more notice for single "1234" than the album. Mark Ronson's Version could also be a surprise pick, but I think voters will see him getting enough attention as co-producer of Winehouse's disc. If you're thinking the inventive Beatles mash-up album Love has a shot, think again--it wasn't submitted.
For the lost slot I'm turning to a perrennial Grammy favorite, who swept the awards in 2003, Norah Jones. Sure her popularly has waned a bit, and she didn't get a nomination for her second album, Feels Like Home, but as John Mayer proved last year, the third time's the charm with Grammy, and Not Too Late is her most inventive work yet.