Frontrunners: This is a race between two albums: Eminem's Recovery and Jay-Z's The Blueprint III, both of which are also strong contenders for album of the year. Eminem's sold better, but both have generated major hits likely to be nominated for Record of the Year. I'd give Eminem the edge at this point.
Other contenders: B.o.B's The Adventures of Bobby Ray, Drake's Thank Me Later, 50 Cent's Before I Self Destruct, Kid Cudi's Man on the Moon, The Roots' How I Got Over, and Big Boi's Sir Luscious Left Foot.
Rap Solo Performance
Frontrunners: This is Eminem's to lose for "Not Afraid."
Other contenders: Nicki Minaj "Your Love," Drake "Over," Kanye West "Power," Ludacris "How Low,"
Of note: Glee's Matthew Morrison was submitted for "Gold Digger"...hopefully as a joke.
Frontrunners: The state of rap and pop music in as it is, this is much more competitive than the solo category. Major submissions include Jay-Z & Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind," Eminem & Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie," and B.o.B & Bruno Mars' "Nothin' on You."
Other contenders: "Wake Up! Everybody" by John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona & Common; "Down" by Jay Sean & Lil Wayne; "Hard" by Rihanna and Jeezy; "Check It Out" by Will.I.Am and Nicki Minaj; "Bedrock" by Young Money & Lloyd; "Hot Tottie" by Usher & Jay-Z;
and "Deuces" by Chris Brown, Tyga & Kevin McCall.
Of note: Nice to see Daniel Merriweather & Wale on the list for "Change." Tracks that are more songs than rap like "California Gurls" and "Break Your Heart" were submitted in pop. "Airplanes," although arguably more rap, was also submitted in pop (although as "Airplanes II").
Contemporary R&B Album
Frontrunners: Because so many potential nominees submitted in pop instead, this category would be the easy one for this year. Seriously--only 27 submissions? Will they even be able to have 5 nominees? One of the biggest questions about this year's submissions was were Janelle Monae would stick her groundbreaking genre-hopping album The ArchAndroid. Pop? Alternative? R&B? The answer is R&B, which does seem the most logical choice, and given the lack of submissions, should give her a good shot at a nod. Despite its trouble finding hit singles, Usher's Raymond v. Raymond looks pretty good here too and, although ridiculous, so does Beyonce's live album, I Am...Yours.
Other contenders: Mary J. Blige, Chris Brown, Mariah Carey, The-Dream, Trey Songz
Frontrunners: Another big question this year was where Sade would submit. The answer is here, making Soldier of Love the frontrunner here and a likely AOTY nominee. Sade won pop album in 2002 for their last album, Lovers Rock. I also expect to see Alicia Keys' The Elements of Freedom, John Legend & The Roots' Wake Up! and Erykah Badu's New Amerykah Part II.
Other contenders: Fantasia, Kem and Monica.