Don't know why the field is so complicated, but eight different artists—from Bruce Springsteen to Avril Lavigne—are tied with five nominations each, so there won't be a Santana-like sweep at the 45th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 23 (CBS, 8 p.m. ET). Here's who we'd like to see rising out of their seats to nab a gramophone (or three) on the big night
Album of the year
Home, Dixie Chicks
The Eminem Show, Eminem
Come Away with Me, Norah Jones
The Rising, Bruce Springsteen [
Inexplicably Springsteen has never won Grammy's top prize. (In one of the biggest blunders in the history of the awards, his Born in the U.S.A. as well as Prince's Purple Rain lost out to Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down in 1985.) But he should be the Boss this time around, as his elegy to those lost on Sept. 11 eloquently voiced the sorrow of a nation while celebrating all that has risen from the ashes. Musically the album reunited Springsteen with the E Street Band, resulting in some of his most vibrant work since U.S.A., his last full studio disc with E Street. Honorable mention goes to newcomer Norah Jones, who, if Springsteen's victory weren't pretty much a foregone conclusion, might have picked up this trophy for the timeless, unassuming beauty of Come Away with Me.
Record of the year
"A Thousand Miles," Vanessa Carlton
"Without Me," Eminem
"Don't Know Why," Norah Jones
"Dilemma," Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland
"How You Remind Me," Nickelback
No rap record has ever won in this category, which is why we're pulling for Eminem to bring it home for hip-hop this year. Actually "Without Me," with its mix of sinister beats, dark humor and Eminem's unmistakable verbal attack, isn't even the best single the emcee released in 2002. That would be his recent No. 1 smash "Lose Yourself" (from the 8 Mile soundtrack), which missed the cutoff for Grammy eligibility by one month. Surprisingly Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" wasn't even nominated.
Best female pop vocal
Sheryl Crow, "soak Up the Sun"
Norah Jones, "Don't Know Why"
Avril Lavigne, "Complicated"
Pink, "Get the Party Started"
Britney Spears, "Overprotected"
How Spears came to be nominated for "Overprotected," a feeble, chirpy effort even by her standards, we'll never know. It would be nice to see Pink win here, if only to make up for her being overlooked in the Album, Record and Song of the Year categories for her rocking musical makeover on M!ssundaztood. But the winner should be Jones for the illuminating "Don't Know Why," on which a stripped-down arrangement lays bare her smoky, jazz-kissed voice to haunting effect.
Best male pop vocal
Craig David, "7 Days"
Elton John, "Original Sin"
John Mayer, "Your Body Is a Wonderland"
James Taylor, "October Road"
Sting is the class of this weak field, but we can't give him the nod for a live version of a song first released in 1987. So it's a singer-songwriter showdown between Mayer and Taylor. With his easy-breezy charm and earnest, understated delivery, Mayer could be Taylor (back when JT had hair). Give it to the newbie for the subtle sensuality and light folk-blues touch he brings to "Your Body Is a Wonderland."
Best new artist
No one can keep up with Jones, whose alluring vocals and evocative piano playing on her sublime debut make her as much of a clear-cut pick as Alicia Keys was last year. With her decidedly untrendy approach, the neo-torch singer has ignited a career that should burn brightly for years to come. A distant second choice would be either John Mayer or Avril Lavigne. Most glaring omission: Vanessa Carlton, who scored Record and Song of the Year nominations but oddly didn't make the short list for Best New Artist.