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<p>Bruno Mars</p>

Bruno Mars

Credit: Atlantic

What are the top contenders for Grammy's song of the year?

Will tunes by Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars and Jason Mraz make the cut?

Which five tunes will receive coveted song of the year nods when the Grammy nominations are announced Dec. 5?

Song of the year, along with best new artist, record of the year, and album of the year, compose The Big Four. The entire Grammy voting body can vote on these awards and that can tend to skew the results in favor of the most mainstream entries.

The winner for song of the year and all the other awards will be announced at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, airing Feb. 10 on CBS.

To be eligible a song must have been released between Oct. 1, 2011 and Sept. 30, 2012. People often, understandably, confuse record of the year with song of the year. Record of the year goes to the artist, producer, recording engineer and/or mixer, whereas song of the year’s sole recipient is the songwriter. Therefore, when thinking about the song of the year contenders, I usually think about how the song would sound if it were performed only on a piano or an acoustic guitar with no other embellishment.

In recent years, there’s been great overlap between the song of the year and record of the year nominees. For example, this February, four of the five nominees were the same in both categories. In 2011, three out of the five were the same.

My predictions, listed in alphabetical order, have some duplication, but I also included songs that I thought met my sniff test above but wouldn't necessarily be record of the year contenders.


“Call Me Maybe,” Carly Rae Jepsen:
This piece of pop culture led to so many imitators and most of them held up. That’s a sign of s strong, well constructed song. Yes, it’s simple, but it’s not simplistic.

“Gold On the Ceiling,”  The Black Keys:
  It may not be quite as catchy as “Tighten Up” but it’s still a retro, blues stomp that stands out from everything else on the radio.

“I Will Wait,” Mumford & Sons: Grammy favorites M & S craft songs that sound so good live, whether they are fully embellished or stripped down and “I Will Wait” is no exception. The banjo-led melody and the “I Will Wait” refrain create an instantly-memorable tune.

“I Won’t Give Up,” Jason Mraz: No, it’s not as jaunty as former nominee “I’m Yours,” but this plaintive love song has staying power at radio. It also one of those tunes that doesn’t seem to have that much going for it at first, but repeated listenings reveal a hidden depth.

“Locked Out Of Heaven,” Bruno Mars: The Grammys love him and this song, without the stuttering, high-gloss production, would work as a stirring ballad.

“Payphone,” Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa:  Sure, it may be a little lightweight as a song, but it is so catchy that it could make it as a song of the year contender. Plus, the chorus was one of this year’s mightiest earworms.

“Spectrum,” Florence & The Machine: The song, co-written by Florence Welch and Adele’s producer/co-writer Paul Epworth, is grand and sweeping, growing from a shudder to a howl. Nothing else sounded like it this year.

“Thinkin’ Bout You,” Frank Ocean:
  Beautiful, provocative and sexy. Never a bad combination.

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift:  Not only did Swift try something new with the alternative pop melody, but the lyrics are some of her cleverest, even if she does seem like she’s 15.

“We Take Care Of Our Own,” Bruce Springsteen: In this election year, this song stood out as a statement about our country. We may feel divided, but when the chips are down, such as with Super Storm Sandy, we’ve proved over and over again that we do, indeed, take care of our own. And Springsteen’s song, which is an appeal to our higher selves says it beautifully.

Which songs do you think will be nominated on Dec. 5? 

 

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<p>Sia</p>

Sia

Listen to Sia sing her own 'Diamonds,' which is now Rihanna's No. 1 hit

Who does it better?

Sia co-wrote the song "Diamonds," and now that track is a No. 1 single by Rihanna. If Sia had sung it, and farmed it to radio, it would not go No. 1.

But that's not to say the songwriter doesn't sing it better.

The Aussie performed "Diamonds" for an audience at the Norweigan-American Achievement Award ceremony (you heard me) last night, set to a simple and emotional backing track with help from Stargate. Her rasp and high notes fit the tune and "Diamonds" obviously sat right in her range.

Rihanna's version has her Bajan accent, a childish sound clap-trapping down on the chorus' vowels. I think coming from global superstar Rihanna the song is just fine. I get why it's a hit when it's coming from Sia, ho is better known at the moment for her guest spot and co-write on David Guetta's "Titanium." She, furthermore, co-wrote Ne-Yo's recent hit "Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)."

"Diamonds" was produced by Stargate and frequent collaborator and "Diamonds" co-writer Benny Blanco. The latter told the Huffington Post of the song's fruition: "We're sitting there trying to make records, and we finally just said, "Let's just do something we like. Let's make a hip-hop record with some really cool chords on it." It didn't sound Rihanna at all... Then Sia heard the track and instantly gravitated towards it... she wrote this amazing song, and it just happened overnight."

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<p>&quot;Cloud Atlas&quot; is one of the 10 films left in the hunt for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.</p>

"Cloud Atlas" is one of the 10 films left in the hunt for the Best Visual Effects Oscar.

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Impossible' snubbed as Oscar's VFX race is cut to 10 films

'Life of Pi,' 'Cloud Atlas' and a trio of superhero movies all make the grade

What's that sweet smell of vanilla wafting in from the kitchen? Yep, it's bakeoff time already. Earlier today, the Academy announced the shortlist of 10 films still in the race for the Best Visual Effects Oscar. On January 3, the visual effects branch members will gather to view 10-minute excerpts from the shortlisted films before voting on the final five nominees.

None of the inclusions is as surprising as one particular omission. For its jaw-dropping re-creation of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, I had thought Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" a sure thing for a nomination, let alone a shortlist spot. However, despite nominating "Hereafter" in 2010 for a far less impressive tsunami sequence, the voters felt differently: the Spanish production failed to make a list dominated by expensive Hollywood product.

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<p>Jeff Zucker.</p>

Jeff Zucker.

Credit: AP

Can ex-NBC boss Jeff Zucker make CNN into must-see TV news?

The man responsible for super-sizing and 'The Jay Leno Show' takes over the cable news giant

The Jeff Zucker era at NBC was a never-ending fountain of both comedy (though not the successful kind) and tragedy, as the former "Today" producer inherited the aging but still strong foundation of Must-See TV and proceeded to turn the network into the biggest joke in the business. He never tried to hide his disdain for the entertainment business and tried to succeed not through developing great programs to take the torch from "Friends" and "ER," but rather through gimmicks like super-sizing or Jay Leno five nights a week in primetime. He once famously said that NBC's focus was now "managing for (profit) margins," and not ratings. I can't speak to the bottom line, but it was clear that Zucker and his various underlings weren't doing a hot job of getting ratings.

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<p>Michael Jackson</p>

Michael Jackson

Happy Birthday 'Thriller!': 5 Ways Michael Jackson's set changed everything

His masterpiece turns 30 on Nov. 30

Nov. 30th marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the best selling studio album in the United States.

Not only was the album a blockbuster that forever sealed Jackson’s fate as one of the most legendary pop artists of all time, it changed the music industry in ways that are still being felt today, three decades later.

Here’s five ways that “Thriller” forever altered the pop landscape:

1. “Thriller” was the first blockbuster title to release seven songs as singles to radio. Until “Thriller,” labels usually put out three or four singles and then the artist went back into the studio to work on the next album. While seven singles is still a stretch for most artists, many superstars routinely go five or six singles deep on an album.

2. “Thriller” was the first major release to come out around the world simultaneously. Previously, release dates were often staggered to accommodate an act’s ability to be in the marketplace for promotional activities when the album came out.  Now, it’s the industry standard for a star with any kind of global reach to have his or her album out worldwide at the same time. In fact, now it’s common for the U.S. release date to move from its usual Tuesday standard release date to Monday to match the release date used by much of the rest of the world. Rihanna and Taylor Swift just did it with their chart toppers.

3. “Thriller” was one of the first albums to release simultaneous singles to different radio formats. After  “The Girl Is Mine” peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Epic put out “Billie Jean” to the pop stations and while it was still climbing the charts, pushed “Beat It” to rock radio.

4. “Billie Jean” became the first video by a black superstar artist to be played on MTV (the channel had minimally played videos from a handful of black artists, such as Joan Armatrading). Epic’s parent, CBS, claims they had to threaten to yank all its artists off a then-18 month-old MTV if the channel didn’t play Jackson’s video. MTV says they were always going to play “Billie Jean.” Regardless of which side you believe, Jackson busted through any color barrier at MTV, altering the cable outlet’s programming for good.

5. After breaking down walls with the “Billie Jean” video, MTV and Jackson were close allies. When it came time to debut the 14-minute video for “Thriller,” which MTV paid $1 million for exclusive airing rights, the music channel aired the clip at five designated times per day. It thereby created the first “destination viewing” for a video clip.

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<p>Christopher Nolan on the set of &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight&nbsp;Rises&quot;</p>

Christopher Nolan on the set of "The Dark Knight Rises"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Christopher Nolan talks Bond, Heath Ledger and his 'Dark Knight' trilogy at Lincoln Center

An intimate discussion focused on his seven-year journey with the Caped Crusader

NEW YORK -- "The Dark Knight Rises" director Christopher Nolan stopped by the Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater Wednesday night for one of the Film Society's "An Evening with…" events. Scott Foundas moderated the discussion, which didn't focus on Nolan's full career, but rather, his experience with the character of Batman across a trilogy of films that has changed the landscape of blockbuster filmmaking and, indeed, the awards race itself.

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<p>Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander in &quot;A&nbsp;Royal Affair&quot;</p>

Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander in "A Royal Affair"

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Tech Support: 'Anna Karenina,' 'Snow White and the Huntsman' and 'A Royal Affair' feature in Best Costume Design

Other contenders include 'Lincoln,' 'Les Misérables' and 'The Master'

Oscar night is known for its glamor. “Who are you wearing” becomes a popular question to ask nominees as they make their way down the red carpet. But on screen, clothes do more than make actors look good. They certainly do that, but they also tell us something about the characters who wear them. They reveal things, telling the story visually like every other element of a production.

More than any other category, period pieces tend to dominate here. In many years, all five titles could have been classified as period. While there is usually room for one or occasionally even two fantasy nominees, such titles are not as welcome here as in, say, Best Production Design. Moreover, contemporary films tend to be cited no more than a few times a decade. Indeed, no such film was nominated between 1994 and 2006! Within this realm of “period,” clothes which are foreign and/or exotic are especially welcome, as is royalty.

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<p>Mindy Kaling in &quot;The Mindy Project.&quot;</p>

Mindy Kaling in "The Mindy Project."

Credit: ABC

Morning TV Round-Up: 'Suburgatory' & 'The Mindy Project'

'Suburgatory' follows one of its best episodes with one of its worst, while 'Mindy' goes to high school

It's morning round-up time, with quick reviews of last night's "Suburgatory" and Tuesday's "The Mindy Project" coming up just as soon as I read a novelization of the film "Iron Man" for the Gwyneth Paltrow scenes...

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<p>Ben Affleck on the cover of next month's Entertainment Weekly.</p>

Ben Affleck on the cover of next month's Entertainment Weekly.

Credit: EW

Roundup: Ben Affleck is EW's Entertainer of the Year

Also: Matthew Vaughn to (possibly) direct 'Star Wars', and early 'Hobbit' reax

After "Les Mis" premiered last week, a lot of pundits -- including our own Kris Tapley -- installed the film as the Best Picture frontrunner, but I'm not so keen to jump the "Argo" ship. The potential Oscar narrative for Ben Affleck is an attractive one for his Academy peers, and he's sure to receive a lot of honors and accolades over the next few weeks -- beginning with the handy publicity boost of Entertainment Weekly's Entertainer of the Year title. I'd have bet on Jennifer Lawrence taking that one, but this is a reminder of just how well-regarded Affleck is in showbiz circles: "Argo" producer George Clooney, naturally, leads the cheers in the magazine's tribute to him. Lawrence is also featured in the issue, of course, alongside Anne Hathaway, Seth MacFarlane and Channing Tatum, all of whom have enjoyed similarly bang-up years. [EW]

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<p>CeeLo Green and the Muppets</p>

CeeLo Green and the Muppets

Credit: AP Photo

Rockefeller Tree Lighting: 7 magical (and weird) musical moments

Mariah Carey, CeeLo Green, Il Volo, Rod Stewart and all the gold trimming

The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center tonight became illuminated, and as per usual, the occasion couldn't pass without a little fanfare. Scotty McCreery, Mariah Carey, Victoria Justice and more brought music to thousands of people for thousands of little lights in New York, and live on television.

Below are some stand-outs, for all the various reasons entertainers stand out.

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey does not do long sleeves. She does fur stoles, and if not, then evening gloves with sequined short sleeves. And she goes in twice, in a pre-taped segment for her classic "All I Want For Christmas" (gorgeous) and for "Christmas Time Is In The Air Again" (ah, that old relic). She is forever fabulous.
 
CeeLo Green
 
Aside from the unintended hilarity calling CeeLo's holiday song "All I Need Is Love" an “original,” checking the Muppets sing "Mahna Mahna" always feels so right. Furthermore, as the "rap" verse ascends, so does a creature from Green's nethers: Pepe the King Prawn delivers in more than one, awkward way.
 
Il Volo
 
In case you were wondering if writers ever sat at their desk at the TV company, wrote the words “taking the world by storm” for copy and then gave it to someone to say on-air, they do, and Al Roker executed. Il Volo is a small collection of Gap Italia models and they delivered an affected "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," biting their lips, whooshing hair, dipping their face in order to excrete designer eyewear and cosmetic dental work. And then I passed out, I don't remember anything else.
 
 
"The Voice" singer has the Spirit. "I'll Be Home For Christmas" is simple and pure, with no need for gold trimmings. 
 
Rod Stewart
 
As a distraction from Rod using the mic stand as a crutch during "Let It Snow," here is a mind-blowing photo of him and CeeLo together.
 
 
There's a skinny tie under there. Johnny Lydon is somewhere, upset.
 
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, and he looks like Tony Bennett. This charming pre-taped segment was a gentle reminder that, to Tony Bennett, all of life must be a comedy. He’s got that jolly look, and grins like an old dog, and he’s like “I’m comin’ to town, yeah!” and you're like "Yeah!"
 
Trace Adkins

If trace Adkins ran toward me at a high velocity wearing that fur and that scowl on his face, I’d run for the nearest treeline. But the magic of "We Three Kings" is the equal parts scary and mysterious and uplifting and heaven-toward. Adkins' appearance is a metaphorical representation of the song itself (muse the enigma of pedal steel with nobody sitting at it).
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<p>Malcolm and Abi of &quot;Survivor: Philippines&quot;</p>

Malcolm and Abi of "Survivor: Philippines"

Credit: CBS

Recap: 'Survivor: Philippines' - 'Hell Hath Frozen Over'

With her back against the fall, could Abi become a warrior?
Pre-credit sequence. I'm not going to miss Pete [an uninteresting exit interview]. Will anybody from Dangrayne? Abi will! It's The Morning After and she's whining about the "brutality" of Tribal Council. She declares that their behavior towards her wasn't "cute." [Monkey!] Denise says that Abi's next to go, unless she "miraculously" wins Immunity, but since she wanted to introduce that possibility, she might as well tell us who would be the next target in the event of said miracle. That'd be Jonathan Penner. That's what we so often call "foreshadowing," kids. 
 
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"Top Chef: Seattle"

 "Top Chef: Seattle"

Credit: Bravo

'Top Chef: Seattle' recap: '50's Food Flashback'

It's a retro challenge - with a crushing double elimination

Remember the fighting we saw at the end of last week? How everyone hated Dallas John for bagging on Kuniko? Yeah, that wasn't all of it. Of course the show saved a little bit of crazy to kick things off this week, and just to confirm, everyone really, really hate Dallas John. And he's pissed about it! As far as he's concerned, "Josh was a redneck and CJ was playing me." Um, what does that have to do for calling Kuniko just short of an idiot? But wait! Dallas John has one sole defender -- Stefan. I think Stefan's just relieved someone else is the villain this season. 

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