Grammys Big 4: A Tip Sheet for the Top Categories
Grammys Big 4: A Tip Sheet for the Top Categories

When it comes to Grammy categories, all eyes are especially keen on Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. Here, Billboard takes a deeper look at this year's field. And the nominees are.... artists that have been making undeniable, head-turning music. Read on.

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Album of the Year
In the company of former winners like Sinatra, Wonder and McCartney -- the best of the best.

Album of the Year

21
Adele

Producers: Jim Abbiss, Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth, Rick Rubin, Fraser T. Smith, Ryan Tedder, Dan Wilson
Engineers/mixers: Jim Abbiss, Philip Allen, Beatriz Artola, Ian Dowling, Tom Elmhirst, Greg Fidelman, Dan Parry, Steve Price, Mark Rankin, Andrew Scheps, Fraser T. Smith, Ryan Tedder
Mastering engineer: Tom Coyne
Label: XL Recordings/Columbia Records

Already the best-selling album of the 21st century by a U.K. artist, 21 is also the biggest seller of 2011 in the United States with more than 5 million copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan. At press time, it had spent 13 weeks in the pole position of the Billboard 200, and had yet to leave the top 10 since its February debut. Although Adele herself has been mostly off the scene since being sidelined with a vocal injury in October, her visibility has sustained with hits like "Rolling in the Deep," "Someone Like You" and "Set Fire to the Rain."

Album of the Year

Wasting Light
Foo Fighters

Producer: Butch Vig
Engineers/mixers: James Brown, Alan Moulder
Mastering engineers: Joe LaPorta, Emily Lazar
Label: RCA Records/Roswell Records

Wasting Light was the band's first No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 235,000 copies in its first week, and earned Dave Grohl and company some of their best reviews in years. Headline-grabbing appearances at South by Southwest, Lollapalooza and Coachella, plus a successful fall tour, have further reinforced the Foos' leading rock act status. This is the band's second album of the year nod. Its 2007 album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace was a nominee at the 50th awards.

Album of the Year

Born This Way
Lady Gaga

Producers: Paul Blair, DJ Snake, Fernando Garibay, Lady Gaga, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, Jeppe Laursen, RedOne, Clinton Sparks
Engineers/mixers: Fernando Garibay, Bill Malina, Trevor Muzzy, RedOne, Dave Russell, Justin Shirley Smith, Horace Ward, Tom Ware
Mastering engineer: Gene Grimaldi
Label: Streamline/Interscope/Kon Live

Lady Gaga opened last year's ceremony with Born This Way's title track, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her awards track record is pretty impressive, having won five of the 12 trophies she's been nominated for since 2009. Propelled by 99 cent pricing at the Amazon MP3 store, Born This Way debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with 1.1 million copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the best first-sales week of the year. This is Gaga's third album of the year nomination. Her debut, The Fame, was nominated at the 52nd Grammys, while follow-up EP The Fame Monster was up for the award at last year's ceremony. She has yet to win in the category.

Album of the Year

Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Bruno Mars

Featured artists: B.o.B, Cee Lo Green, Damian Marley
Producers: Dwayne "Supa Dups" Chin-Quee, Needlz, the Smeezingtons
Engineers/mixers: Ari Levine, Manny Marroquin
Mastering engineer: Stephen Marcussen
Label: Elektra

After topping the Billboard Hot 100 with "Just the Way You Are," the lead single from Doo-Wops & Hooligans, in October, Bruno Mars returned to the peak position in January 2011 with the project's second single, "Grenade." Third single "The Lazy Song" reached No. 4, while a high-profile "Glee" cover of album cut "Marry You" sent the song to No. 85 on the Hot 100. Doo-Wops & Hooligans debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.

Album of the Year

Loud
Rihanna

Featured artists: Drake, Eminem, Nicki Minaj
Producers: Ester Dean, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Alex Da Kid, Skylar Grey, Kuk Harrell, Tor Erik Hermansen, Mel & Mus, Awesome Jones, Makeba Riddick, the Runners, Sham, Soundz, Chris "Tricky" Stewart, Sandy Vee, Willy Will
Engineers/mixers: Ariel Chobaz, Cary Clark, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Alex Da Kid, Josh Gudwin, Kuk Harrell, Jaycen Joshua, Manny Marroquin, Dana Nielsen, Chad "C-Note" Roper, Noah "40" Shebib, Corey Shoemaker, Jay Stevenson, Mike Strange, Phil Tan, Brian "B-Luv" Thomas, Marcos Tovar, Sandy Vee, Jeff "Supa Jeff" Villanueva, Miles Walker, Andrew Wuepper
Mastering engineer: Chris Gehringer
Label: Def Jam

Rihanna's first album of the year nomination also includes a song that has already tasted victory. Loud's first single, "Only Girl (In the World)," took home the Grammy last year for best dance recording, as it was the only track from the album released in time to be considered for nomination. Loud is also one of her most successful projects, spawning three No. 1 singles ("Only Girl," "What's My Name?" "S&M") and three other charting hits ("Cheers [Drink to That]," "Man Down" and "California King Bed").

NEXT PAGE: Record of the Year


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Photo Credits (from top): lauren dukoff; steve gullick; Mariano Vivanco; sebastian kim; universal music group

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