Who will nab the bids when the nominees for the 52nd Grammy Awards are announced on Dec. 2? Its been a banner year for music, so there's no clear frontrunner, but there will be plenty of familiar faces in the running for multiple awards. So far, the drama swirling around this year's nominations encompasses not only who will be recognized, but who isn't eligible and whether or not the Grammy committee will change the rules to accommodate one particularly "famous' singer and songwriter for the coveted Best New Artist category.
Billboard runs down some of the leading contenders - and a few long shots - for the 52nd Grammy Awards nominations. Check back on Dec. 3 and see who made the list - and who didn't.
Lady Gaga has had year for the history books, becoming the first artist in the 17-year history of Billboard's Pop Songs chart to notch four No. 1s from a debut album, being honored as Billboard's Rising Star and selling more than 1.5 million copies of her album "The Fame." Gaga seems like a shoe-in for multiple Grammy nominations, including Record, Album and Song of the year. She's also part the the biggest controversy leading up to the nominations announcement: due to the fact that her single "Just Dance" was nominated in the Best Dance Recording category last year, she is currently ineligible for best New Artist consideration. But that may change when the Grammy's awards and nominations committee meets. "We change the rules frequently," Grammy president Neil Portow said this week. "We recognize that situation is not perfect, and we are looking at ways to figure it out.
U2 seemed to have a 360 degree view of the world this year, setting attendance records at every stop on Bono and company's high tech world tour. But it was "No Line on the Horizon," the band's twelfth album and its strongest recording in nearly a decade, that lifted the band into the outer stratosphere. THe band sang with a new urgency on singles like "Get On Your Boots," "Magnificent" and "If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight," a song that herlads back to the finest moments on its breakthrough "The Joshua Tree." U2 debuted "Boots" on the 2009 Grammy Awards broadcast despite the song not being eligible for an award; they hope to collect on that down payment this year.
Allen Toussaint, the legendary New Orleans artist/songwriter/producer, teamed with producer Joe Henry for his most recent album, a collection of covers entitled "The Bright Mississippi." With a host of jazz notables like Brad Mehldau, Joshua Redman, Marc Ribot, Don Byron and Nicholas Payton back him up, Toussaint tackles standards like Duke Ellington's "Solitude," Thelonious Monk's "Bright Mississippi" and Django Reinhardt's "Blue Drag." with Herbie Hancock's surprise win with "The River" in mind, this classic New Orleans musician is definitely in the running for a Grammy nomination.
Green Day reemerged from its five-year break with a brand new rock opera-style song cycle called "21st Century Breakdown," which sent the pioneering pop punk band back to the top of the Billboard 200 the week it was released. "Breakdown" gave the band its second chart-topper, following 2004's "American Idiot," its celebrated breakthrough that saw the Bay Area-based ban take home two Grammys - Best Rock Album in 2005 and Record of the Year in 2006. Now, with a stage musical version of "American Idiot" headed to Broadway, Green Day may add to its Grammy collection.
Whitney Houston, like a true diva, returned to the Billboard 200 in grand style. "I Look To You" was Houston's fourth No. 1 album on the chart and first since the Houston-fueled "The Bodyguard" soundtrack spent 20 weeks at No. 1 in 1993. On the album's title track, her first single in more than seven years, the lead single from her first album in seven years, Houston is both vulnerable and in control. The singer re-enters the spotlight with a stoic ballad about rising again after a fall from grace, with all the literal resonance that brings. Her comeback began at a pre-Grammy party before the 2009 awards, and she'll return for a victory turn in 2010.
Phoenix, the little synth-heavy French pop band that could, aren't eligible for Best new Artist this year because the band's breakthrough album, "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix," is actually its fourth. But after changing labels, marathon recording sessions at the Bowery Hotel in New York and a surprising appearance on Saturday Night Live (the group's US network television debut), the band made up for lost time. Its hard to see the Grammy's not recognizing the Phoenix phenomenon, and can't be counted out as a dark horse for the Record of the Year nomination.
Maxwell may have been on a hiatus from music since 2002, but with the release of "BLACKsummers'night" it's as if he never left. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with a career-high sales week of 316,000, his tours have been selling out all over the country and his first single from the album, "Pretty Wings" remains one of the most romantic tracks of the year. Maxwell is a strong contender for multiple Grammy nominations.
Taylor Swift is racking up the accolades these days, with multiple wins for her record-setting "Fearless" album including honors at the American Music Awards, the Country Music Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards and the CMT Awards, among others. She was nominated for Best New Artist in 2009 but did not take home the prize. Now the question isn't if, but how many Grammy Awards she'll walk with next year.
Black Eyed Peas spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with "I Gotta Feeling, matching Mariah Carey's "We Belong Together" for longest No. 1 stay this decade. The Peas held the No. 1 position for 26 straight weeks, with "Boom Boom Pow" preceding "Feeling" with a 12-week run, making them the second act in the 51-year history of the Hot 100 to remain at No. 1 for a half a calendar year or more. Look for that unprecedented chart success to be mirrored by an impressive number of Grammy Award nominations.
Kanye West may need to be restrained at the Grammy Awards this year, and his behavior at the MTV Awards may even have hurt his chances for a nomination. The controversial "808s and Heartbreaks" saw the rapper working out his pain through Auto-tune.
Jay-Z's acclaimed "Blueprint 3" is not eligible for Album of the Year due to its post-Sept. 1 release, but the hip-hop veteran could earn a nod for "Run This Town," the album's lead single featuring Rihanna and Kanye West.
Beyonce, R&B's top diva and Billboard's Woman of the Year, could contend for Record or Song of the Year with "Single Ladies," her endlessly YouTube'd, late-'08 anthem that danced its way to the top of the Hot 100.
Drake has not even released his debut album -- "Thank Me Later," due next year -- yet, but the upstart Canadian rapper/singer still broke out in a big way in '09, igniting a major label bidding war and peaking at No. 2 on the Hot 100 with his "So Far Gone" mixtape's breakout song, "Best I Ever Had."
Owl City the electro-pop artist and Minnesota native also known as Adam Young, has released two albums independently, but it's his major-label debut "Ocean Eyes" that has everyone atwitter, especially after its blippy lead single "Fireflies" shot up to No. 1 on the Hot 100 this fall.
Keri Hilson worked for years as a songwriter behind the scenes, but in March she released her hit-filled debut album "In a Perfect World...," reaching No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and No. 3 on the Hot 100 with the single "Knock You Down" featuring Kanye West and Ne-Yo.
Kings of Leon finally had a certified hit with "Sex on Fire" the first single from Nashville rockers' fourth album "Only by the Night." But they outdid themselves with the follow-up single "Use Somebody," reaching No. 2 on Rock Songs and No. 4 on the Hot 100.