NEW YORK (AP) — Will Beyoncé reign as queen of the Grammys, or will the pop diva be dethroned by newcomer Sam Smith?
The AP makes educated guesses at who will dominate music's biggest night Sunday, when Smith, Beyoncé and Pharrell are the top contenders with six nominations apiece.
The Grammy Awards will air live on CBS at 8 p.m. EST. Here's how we think the night will go:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: "Morning Phase," Beck; "Beyoncé," Beyoncé; "X," Ed Sheeran; "In the Lonely Hour," Sam Smith; "G I R L," Pharrell.
FEKADU: We all thought "Beyoncé" was a shoo-in for this award because of its epic release and because Adele didn't drop an album. But then enters Adele's baby brother: soulful British crooner Sam Smith, singing his big ballad, sad love songs, releasing back-to-back radio hits and going platinum. Smith may share some of Beyoncé's fans now, but come Sunday, the Beyhive will turn on him.
MOODY: As a card-carrying member of the Beyhive, I can assure you all the ire will be at the Recording Academy. Look, Sam Smith had a gorgeous album that tugged at our heartstrings and he is the real deal. But Beyoncé not only had the best album of the year (said in Kanye voice), she turned the industry on its head and truly innovated with her surprise release and the visual album. That should count for a Grammy win. But the Grammys will likely be enamored by the blue-eyed soul and British aspect of Sam Smith, marveling that he does soul music so authentically and overlooking a queen who has mastered it, and pop music in general, for almost two decades. And that will be a travesty.
RECORD OF THE YEAR: "Fancy," Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX; "Chandelier," Sia; "Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)," Sam Smith; "Shake It Off," Taylor Swift; "All About That Bass," Meghan Trainor.
MOODY: "Fancy" and "All About That Bass" seem to be the obligatory "yes we're in touch with the Snapchat generation" nomination — nice nod to the kids, but they won't win. It's between Taylor, Sia and Sam; Sia's song didn't resonate with as many people and Taylor's may be too catchy for her own good. Look for Sam to grab this category too: It's a smoldering performance too hot not to reward.
FEKADU: Normally I would say a song like "Bass," despite being one of the year's biggest hits, wouldn't win hit, mainly because it's from a new artist. But, at the same time, how could you imagine 2014 without the addictive track? And because Trainor is a skilled songwriter, followed the song up with another hit and No. 1 album, it's only fitting she walk away with the win.
SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriter's award): "All About That Bass," Meghan Trainor and Kevin Kadish; "Chandelier," Sia and Jesse Shatkin; "Shake It Off," Taylor Swift, Max Martin and Shellback; "Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)," Sam Smith, James Napier and William Phillips; "Take Me to Church," Hozier.
FEKADU: Tay Tay and Trainor's songs seem too playful to win this award. Hozier's hit may be too new for voters, leaving Sia and Sam. Sia deserves this award, not only for "Chandelier," but for writing songs for female pop stars from Rihanna to Beyoncé to Kylie Minogue. Good thing she's not into showing her face these days because Smith will take the win here.
MOODY: Hmmm ... I'm torn. I agree Sam Smith has a strong shot at winning — could you look in those doleful eyes and say no? But since this is a songwriting award, methinks the Recording Academy will take this opportunity to reward Sia for not only "Chandelier," but her years of masterful songwriting for herself and others, including Beyoncé's "Pretty Hurts."
BEST NEW ARTIST: Iggy Azalea; Bastille; Brandy Clark; Haim; Sam Smith.
MOODY: I mean, is this even a competition? Sam Smith.
FEKADU: Who dat? Who dat? Not I to the G-G-Y. Sam Smith will take this one.
POP SOLO PERFORMANCE: "All of Me (Live)," John Legend; "Chandelier," Sia; "Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)," Sam Smith; "Shake It Off," Taylor Swift; "Happy (Live)," Pharrell.
FEKADU: Pharrell's No.1 hit was released too early for eligibility and voters didn't care enough to nominate its live version for record of the year. There's no way he's losing this honor, though.
MOODY: I think that the academy will feel like they gave Pharrell all the love he needed last year; this year, the Grammy darling is Sam Smith, and he's got this on lock.
ROCK ALBUM: "Ryan Adams," Ryan Adams; "Morning Phase," Beck; "Turn Blue," The Black Keys; "Hypnotic Eye," Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers; "Songs of Innocence," U2.
MOODY: I'm guessing Grammy voters are iTunes users and perhaps didn't appreciate that free U2 gift of music either. But I also think they love all things Beck, and Beck — who won't win in the mainstream category — gets his trophy here.
FEKADU: I wanted to think Beck would win because he's nominated for album of the year, but I think the Grammys will reward Petty for an outstanding year, which included a No. 1 album on the pop charts.
R&B PERFORMANCE: "Drunk In Love," Beyoncé featuring Jay Z; "New Flame" Chris Brown featuring Usher and Rick Ross; "It's Your World," Jennifer Hudson featuring R. Kelly; "Like This," Ledisi; "Good Kisser," Usher.
FEKADU: Yonce all on his mouth like liquor.
MOODY: Even with the cringe-worthy Anna Mae reference, Jayonce wins this.
RAP SONG: "Anaconda," Nicki Minaj; "Bound 2," Kanye West featuring Charlie Wilson; "i," Kendrick Lamar; "We Dem Boyz," Wiz Khalifa; "0 to 100 / The Catch Up," Drake.
MOODY: Kanye West's rants against the Grammys probably won't help him here, and voters probably won't want to reward the song best remembered for him simulating sex with wifey Kim Kardashian on a motorcycle. Kendrick Lamar, on the other hand, has an uplifting song and Grammy voters probably remember how he got robbed last year when Macklemore inexplicably won over him. They'll make it up to him this year.
FEKADU: Kendrick Lamar is under the India.Arie effect: You lose all seven in your debut year, but you win two the following year. Poetic justice, indeed!
COUNTRY ALBUM: "Riser," Dierks Bentley; "The Outsiders," Eric Church; "12 Stories," Brandy Clark; "Platinum," Miranda Lambert; "The Way I'm Livin'," Lee Ann Womack.
FEKADU: Women have it tough in country music, so it's great to see the Recording Academy acknowledge three wonderful female voices in this category. Lambert, though, has dominated all of the country awards shows — and there are plenty of them (too many, actually) — and she will do the same at the Grammys. It is shame "Platinum" wasn't nominated for album of the year.
MOODY: Eh, things might not be ideal but women are coming on strong and giving the boys a run for their money, and Lambert is a great example. She likely will dominate here, but I wouldn't be surprised if Clark sneaks up and grabs it from her — her trailblazing as one of the few out gay people in country may win her a few admirers, and perhaps even a trophy.
Follow Mesfin Fekadu at twitter.com/MusicMesfin and Nekesa Mumbi Moody at twitter.com/NekesaMumbi