Grammys: 8 Key Races to Watch

7:00 AM 2/9/2017

by Chris Willman

Adele or Beyonce? Rihanna or Solange? This year's Grammy's stage will host some of the biggest stars in music including Katy Perry, Bruno Mars and Chance the Rapper, plus a tribute to the legendary Prince.

Only a handful of awards will be given out at Staples Center during CBS' 3½-hour telecast of the Grammys on Feb. 12. The majority of the James Corden-hosted show, which last year drew about 25 million viewers (holding steady with 2015), will focus on performances rather than speeches and statuettes. Among those announced so far: Adele, Beyonce, Katy Perry and Bruno Mars, who sources say will lead the Prince tribute. But a few key races will resonate with the music industry and Hollywood.

  • Battle of the Blockbusters

    Adele vs. Beyonce

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    The two powerhouses are facing off in the top three categories — record, album and song of the year. Adele, who won all three in 2012, is probably a lock to win two this year — with her monster ballad "Hello." But Beyonce looks solid for album of the year for her more socially relevant Lemonade.

    Also in those categories are some dudes — Justin Bieber for song and Drake for album, to name a couple. But it's shaping up as the year of the woman — at least at the Grammys — and the divas seem destined to dominate down-ballot as well, with Adele likely picking up pop solo and pop album awards while Beyonce probably will win for urban contemporary album, music video and music film (for HBO's much-buzzed-about video album of Lemonade).

  • New Kids on the Block

    The Chainsmokers vs. Chance the Rapper

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    Best new artist is a toss-up this year, one of the few races that could end up going any which way. Conventional wisdom gives a slight edge to pop dance duo The Chainsmokers, who had 2016's third-biggest-selling single with "Closer." But Chance the Rapper has more artistic cred with his look-to-the-future streaming-only distribution policy.

    The lesser-known Anderson Paak might peel away some hip-hop votes, while it's assumed Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini will split the Nashville wing.

  • Blues Clues

    Rihanna vs. Solange

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    Rihanna is by far the marquee name in the R&B performance division, with a win for "Needed Me" a likely consolation prize for "Work" losing record of the year. But Solange could add this one to the Knowles' collective mantle; she's better known than the other contenders (Ro James, Musiq Soulchild and BJ The Chicago Kid), and some critics rated her record even higher than big sister Beyonce's.

  • Your Pop's Pop

    Babs vs. Bob

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    The traditional pop vocal album category is a heavyweight bout between Barbra Streisand (for Encore: Movie Stars Sing Broadway) and Bob Dylan (for Fallen Angels).

    Unless one of the longshots — Willie Nelson Sings Gerswhin, Andrea Bocelli's Cinema, Josh Groban's Stages Live — makes a surprise showing, the odds favor Streisand since voters probably think the Nobel Prize was award enough for Dylan this year. Plus, if every star who duetted with Streisand on her album remembers to vote, that alone could skew the numbers.

  • Getting the Last Laugh

    Amy Schumer vs. Carol Burnett

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    The two funny ladies duke it out in the spoken word category, with Schumer's The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo up against Burnett's In Such Good Company. But never count out actual musicians, with beloved late-'70s vets Patti Smith (M Train) and Elvis Costello (Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink) also competing as wordsmiths.