LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - In a historic first, three women will each vie for the top three prizes at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, with Taylor Swift likely to prolong her fairy-tale success story.
The 20-year-old country-pop singer, whose heartfelt ballads of teen love have struck a chord with young music fans around the world, has eight nominations. Only R&B star Beyonce has more, with 10 nominations.
Along with five-time nominee Lady Gaga, the big breakout story of 2009, they will vie for record, album and song of the year. The record prize goes to the artist, while the song goes to the songwriter.
Lady Gaga would also be the favorite for the best new artist prize, but the flamboyant dance-pop singer was ineligible for consideration because her debut single was nominated last year.
"I think that Taylor's going to have a really big night," said Michael Endelman, a senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine. "Her sales have just been incredible ... and she has this knack for connecting with country fans but also with young women and with pop music fans."
Swift's second album "Fearless" has been the biggest-selling release in the United States since it came out in November 2008. She will perform at the Grammys with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac.
Swift was nominated for best new artist in 2008, but lost to Amy Winehouse. She has won plenty of other prizes since then, perhaps most infamously an MTV Video Music Award statuette last September. When Kanye West jumped on stage and snatched the trophy from her, the ensuing outrage only helped Swift's saintly image, said Chet Flippo, editorial director for Country Music Television's website, CMT.com.
"That made her into the brave little soldier," he said. "The smartest thing she ever did was to say nothing when Kanye interrupted her."
Whether that translates into votes is another matter, since the Grammys are supposed to be about creative merit. But it certainly cannot hurt, he said.
The Grammy Awards are infamously hard to handicap -- no one foresaw jazz veteran Herbie Hancock's win for best album two years ago -- so there is always scope for surprise.
To that end, Endelman said rock band Kings of Leon could take home record of the year if Beyonce, Swift and Lady Gaga split the vote. The Tennessee quartet, long big internationally, finally enjoyed mainstream success in the United States last year when their song "Use Somebody" crossed over from rock radio to pop radio.
Swift also faces tough competition in the country categories, with Miranda Lambert's "Dead Flowers" or Carrie Underwood's "Just a Dream" possibilities to beat her hit "White Horse" for female country vocal performance.
And country veteran George Strait, hot on the heels of his first ever Grammy win last year, could repeat in the country album category with "Twang."
Beyonce might have to share some of the glory in the R&B field with Maxwell, who emerged from semi-retirement last year with an album, "Blacksummers Night," that yielded five nominations. But the two will go head to head in only one category, best R&B song, with Maxwell's "Pretty Wings" up against Beyonce's anthemic "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)."
As for best new artist, the smart money appears to be on the Zac Brown Band. The Atlanta, Ga., road warriors will compete with R&B singer/swongwriter Keri Hilson, electronica rock duo MGMT, alternative rock band Silversun Pickups and British dance duo the Ting Tings.
"I think a lot of voters like that they are country without being from Nashvile," said Flippo. "There's always a certain anti-Nashville element in voting. If anyone had actually listened to their (major-label debut) album ("The Foundation") I think it's album of the year."
The 52nd annual Grammy Awards will take place at the Staples Center in a televised ceremony beginning at 5 p.m. PST (0100 GMT Monday). Most of the 109 awards will be handed out during a fast-paced separate event beginning at 1 p.m. (2100 GMT).
(Editing by Sandra Maler)
© Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only.