When the nominations for the 28th annual Grammy Awards are announced Thursday, we'll have the answers to several key questions:
Will Bruce Springsteen get a second crack at the prestigious record-of-the-year Grammy, which he lost last year to Tina Turner?
Will Madonna have the last laugh on the skeptics who dismissed her as a passing fad by earning a nomination for album of the year?
Will Whitney Houston be nominated for best pop performance by a female to make up for being ruled ineligible in the best-new-artist category?
If you can't wait until Thursday, try forecasting the Grammy nominations yourself. It's not that hard to do: You just have to know how the 5,000 members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences vote. They tend to favor big hits that are right in the mainstream of popular music.
Here are records and artists that have the best chance of being nominated in seven key categories, in order of predicted finish.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
1--"NO JACKET REQUIRED," Phil Collins (Atlantic). Grammy voters' fondness for well-crafted, mass-appeal pop is obvious when you consider that four of the last six artists to win this award were Billy Joel, Christopher Cross, Toto and Lionel Richie. Collins fits comfortably in that company and is this year's front-runner.
2--"MIAMI VICE," various artists (MCA). This is the first TV sound track to top the chart since Henry Mancini's "Music From 'Peter Gunn' " in 1959--and that went on to win the Grammy for album of the year. Also, a lot of people are apt to vote for "Vice" in recognition of its pioneering role in the use of contemporary music on television.
3--"BROTHERS IN ARMS," Dire Straits (Warner Bros.). This British band is a little adventuresome for the conservative wing of the academy, but even they couldn't have missed hearing "Money for Nothing," the album's first single.
4--"THE DREAM OF THE BLUE TURTLES," Sting (A&M). Sting has long been a Grammy favorite--his "Every Breath You Take" even managed to beat a pair of Michael Jackson songs in the "Thriller" landslide two years ago. An added plus for Sting's solo debut is its strong jazz sensibility. Grammy voters like jazzy touches--witness the past success of acts like Steely Dan and Manhattan Transfer.
5--"LIKE A VIRGIN," Madonna (Sire). This is a bit of a long shot: Madonna is still perceived more as a commercial phenomenon than as an artist of substance. But the album's extraordinary success--6 million sales and four Top 5 singles--should at least bring a nomination.
Also possible: "Beverly Hills Cop" sound track, Sade's "Diamond Life," John Cougar Mellencamp's "Scarecrow," Bryan Adams' "Reckless," Whitney Houston's "Whitney Houston," John Fogerty's "Centerfield," Don Henley's "Building the Perfect Beast."
RECORD OF THE YEAR
1--"WE ARE THE WORLD," USA for Africa (Columbia). This was the biggest single of the year by almost any measure--sales, air play and public awareness. The only thing that could keep it from winning is overexposure--and that's not likely.
2--"BORN IN THE U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen (Columbia). Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" was nominated for this award last year but lost in the Tina Turner comeback celebration. Four follow-up hits by the Boss are eligible this time around, with this anthem standing a slightly better chance to make the finals than "Glory Days."
3--"MONEY FOR NOTHING," Dire Straits. The song was a smash on pop and rock radio. The video was a hit. The album was a blockbuster. It's just the kind of broad-based success Grammy voters love to salute.
4--"CARELESS WHISPER," Wham! featuring George Michael (Columbia). At least one old-fashioned ballad usually makes the finals, and this elegant, stylish song was the ballad of the year. The only obstacle: Wham!'s plastic, ultra-commercial image.
5--"THE POWER OF LOVE," Huey Lewis & the News (Chrysalis). Lewis was nominated in this category last year with "The Heart of Rock and Roll" and should make it back to the finals with this exuberant theme from the year's biggest box-office hit, "Back to the Future."
Also possible: Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On," Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer," Aretha Franklin's "Freeway of Love," Madonna's "Material Girl," Philip Bailey & Phil Collins' "Easy Lover," Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You," Sade's "Smooth Operator."
BEST NEW ARTIST:
Whitney Houston, whose debut album has sold more than 2 million copies, had been considered the front-runner for this award. But the academy has ruled her ineligible, citing the fact that she appeared on two duet recordings before this eligibility year. With Houston out of the running, the race narrows to two main contenders: Sade and Julian Lennon. The academy probably views Sade as the more distinctive artist but may not be able to resist giving the award to Lennon.
The likely nominees: Lennon, Sade, Freddie Jackson, John Parr, A-Ha.
Also possible: Power Station, Katrina & the Waves, 'Til Tuesday, Ready for the World, Lone Justice, Paul Hardcastle.