Newcomers and comebacks could yield Grammy surprises

Thu Feb 9, 2012 6:35pm EST
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Adele may be a safe bet to clean up at Sunday's Grammy Awards, but if music fans think that means a night of few surprises, they should ask Justin Bieber.

The Canadian teen idol left the Grammys empty-handed last year after losing the best new artist award to jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding -- the first jazz artist to clinch the coveted prize.

Sunday's new artist race is just as diverse and could again have jaws dropping, but it won't be the only spectacle at the music industry's biggest awards show that will draw the attention of millions of fans watching on TV.

Singer Adele is giving her first major performance since throat surgery. Katy Perry will appear at a key event for the first time since her breakup with estranged husband Russell Brand, and then there's R&B singers -- and former lovers -- Chris Brown and Rihanna who will both turn out.

Still, among the races, the new artist category presents among the most intriguing of the night's nominee matchups. Rappers Nicki Minaj and J. Cole, country music group The Band Perry, indie rock band Bon Iver and electronica dance music producer Skrillex are competing for the title in a category that is often the hardest to predict.

Minaj, 29, is the most commercially successful act of the five after her No.1 debut album "Pink Friday", and in a sign of her popularity, she appeared on the biggest TV stage in the world at last week's Super Bowl halftime show with Madonna.

But surprise nominations for Bon Iver and disc jockey Skrillex -- the first electronica dance act to get a nod in the newcomer category -- have pundits torn.

"Last year, the Grammy voters pulled a fast one," said Bill Werde, editorial director of Billboard music magazine.   Continued...

<p>Singer Justin Bieber poses backstage at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California February 13, 2011. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>