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2:32 pm on 5 February 2023, Sunday
By Maggy DONALDSON
As music's elite gather in Los Angeles for the Grammy awards on Sunday, one question is playing on loop: Will Beyonce finally win the coveted Album of the Year prize?
The 41-year-old has the most chances at Grammy gold with nine nominations, following the release of "Renaissance," her rich, layered ode to club music.
She is a powerhouse contender for the night's major awards -- but the same goes for British balladeer Adele, whose introspective ode to the ugly cry, "30," earned her seven nods.
The face-off has prompted obvious comparisons to 2017, when Adele swept the top prizes at the glitzy music biz gala, shutting out Queen Bey's culture-shaking "Lemonade."
Six years later, Beyonce has continued to make history as the Grammys' winningest woman; with four more victories on Sunday, she could overtake classical conductor Georg Solti for the most victories by any artist.
But when it comes to the big three awards -- best album, best record, and best song -- Beyonce curiously remains something of an underdog.
She has never won Album of the Year honors and although she has the most Record of the Year nods with eight, she's never won that prize either.
She only scored Song of the Year once, for 2008's "Single Ladies."
But industry watchers including Billboard predict this will finally be Beyonce's year to take home the Grammy for Album of the Year, arguably the night's most prestigious prize.
"I sure hope so, because doesn't she deserve it?" Nile Rodgers, the co-founder of the band Chic who is credited with contributions on "Renaissance," told AFP.
Rodgers, the Supremes, Nirvana and others will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy at Sunday's ceremony.
"She's arguably the most culturally important artist in the world," Merck Mercuriadis, the music publishing mogul who was once Beyonce's manager, chimed in at a pre-Grammy gala.
- Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift in the mix -
Beyond the Beyonce-Adele rematch, a slew of contemporary superstars including Kendrick Lamar, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift also have strong chances to take home the night's major trophies.
The star-studded 65th annual Grammys, hosted once again by comedian Trevor Noah, will include performances from Styles, Bad Bunny, Lizzo and Mary J. Blige.
Bad Bunny, indisputably the world's biggest commercial artist, has three Grammy chances off his major drop "Un Verano Sin Ti," also an Album of the Year contender.
It's the first time an entirely Spanish-language album has a chance at that coveted award, and it's the first time the Puerto Rican reggaeton megastar has landed a solo nomination in the major Grammy categories.
A Bad Bunny win in that field "would mean a lot to all Spanish-speaking people and our culture because it really says, 'Hey, Spanish music is just as respected as music in English and music really has no barriers," Colombian artist Sebastian Yatra told AFP.
Styles, Lizzo and Doja Cat all figure among the top nominees, while pop juggernaut Swift could win the Song of the Year prize that has evaded her for years.
The superstar -- who has been making good on a vow to re-record her first six albums to gain control of her rights to them -- has a chance at the award celebrating songwriters for her 10-minute version of "All Too Well."
- 'Surreal week' -
After several Grammy years with clear Best New Artist favorites -- Olivia Rodrigo, Megan Thee Stallion and Billie Eilish -- Sunday's race is wide open.
For Molly Tuttle, a bluegrass artist in the running, even a nomination means "that my music can reach a bigger audience and that new opportunities could come up for me."
"It's just a surreal week. It's been a whirlwind so far," she said.
The category has grown increasingly eclectic and reflective of the internet age's impact on popular music, and many of the nominees -- including Brazil's Anitta, Eurovision rockers Maneskin and rapper Latto -- have all found viral fame on TikTok.
"It's cool," said JD Beck, who with co-artist DOMi comprises their eponymous experimental jazz duo that's up for two Grammys this Sunday, including Best New Artist.
"We're just ignoring everything, trying to be very tunnel vision until it's over," he told AFP with a blase grin.
"Yeah, focusing on playing and not completely ruining it," quipped DOMi.
The Academy -- comprised of music-makers including artists, composers and engineers -- also shortlisted a coterie of the industry's enduring stars for Grammys, with Bonnie Raitt, Willie Nelson and ABBA each garnering a handful of nominations.
No matter who wins, the Recording Academy's attention has amped up the career of Samara Joy, who along with a nod in the jazz categories earned a shot at Best New Artist.
"You know, over the past few months, a lot more people started picking up the phone," she told AFP with a laugh.
© Agence France-Presse