NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — It's a brutal year to be in the Grammy nominations handicapping game.
Sure, there are a few safe bets. Mumford & Sons and Frank Ocean are expected to take a share of nominations when they're announced Wednesday night on national television during "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!" in Nashville.
And popular songs by Gotye, fun., Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen may land those artists on the list as well, though Jepsen harbors some doubt her omnipresent song "Call Me Maybe" will net a nod.
"I would be so shocked," the 27-year-old singer said last week. "But this year has taught me to look forward to surprises and just be ready for anything. So, cross your fingers for me."
Viral songs like Jepsen's seemed to be the theme of the year, and with no watershed albums during the nominating period for the 2013 Grammys like Adele's "21" or Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," it's not clear who will turn out as this year's top nominee.
Thus the guessing game.
The Grammy nominations period ended Sept. 30 and three of the year's top four debuting albums — from Swift, One Direction and Jason Aldean — came after that date. Rihanna also released a new album after the period ended. All could have songs nominated, but a popular album is the quickest way to accumulate multiple nods.
Mumford & Sons slipped in just under the deadline. Introduced to much of their burgeoning fan base through a 2011 appearance on the Grammys, the British folk-rock band could return with a flourish after selling 600,000 copies of "Babel" in the first week of release and setting streaming records on Spotify.
And Ocean showed the kind of bravery that might be rewarded by The Recording Academy's voters when he announced in liner notes for his album "channel ORANGE" that he'd had a same-sex encounter, causing an industry-wide discussion of the issue.
Questions surround many of the other artists who might be considered sure bets, however. Gotye should be a lock in multiple categories, but his viral song "Somebody That I Used to Know," featuring Kimbra, wasn't submitted in the song of the year category because of a sample, eliminating one of its most viable prospects.
Others who might be considered possible top nominees like Drake and The Black Keys released their platinum-selling, hit-spawning albums late last year and they'll have to overcome short-term memory issues among voters.
Sean Garrett, a producer for artists like Usher and Beyonce with multiple Grammy nominations, said a lack of clear trends during the nominating period made it difficult to guess going into the show.
"It was sort of an iffy kind of year in my opinion," Garrett said in a phone interview. "I'm going to be honest: I think the politics kind of slowed the music down."
He expects pop stars like Jepsen, Bieber, Swift and Korean sensation PSY to take home nominations, but doesn't see an artist accumulating a high number of nominations. That could leave room for newer acts, including fun., one of his favorites.
"They have a very clever sound," Garrett said. "The lead singer (Nate Reuss) has an amazing, amazing voice. I feel like they just came with something that was a bit different. It was mainstream pop music and it had some edge to it. And there was great songwriting there."
Fun., with their anthemic hit "We Are Young," are among the night's performers, joining Maroon 5, Ne-Yo, Luke Bryan, The Who, Hunter Hayes and others.
"It just feels like we spent the last 12 years pulling back the arrow and this year we just let it go," fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff said. "This last year has been incredible and amazing and hard and I don't even know what it would have been like if we didn't have 10 or 12 years of experience because it still feels like we're learning everything for the first time."
The nominations show is being held outside Los Angeles for the first time in its five-year history. LL Cool J returns, co-hosting the show live on CBS at 10 p.m. EST from Bridgestone Arena with Swift.
It's the first official Grammy activity in Music City since 1973, when the late Johnny Cash kicked off the live broadcast. He'll figure into Wednesday night's as well when Dierks Bentley and The Band Perry pay tribute to the man in black.
"So we're going to do that as a tribute to Johnny, a tribute to Nashville, a tribute to country music, a tribute to being back here," longtime Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich said. "And I think it will be magical."