The prevailing wisdom is that the Grammy Awards ceremony is the Oscars of the music industry, a chance for superstars who just might not get enough ass-kissing in their day-to-day life to finally get their hard-earned dues (though considering the state of the music business nowadays, they could use a Percocet or two). Of course, the popularity-contest mentality of the Grammys make the “voting with your dollars” mantra even more nauseating (bet you regret only downloading Arcade Fire right about now). Just sit back and enjoy the outrageous outfits, preposterous performances and all the other trappings of ultimate pop-star fabu-stupendosity. Here are the predictions for the top Grammy Awards of 2006:

Record of the Year

It’s war of the weirds in this motley category as the minimalist powerhouse of Gwen Stefani’s inexplicably magnificent “Hollaback Girl” goes airhead to head against the only animated nominee in Grammy history, Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” Filling out the category are three decidedly more normal (read: boring) selections: Mariah Carey’s chart-topping weepie “We Belong Together,” Green Day’s chart-topping weepie “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and Kanye West’s sample-happy quip-rapping “Gold Digger.” Both Carey and West had banner years, though Carey’s been rocking the back-from-the-brink vibe over numerous awards shows this year. The faux-punks from Frisco and the bottle-blonde from L.A. don’t have the same across-the-board appeal, and as for Gorillaz, something tells me the Academy prefers their winners in more than two dimensions.

Will win: Mariah Carey

Should win: Gwen Stefani

Album of the Year

Six words spell it out: “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” which is what it might take to prevent Grammy-darlings U2 from scooping up this coveted prize, their second for Album of the Year after 1987’s more-accomplished “Joshua Tree.” Proof that God exists comes in the form of Gwen Stefani’s nod for the rich and rapturous “Love, Angel, Music, Baby,” though a win would probably set off the End of Days, so count her out. Mariah Carey’s comeback coo gets old over the fifty-odd minutes of her “Emancipation of Mimi,” but she could still pull an upset if U2 and the darker side of Paul McCartney, nominated here for his refreshingly introspective “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard,” split the septuagenarian vote. Kanye West needs to realize that a rap album has never won this category, and his cool but cocky “Late Registration” won’t be the one to cinch it.

Will win: U2

Should win: Gwen Stefani

Song of the Year

The Grammys has an irritating tradition of nominating the biggest pop flops of the year for this category, and 2006 is no exception. Forget that Bruce Springsteen’s meditative “Devils & Dust” cleans the floor with his bombastic 2002 release “The Rising” — it sold about a tenth of the latter, and didn’t provide the same sense of pop euphoria that the Grammys go gaga over. Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road” is a middling country song with a decidedly un-Hollywood fan base, so don’t expect a win here. John Legend’s “Ordinary People” is a piano-sweetened concoction on a generally solid debut album, but Legend’s star power depends more on his Alicia-Keys-with-a-Y-chromosome public image than any single tune. And though age hasn’t tempered U2’s sophisticated songwriting (nominated here with “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”), they’re much more about the full-album experience. The only pick with any real “Song of the Year” heft (at least chart-wise) is Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together,” whose army of composers (a whopping ten at last count, including Carey) should have a great time vying over who gets to make a shout-out at the big podium.

Will win: Mariah Carey

Should win: Mariah Carey

Best New Artist

Again, this exasperatingly misnamed category serves up a bevy of artists whose “newness” comes as a surprise to many — Hotlanta crunk-ho Ciara released her debut a year and a half ago, and fun and frisky Fall Out Boy has been around in some form since the early 00s. John Legend is a truly new (not to mention promising) sensation, though Maroon 5’s victory last year might presage another hard-up-white-boy sweep. Filling out that slot nicely is the aforementioned Chicago group, plus the Robbie Williams-lite sensibility of British rockers Keane. Sugarland is the token country act, but if Gretchen Wilson’s explosive debut couldn’t claim the title last year, Sugarland’s distinctly blander sound won’t do it now.

Will win: Fall Out Boy

Should win: John Legend