The Grammy Awards are typically an equal opportunity showdown, pitting male and female musicians against each other in all categories. But this year, album of the year and best pop solo performance nominees are all men and all women, respectively. Given the show's creative, combustive onstage pairings (think Lady Gaga and Elton John storming through an unlikely melody of Poker Face and Your Song in 2010), USA TODAY asked two music pundits to pretend they're programming the Feb. 10 broadcast (CBS, 8 p.m. ET/tape delay PT) and bring the sexes together for a series of fantasy duets.
But first, the nominees:
Album of the year
The Black Keys, El Camino
fun., Some Nights
Mumford & Sons, Babel
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
Jack White, Blunderbuss
Pop solo performance
Adele, Set Fire to the Rain (Live)
Kelly Clarkson, Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)
Carly Rae Jepsen, Call Me Maybe
Katy Perry, Wide Awake
Rihanna, Where Have You Been
Your dance-card pairings from Ian Drew, entertainment director at US Weekly:
The Black Keys and Carly Rae Jepsen: For the Midwestern garage band stalwarts and Canadian pop phenom, Drew suggests Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot to move Jepsen out of her comfort zone. "Take the prom queen and rough her up, like Sandy in Grease."
Frank Ocean and Rihanna: "Two R&B powerhouses from the Jay-Z school collide" on Rihanna's single Stay. "Ocean would easily kill it picking up with Mikky Ekko verses." Better yet, "segue into Ocean's Grammy-nominated (record of the year) Thinkin Bout You."
Jack White and Adele: "This would easily slay the night," Drew says of the gritty guitar hero and London siren. "They should do the Rufus and Carla Thomas song, Night Time Is the Right Time. They're both influenced by Memphis rhythm and blues, so this would be a great rock-blues explosion."
fun. and Katy Perry: "Do both Katy's Wide Awake with fun.'s own Some Nights, but they could even really go for it and tackle a medley of all the (nominated) pop songs. They could handle it, with Katy adding a really fun female element to that band's sound."
Mumford & Sons and Kelly Clarkson: "If you're not a fan of Mumford, they risk putting you to sleep, but someone like Kelly could really wail and open things up on a song like Mumford's I Will Wait. Kelly could add a country element that would meld nicely with the Mumford's paired-down instrumentations."
And now from George Varga, pop music critic for U-T San Diego (formerly The San Diego Union-Tribune):
The Black Keys and Adele: "London meets Akron, by way of Chicago," says Varga, who selected songs for all five pairs from some of this year's lifetime achievement award recipients. They'd salute Chess Records' co-founder Leonard and Phil Chess by storming through the Etta James classic At Last.
Mumford & Sons and Kelly Clarkson: To honor '50s singer Patti Page, Clarkson "can dig into Tennessee Waltz while Mumford can use the song to connect Nashville to their Celtic-music roots."
Jack White and Rihanna: "Rihanna will surely connect with Lightnin' Hopkins' 1960 gem, Mojo Hand, a song that blues buff White probably knows inside and out. An unlikely pairing, but that's what the Grammys are all about."
Frank Ocean and Katy Perry: Coming from different sides of the musical universe, "one from grit and the other glitz, The Temptations' I Can't Get Next to You should make both of them stretch."
fun. and Carly Rae Jepsen: "These two pop confectioners should duet on Carole King's classic I Feel the Earth Move, and if they're really feeling frisky then can segue into her dance-ready hit Locomotion."
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)