With final ballots for the 54th annual Grammy Awards due next Wednesday, the question looms: Can anyone mess with Adele’s shot at glory?
Running up to the Feb. 12 ceremony, the British vocalist is among this year’s top nominees with six nods, including entries in three of the four major categories.
Smart money favors a triumph for Adele, whose achievements, both commercial and aesthetic, would appear to make her a shoo-in for a sweep in her categories. (If she manages the feat, Adele would match Beyonce’s six trophies in 2010, a record for a female performer.)
Nonetheless, Recording Academy voters have been known to toss a curveball or two on “Music’s Biggest Night.” Last year’s wins by Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” as album of the year and Esperanza Spalding as best new artist are only the most recent examples of such surprises.
Adele’s sophomore Columbia set “21,” an album of the year nominee, was the overwhelming bestseller of 2011, topping the 5 million sales mark in December. Its sales more than doubled those of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” which displaced “21” at No. 1 in June with a splashy 1.1 million-unit bow, and Michael Buble’s late-year hit “Christmas.”
If ubiquity means anything to Grammy voters, Adele stands to gain points. Her “Rolling in the Deep” — nominated for record and song of the year — was a radio constant through much of last year, and was succeeded on the airwaves by “Someone Like You.”
And the singer registered with balloters out of the gate: In 2009, she received the coveted new artist trophy.
The quality that may play strongest for Adele is her broad-based appeal. Her music speaks with equal potency to consumers and critics; pundits at organs like the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times sang her praises in year-end wrap-ups. A pop-soul force in the tradition of Dusty Springfield and Amy Winehouse, she’s like Sara Lee — nobody doesn’t like her.
The likeliest candidate for spoiler is singer-songwriter-producer Bruno Mars, who faces off with Adele in five categories (and with her producers in a sixth). Though his album “Doo-Wops and Hooligans” faded from the album chart by the end of 2011, he re-emerged with the No. 1 single “It Will Rain,” from the “Twilight: Breaking Dawn — Part One” soundtrack.
In a diva face-off, Lady Gaga could rain on Adele’s album-of-the-year parade. While most observers considered “Born This Way” to be a pallid successor to her debut collection “The Fame,” the five-time Grammy winner has her boffo debut sales and a formidable rep as a performer working in her favor. Her previous two releases were nominated but went unrewarded in the album-of-the-year category.
The Dave Grohl-fronted unit Foo Fighters could pull off an album-of-the-year upset. The rock act has reaped six Grammys, and is beloved by NARAS insiders.
Another potential spoiler is Mumford & Sons, whose song “The Cave” is up for record and song of the year. The English folk-rock quartet, whose 2010 debut “Sigh No More” has slowly but surely sold more than 2 million copies, missed out in the new-artist race against bassist-vocalist Spalding last year, so a make-good award could be in order.
As far as this year’s best new artist field goes, many view female rapper Nicki Minaj, whose debut album “Pink Friday” was a late-2010 smash, as the clear front-runner. However, neo-folkie Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) can’t be written off: “Holocene,” from his eponymous second album, is also nominated for record and song of the year.