Here in the highly opinionated 21st century, we find ourselves in a divisive mood about so many things -- the economy, taxes, health care, the Super Bowl halftime show.
But it seems there are a few things we can agree upon: Blue skies are nice, ice cream is good, puppies are cute and Adele can sing her behind off.
The 23-year-old British siren is nominated for six Grammy awards and the best advice is that she arrive at the awards ceremony Sunday night with a nice sturdy carton or a couple of close friends to help her carry them.
"The 54th Grammys" airs live Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.
You have to go back to Santana's "Supernatural" (2000) or maybe even Paul Simon's "Graceland" (1987) or Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (1984) to find an album that was as much of a lock to win as "21."
Adele, a Londoner who fancied the Spice Girls growing up, came along in 2008 with "19," a much jazzier, bluesier record that won her Best Female Vocal Performance for "Chasing Pavements" and the two-edged-sword Best New Artist award. Her competition in that category came from Lady Antebellum and the Jonas Brothers.
That vote was fairly prophetic, as Adele would take a quantum leap on her sophomore album, thanks in part to a painful breakup that produced such emotionally charged singles as "Rolling in the Deep," "Someone Like You" and "Set Fire to the Rain."
Not only has "21" owned the charts, praise for Adele has cut across all age and stylistic demographics. Teenyboppers, Grandma, the cable guy, the metalhead down the street -- everybody digs Adele.
She is the real deal -- the antidote to Katy Perry and Rihanna and other pop tarts, who, judging by their live performances, get a vocal lift in the studio.
Punk icon Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), who is up against her for Album of the Year, told the Chicago Sun-Times this week, "She's made an incredible record, and she's an incredibly talented artist, so maybe it is true that the cream actually rises to the top."
Adele's "21" was not the most highly anticipated album in the early part of 2011. Much of the talk centered around Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." "Rolling in the Deep" debuted at a modest No. 68 in December 2010 and didn't rise to the top until May. Once it did, it stayed there for seven weeks. It has appeared on 12 different Billboard charts -- from Rock to R&B/Hip-Hop to Hot Latin -- making it the most widely crossed-over song of the past 25 years.
Based on the positive buzz and her impressive run through the talk-show circuit, the album did debut at No. 1, and that's been a familiar spot. It has been there for 19 nonconsecutive weeks, the most since "The Bodyguard" soundtrack. It was the biggest-selling album of the year -- now more than 6 million copies -- and the biggest-selling digital album of all time.
Sadly, her voice was too big for her own good, and a vocal-cord hemorrhage forced her to cut short her tour. She will return, though, to sing at the Grammys.
Also slated to perform are the reunited Beach Boys with Maroon 5 and Foster the People; Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band; Carrie Underwood and Tony Bennett; Bonnie Raitt; Chris Brown; Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson; Glen Campbell with the Band Perry and Blake Shelton; Coldplay and Rihanna; Foo Fighters; Bruno Mars; Paul McCartney; Nicki Minaj; Katy Perry; and Taylor Swift.
Most of those folks turn up somewhere in the nominations. Here are some picks and predictions:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
"21," Adele; "Wasting Light," Foo Fighters; "Born This Way," Lady Gaga; "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," Bruno Mars; "Loud," Rihanna
Not only is Adele a lock, this isn't even a strong field. The absurd omission is Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," an album so monumental it topped the Village Voice's poll of the nation's critics by the largest margin in history. It's hard to fathom how Bruno Mars and Rihanna could have pushed in ahead, but it must have a lot to do with Kanye being a big jerk. So, unlike last year, when that prissy Arcade Fire swooped in, zero chance of a surprise here.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
"Rolling in the Deep," Adele; "Holocene," Bon Iver; "Grenade," Bruno Mars; "The Cave," Mumford & Sons; "Firework," Katy Perry
Mumford & Sons went into the last Grammy show relatively unknown and got a big bounce out of its performance with the more deserving Avett Brothers and that guy Bob Dylan. Katy Perry had five No. 1 singles from her "Teenage Dream" album, so she deserved a nomination. But there's no stopping "Rolling in the Deep," one of the few soul-pop songs in decades to stand up alongside an Aretha classic.
SONG OF THE YEAR
"All of the Lights"; "The Cave"; "Grenade"; "Holocene"; "Rolling in the Deep."
It's cool that a song as out-there as Bon Iver's falsetto-soaked "Holocene" got a nod in this category, which goes to the songwriter. And it's nice to see Kanye West ("All of the Lights") at least poke his head into the top three categories. He'll likely stay in his seat and keep his mouth shut when the British
lady gets up to collect her trophy.
BEST NEW ARTIST
The Band Perry, Bon Iver, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Skrillex
Adele can't win here. She already did. Wiz Khalifa was noticeably snubbed, either because of the mixed reviews or because he's a weedhead. Among the five, there shouldn't be much of a contest. Nicki Minaj is a rare, head-turning talent, not to mention the most successful female hip-hop artist since Lauryn Hill. Her impact has been felt not only with "Pink Friday" and its smash single, "Super Bass," but her dozens of winning guest spots for the likes of Kanye West, Drake and Sean Kingston, and her Super Bowl cameo.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
"21," Adele; "The Lady Killer," Cee Lo Green; "Born This Way," Lady Gaga; "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," Bruno Mars; "Loud," Rihanna
Odd that Katy Perry wasn't nominated here, but it might have something to do with this category having the word "vocal" next to "pop." Not that it would have mattered. This makes four for Adele.
BEST ROCK ALBUM
"Rock 'N' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul," Jeff Beck; "Wasting Light," Foo Fighters; "Come Around Sundown," Kings of Leon; "I'm With You," Red Hot Chili Peppers; "The Whole Love," Wilco.
The Foo Fighters win this category every year -- or at least three out of the last 11 -- and will do it again, unless the older voters rally around Jeff Beck. Wilco, slighted for "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" in 2003, is getting only its second rock-album nomination and deserves a close look for "The Whole Love," a happy return to form.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
"My Kinda Party," Jason Aldean; "Chief," Eric Church; "Own the Night," Lady Antebellum; "Red River Blue," Blake Shelton; "Here for a Good Time," George Strait; "Speak Now," Taylor Swift.
Here is a battle that includes three country hunks, a well-decorated legend and a sexy coed trio. At this point, none of them writes or performs as well as young Taylor Swift, who should win this for the second time.
BEST RAP ALBUM
"Watch the Throne," Jay-Z and Kanye West; "Tha Carter IV," Lil Wayne; "Lasers," Lupe Fiasco; "Pink Friday," Nicki Minaj; "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," Kanye West
Kanye has won this as a consolation prize three out of the past seven years and should do it again with "Twisted Fantasy," unless voters are torn between that and a follow-up almost as good, "Watch the Throne," opening the door for a Nicki upset.
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
"Bon Iver," Bon Iver; "Codes and Keys," Death Cab for Cutie; "Torches," Foster the People; "Circuital," My Morning Jacket; "The King of Limbs," Radiohead.
Radiohead and the White Stripes lead this category, having each won three times. It doesn't look like the White Stripes will be back anytime soon. With Bon Iver in the top categories, the band has an edge to win its first and probably will. Wild Flag, Kurt Vile or even tUnE-yArDs would have made this a bit more exciting and alternative.
BEST R&B ALBUM
"F.A.M.E.," Chris Brown; "Second Chance," El DeBarge; "Love Letter," R. Kelly; "Pieces of Me," Ledisi; "Kelly," Kelly Price.
Chris Brown was nominated for Best New Artist in 2005, but lost to Carrie Underwood. In 2009, he decided to commit career suicide (of the temporary variety) by beating up on then-girlfriend Rihanna, thus preventing her from getting to the show. Now here he is. Given the field, there's a good chance Grammy voters will have to hold their noses and vote for his decent, chart-topping "F.A.M.E.," which produced three hit singles.
Best Pop Solo Performance: "Rolling in the Deep" gets a breather here, so Adele can win for "Someone Like You," which, as a Kristen Wiig character pointed out in an "SNL" skit, was the go-to ballad for a good cry: "Everyone with a heart and an iTunes account does (it)."
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Despite the chart-topping Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera hit "Moves Like Jagger" being in this category, Grammy voters are likely to check the less-heard Tony Bennett-Amy Winehouse "Body and Soul" as a way to honor an old legend and a dead one.
Best Country Song: Vince Gill, Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton are all in here, but I'd be so torn between Thompson Square's sexy power ballad "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" and Taylor Swift's "Mean," that I'd go with both and be disqualified.
Best Rap Song: One of two categories where "Black and Yellow" is nominated, but it's a heavy underdog to Kanye West's brilliant, star-studded "All of the Lights."
Best Rock Song: Mumford & Sons will likely leap ahead of the Foos, Radiohead and more and win its first Grammy for "The Cave."
Best R&B Song: Charlie Wilson's "You Are" is the only song in this lame category that even begins to suggest Grammy.
Best Dance Recording: Home of the cold thumping electronic music. LA dubstep artist Skrillex, who grabbed a Best New Artist nomination ahead of Wiz, could win for "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," but it should go to "Raise Your Weapon," an eight-minute tug of war between Deadmau5 and cool, soulful Scandinavian singer Greta Svabo Bech.
Hard Rock/Metal Performance: Who knew Dave Grohl had a song like this left in him? The 43-year-old screams his way through the Foo Fighters' "White Limo" like he's back on "Bleach."
(Contact Scott Mervis at smervis(at)post-gazette.com; Twitter: (at)scottmervis_pg; blog: www.post-gazette.com/popnoise.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)
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