Grammy Preview: Adele vs. Kelly–Battle On!

Paul Grein
Stop The Presses!

Can Adele squeeze out one more Grammy for a song from her blockbuster album 21? The British singer swept six awards last year, tying Beyonce’s record for the most Grammys won by a female artist in a single night. Adele is nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance this year for “Set Fire To The Rain,” which was the album’s third #1 single. (She’s nominated for the live version from her best-selling DVD Live At The Royal Albert Hall.)

Her chief rival for the award is Kelly Clarkson, who is nominated for her #1 single “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” The panel of Grammy insiders that determined the final nominations in the “Big Four” categories favored Clarkson. They put “Stronger” in the Record of the Year finals, but not “Set Fire To The Rain.” (“Stronger” is also a Song of the Year nominee, but “Set Fire To The Rain” wasn’t eligible in that contest).

Clarkson has said that she thinks Adele is out front. “I think Adele might take that one,” she opined in a Rolling Stone feature in which celebrity experts predict winners in key categories. “Any time you see her name in your category, it’s basically like being up against someone that’s just passed away—you know she’s totally going to win [laughs]. And she’s so cool!”

I think it could either way. The biggest point in Adele’s favor: She is universally respected. The biggest factor working against her: The voters know that she swept the awards last year, and they may decide (as the Grammy panel seems to have) to “give it a rest” for a year, especially since it was a year in which Adele was between albums. (Here’s a possible indication that Grammy voters don’t want to overdo it with Adele. The singer’s hit DVD Live At The Royal Albert Hall wasn’t nominated for Best Long-Form Music Video this year, even though it was eligible.)

The biggest points in Clarkson’s favor: Everybody likes her. She was even nominated for Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards in November. (That was remarkable because, um, she’s not a country singer (though she has more than held her own on teamings with such country stars as Reba McEntire and Jason Aldean.) Also, “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is an anthem with a positive theme. Some Grammy voters will appreciate the fact that a song with a positive message got onto the radio amid all the songs that require asterisks in their titles.

Of course, one of the other finalists could pull an upset. They were Carly Rae Jepsen’s #1 smash “Call Me Maybe,” Katy Perry’s #2 hit “Wide Awake” and Rihanna’s #5 hit “Where Have You Been.”

Can Grammy history be any guide?

Of the seven previous cases where an artist won six or more Grammys in one night, only one has come back the next year to win another Grammy. That was Michael Jackson, who followed his eight-Grammy sweep in February 1984 by winning another Grammy the following year (Best Video Album for Making Michael Jackson’s Thriller).

That could be a very good sign for Adele, whose 21 was the #1 album on Billboard’s year-end chart for both 2011 and 2012. It was the first album to rank #1 on the magazine’s year-end chart two years running since…Jackson’s Thriller in 1983 and 1984.

Let’s go a little deeper. Of the 24 previous cases where an artist won five Grammys in one night, just five other artists won another Grammy the following year.

The two most notable were Roger Miller and Stevie Wonder.

Miller followed his five-Grammy sweep in April 1965 with a six-Grammy sweep the following year. He won five of the six awards for his classic hit “King Of The Road.”

Wonder followed his five-Grammy sweep in March 1974 with another five-Grammy sweep the following year. He won three of the five awards for his #1 album Fulfillingness’ First Finale.

The three other cases weren’t quite as dramatic as those two.

Henry Mancini followed his five-Grammy sweep in May 1962 with one more award the following year. He took Best Instrumental Arrangement for his hit “Baby Elephant Walk.”

Lauryn Hill followed her five-Grammy sweep in February 1999 with one more win the following year. But it wasn’t for one of her own releases. She won as one of a small army of producers who worked on Santana’s Supernatural, the Album of the Year winner.

Lady Antebellum followed its five-Grammy sweep in February 2011 with one more win the following year. The trio took Best Country Album for Own The Night.

In addition, one non-artist followed a five-Grammy sweep by winning another Grammy the following year. Producer and recording engineer Jay Newland followed his five-Grammy sweep in February 2003 (chiefly for his work with Norah Jones) by winning another Grammy for his work on an album by Michael Brecker Quindectet.)

So who’s going to win this thing? I predicted Clarkson in my preview of the Pop Field, and I’ll stick with that, though I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it’s Adele. I’m not trying to have it both ways. This is just a very close contest between two great singers, both with really strong songs.

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a tie?

Now that you’ve reviewed all the facts, who do you think is going to win?