February 08, 2010 12:00 PM

Lady Antebellum

Need You Now |

COUNTRY-POP

Picking up right where they left off with “I Run to You”—the No. 1 country hit that helped them win Vocal Group of the Year at the 2009 CMA Awards—Lady Antebellum scored another chart-topper with “Need You Now,” the first single and title track off their second CD. Full of late-night yearning for more than just a booty call, it’s a song that anyone who’s ever done any drunk dialing can relate to, coming to this point of realization: “Guess I’d rather hurt than feel nothing at all.” The rest leaves you longing for more like “Need You Now.” It’s enjoyable but hardly essential. There are breezy, radio-ready moments, such as the masochistic-streaked “Love This Pain.” But while the trio make sweet harmony, with Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott trading lead, they lack the vocal presence of, say, Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles.

2010 GRAMMY PICKS

Here’s who we’ll be pulling for in the Big Four categories on Jan. 31

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Beyoncé

I Am … Sasha Fierce

The Black Eyed Peas

The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies)

Lady Gaga

The Fame

Dave Matthews Band

Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King

Taylor Swift

Fearless

Without three discs that should have made the cut—U2’s No Line on the Horizon, Maxwell’s BLACKsummers’night and Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown—there’s no clear choice. We’d be happy with anyone but Swift (overrated) or DMB (not their year). But Sasha Fierce is due to take home a Big Four prize.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

Beyoncé

“Halo”

The Black Eyed Peas

“I Gotta Feeling”

Kings of Leon

“Use Somebody”

Lady Gaga

“Poker Face”

Taylor Swift

“You Belong with Me”

Though both big hits, “Halo” (inexplicably nominated instead of “Single Ladies” here) and “You Belong with Me” lack the anthemic feel of records that defined a year. “I Gotta Feeling,” despite its euphoric energy, suffers from cheesy lyrics, while “Poker Face” is all glam style over substance. But in the soaring ballad “Use Somebody,” KOL captured the emotional ache in all of us.

SONG OF THE YEAR

Beyoncé

“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”

Kings of Leon

“Use Somebody”

Lady Gaga

“Poker Face”

Maxwell

“Pretty Wings”

Taylor Swift

“You Belong with Me”

“Single Ladies” and “Poker Face” benefit heavily from their production. We could see recognizing the precocious songwriting talents of the unstoppable Swift or the graceful beauty of Maxwell’s breakup ballad. But Kings of Leon rule here.

BEST NEW ARTIST

Zac Brown Band

Keri Hilson

MGMT

Silversun Pickups

The Ting Tings

Since Lady Gaga was ineligible in this category because “Just Dance” was nominated last year, the real Best New Artist won’t get to pick up the hardware. What’s left is a somewhat lackluster lot, but at least the groovy twosome MGMT brings some hipster cool to this crowd.

FOR DOWNLOAD PICKS INFO, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/DOWNLOADTHIS

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