February 13, 2012 12:00 PM

Kellie Pickler

100 Proof

COUNTRY

“Where’s Tammy Wynette when you need her?” asks Kellie Pickler on “Where’s Tammy Wynette,” the honky-tonk opener of her third album. Of course, Wynette is somewhere in the great beyond, but Pickler is clearly intent on channeling the woman behind “Stand by Your Man.” The results make 100 Proof her most potent effort. Songs like the feisty “Tough” find the Idol alum wearing her rough new edges well. The twangy traditionalism continues on ballads such as “Long As I Never See You Again,” a classic country weepie with a backbone, while the well-sketched title tune is spiked with the kind of down-home wisdom that Tammy would no doubt approve of.

BUZZ

ARTIST!

Lana Del Rey

Born to Die |

ALT-POP

After her much-maligned appearance on Saturday Night Live last month, you might doubt if Lana Del Rey is the real deal. Born to Die, though, lives up to the hype that scored her the SNL gig before her debut album was even released. The chanteuse, who fancies herself the “gangsta Nancy Sinatra,” conjures an alluring potion of sultry torch pop, hypnotic trip-hop and David Lynchian atmospherics.

CATCH THE 54TH ANNUAL

GRAMMY AWARDS

SUNDAY, FEB. 12, 8 P.M.EST ON CBS

CHUCK’S GRAMMY PICKS

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Adele, 21

Foo Fighters, Wasting Light

Lady Gaga, Born This Way

Bruno Mars, Doo-Wops & Hooligans

Rihanna, Loud

RECORD OF THE YEAR

Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”

Bon Iver, “Holocene”

Bruno Mars, “Grenade”

Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”

Katy Perry, “Firework”

There’s only one album that I would have picked to beat 21: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West’s masterpiece that inexplicably was not nominated in this category. Without that hip-hop opus, Adele’s second set is the clear-cut choice for me-and probably 99 percent of the Recording Academy voters. From start to finish, it takes you on an emotional journey during which you feel every note. But Wasting Light, arguably the best album of Foo Fighters’ career, would have been a worthy pick in a year without Adele. Sorry, fellas.

For Record of the Year, it would have been more complicated if “Someone Like You” had also been nominated. Then Adele’s biggest competition would have been herself. As it is, this is another no-brainer: “Rolling in the Deep” is that rare record that captured the heart of a nation and played it to the beat. The other contenders present a contrast in pop hitmaking (“Grenade,” “Firework”) versus alt-folk artistry (“Holocene,” “The Cave”), with the latter giving Mumford & Sons the edge over Bruno Mars for runner-up spoils.

MORE GRAMMY PICKS

BEST POP DUO/ GROUP PERFORMANCE

Call me sentimental, but how can you not pull for Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse to win for “Body and Soul”?

BEST COUNTRY ALBUM

Eric Church’s Chief gets the nod over Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton, George Strait and Taylor Swift.

BEST R&B SONG

“Far Away,” by Marsha Ambrosius, still breaks my heart every time I hear it.

BEST RAP ALBUM

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy trumps Kanye West’s other contender in this category: Watch the Throne with Jay-Z.

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE

Soaring-and roaring-on “Walk,” Foo Fighters top a quality field that also includes Coldplay, the Decemberists, Mumford & Sons, and Radiohead.

SONG OF THE YEAR

Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”

Bon Iver, “Holocene”

Bruno Mars, “Grenade”

Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”

Kanye West et al, “All of the Lights”

This category (a songwriter’s award) features all of the Record of the Year nominees, with one exception: “Firework” is replaced with “All of the Lights.” It certainly makes this a better bunch of tunes, even if the Kanye West epic owes as much to its production and arrangement as its songwriting. It’s a crime that West has never won one of the Big Four Grammys, so I’m rooting for him to pull the upset over Adele and keep the night interesting.

BEST NEW ARTIST

The Band Perry

Bon Iver

J. Cole

Nicki Minaj

Skrillex

There are not one but two major surprises here in Jay-Z rap protege J. Cole and EDM (electronic dance music) producer Skrillex. While I wouldn’t be surprised if the Academy’s country contingent lassoed a victory for the Band Perry, I’m pulling for either Bon Iver or Nicki Minaj to take home the gramophone. But really, 2011 was Minaj’s year-and wouldn’t it be great just to see what she’d wear during her acceptance speech?

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