Grammys 2012: PEOPLE's Music Critic Casts His Votes

02/12/2012 at 03:50 PM EST

Grammys 2012: PEOPLE Music Critic's Picks
Adele
Jason Merritt/Getty

Adele

Adele

Kanye West

Kanye West

The stars of the music world – who are all mourning the shocking death of Whitney Houston Saturday – will have to wait until tonight to find out whether they'll be adding gramophones to their trophy cases.

But PEOPLE music critic Chuck Arnold has his mind made up about who should go home a winner this year ...

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, and that is 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.

BEST NEW ARTIST

The Band Perry
Bon Iver
J. Cole
Nicki Minaj
Skrillex

Grammys 2012: PEOPLE's Music Critic Casts His Votes| Foo Fighters, Grammy Awards 2012, Music News, Adele, Kanye West

Nicki Minaj

Michael Caulfield / WireImage

There are not one but two major surprises here in Jay-Z rap protégé 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?

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.

MORE GRAMMY PICKS

Grammys 2012: PEOPLE's Music Critic Casts His Votes| Foo Fighters, Grammy Awards 2012, Music News, Adele, Kanye West, Individual Class

Amy Winehouse

Richard Young / Startraks

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.

LISTEN TO THE NOMINEES!

If you've never heard of J. Cole, Skrillex or Bon Iver – all up for best new artist – the 2012 Grammy Nominees album will school you on them in between familiar fare from Adele, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards air Sunday on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

To read all about Grammy's golden girl Adele, her health crisis and comeback, pick up PEOPLE on newsstands now

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