This week's special unveiling the top Grammy nominations was a 60-minute encapsulation of the year in music: There was Lady Gaga, of course, a Nicki Minaj sighting, a glimpse of Katy Perry and another of Bruno Mars.
But the five-letter name on everyone's lips was Adele, the British singer who picked up six nominations and managed to steal the show without even being there. Screaming commenced when her name was mentioned, Entertainment Weekly reports, and the love was so widespread, her competition joined in.
"She's the coolest, most down-to-earth woman, and of course she has a voice like an angel and her album is incredible," Bruno Mars, who's also up for six Grammys and is vying for album of the year with the singer, told CNN. Thinking about that, he joked, "Damn it, why am I up against Adele?!"
Country singer Jason Aldean expressed his sympathies for "anybody who has to go up against Adele." He admitted, "I was actually hoping that if we did get a nomination, it wouldn't be any category with her in it." (His hopes came true: Aldean is up for best country solo performance, best country duo/group performance and best country album honors.)
The 23-year-old Adele has had a banner year since releasing her second album, "21," in February, and her singles "Rolling In the Deep" and "Someone Like You" have been impossible to escape. (She's had to cancel her remaining 2011 appearances to have throat-related surgery but is expected to make a full recovery.)
Adele the belle of the Grammy ball
But does her success make her unbeatable? If not, then pretty close to it, industry observers say.
Spin magazine's editor-in-chief, Steve Kandell, said he is fairly convinced. The Grammys can surprise you, he said, but Adele is a unique artist.
Whereas some of her competitors may incite arguments about talent, "with Adele, you just have a singer, in the very classic sense," Kandell said. "She may not be your favorite, but you can't deny that she's good at what she does."
Frankly, he's expecting the young star "to win everything that isn't nailed down. ... Every now and then there's a juggernaut that's the perfect mix of huge commercial success (the album recently went quadruple platinum) and critical acceptance."
That's not to diminish the talents and achievements of the other players who are also in the running, said Bill Werde, Billboard's editorial director, but rather to view "21" as a different beast.
"Kanye (West) put out a really good album; Kanye and Jay-Z put out a really good album; Bruno Mars has emerged as a really powerful songwriter; and Katy Perry this year set Billboard chart records. It's been a phenomenal year for music," Werde said.
And yet, "When you talk about Adele's year, it's hard to make the case, from a recorded music perspective, that anyone else is even in the same arena," he continued. "What the Grammy voters tend to love are albums that are both critically successful and commercially successful, and she is an arrow in the heart of that bull's-eye this year. ... It's like Adele and everyone else when it comes to sales, and at the same time, she did it with an album that's incredible."
To top it off, added MTV Hive's managing editor, Jessica Robertson, she's got the back story: "This album ('21') was born from heartache; she was lovelorn. She's an unlikely pop star in the first place, and then she goes on with this amazing voice to triumph," Robertson said. Basically, she's "served on a Grammy platter."
Of course, there are no guarantees. Robertson said she sees the Foo Fighters bringing some heat for the industry darling in the album of the year category, and Werde noted that Grammy predictions are hit-or-miss.
"To be honest, I'm expecting it to be a big night for Adele," Werde said. "(But) it's in the voters' hands, and if I've learned one thing about predicting Grammy votes over the last 10 years, it's that no one is particularly good at it."
Interestingly enough, the artist consistently mentioned as the one who could have stepped on Adele's toes for album of the year is none other than Kanye West, who wasn't even nominated in that category.
The 34-year-old rapper received seven nominations, including a song of the year nod for "All of the Lights," a category in which he'll face Adele's "Rolling In the Deep." But it was the album of the year miss for West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" that left many incredulous.
"Kanye certainly deserved an album of the year nomination, and I was pretty surprised that he didn't," Robertson said. "I think if anyone could beat Adele in that category, it would be Kanye, or at least rival her. But he didn't really have the momentum with this album as with previous albums, and certainly not in comparison to Adele's '21.' "
(Robertson also has a theory that West may have split the vote by also putting out another critically recognized album with Jay-Z, "Watch the Throne.")
If West had been nominated, said Spin's Kandell, the race for the album of the year honor would've been a tight one.
As it stands though, he said, "If I'm another nominee, I'm happy to be there."