There’s a built-in, warm-fuzzy-feeling storyline for every Album of the Year nominee this year. If Beyoncé wins, she will become the fourth African American woman to take home the Grammys’ highest honor, and first since Lauryn Hill. If Sturgill Simpson wins, even more digital ink will be spilled on how, a few short years ago, he was playing bars in obscurity. If Drake wins, Views will join OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below as the only rap albums to win Album of the Year. If Justin Bieber wins… well, there’s no sentimental hook here (even if he “deserves” it). And if Adele wins, she will accomplish something only one other person has pulled off in Grammys history.
Adele’s second album 21 has sold over 35 million copies worldwide, spawned five hit singles, and won Album of the Year. Adele’s third album 25 has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, spawned four hit singles, and has a very good chance at winning Album of the Year. (The prognostication “experts” at Gold Derby have it as a two-album race between 25 and Lemonade. They’re the obvious frontrunners, but so was Beyoncé, and that album lost to Beck’s Morning Phase. The only thing anyone knows about the Grammys is that no one knows anything about the Grammys.)
If Adele does add another trophy to her collection, she’ll become the first artist to win Album of the Year for two consecutive albums since Stevie Wonder, who actually pulled it off for THREE ALBUMS, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale, and Songs In the Key Of Life. (It would have been an incredible three albums in three years if Wonder hadn’t taken 1975 off, allowing Paul Simon to win for Still Crazy After All These Years.) To fully understand the significance of this accomplishment — if it does happen — let’s go back to the beginning of the album era and note year by year how Album of the Year winners fared on their follow-up records.