100 & Single: You Can Keep Your EGOT; Adele's Going For A 2011 PB&G

Adele, "Rolling In The Deep"

Could Adele pull off the trifecta? That last prize, Pazz & Jop—the least renowned award, obviously, but a clear marker of serious acclaim—will be the toughest. I'd put 21 at roughly a one-in-five shot of taking it. In a year where three-time Pazz & Jop winner Kanye West released a collaboration with Jay-Z that critics praised sonically but derided lyrically; when two-time winners TV on the Radio released their least-acclaimed album in years; and when four-time winner Bob Dylan stayed on the road and out of the recording studio, a widely admired pop album like Adele's could, in theory, pull an upset victory.

In American entertainment, the highest multihyphenate career honor is the widely joked-about but much-coveted EGOT—winning all four major prizes, the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Sure, Rita Moreno, that's impressive and all, but you get a whole career to pull that off.

To achieve what I'm going to call a PB&G—leading Pazz & Jop, topping Billboard's year-end tally of bestsellers, and winning the Grammy for best album—demands complete dominance of music in a single year. It may not be as impressive as an EGOT, but it comes with its own degree of Zeitgeist-owning difficulty. As a fan of lists and someone who considers himself both a professional music critic and a professional chart geek, I'm rather nerdishly obsessed with the idea of the PB&G, rare though it may be.

The Grammys and Billboard's album chart have each existed for just over 50 years. But the Voice has only been compiling Pazz & Jop since the early '70s (started in 1971, with a two-year break before the poll came back and become an institution in 1974). During those four decades, an album has taken at least two of the three prizes 13 times. By the way, the 13 albums are by 13 different artists, with no repeaters—even going two-for-three on a PB&G is exceptionally hard!

I've already mentioned the sole album that claimed the PB&G trifecta, Michael Jackson's Thriller. Let's run down the other dozen albums that went two for three and consider why so many of them came thisclose.

It's not too surprising when an album wins both "B" and "G"—the Grammy is an industry prize, and when Billboard shows an album sucking cash out of enough millions of wallets, NARAS members feel all but obligated to give it the statue. Since 1971, eight albums including Thriller have both won the big Grammy and topped the Billboard year-end list. The seven not by Jackson were as follows—the year in parentheses is the one for which the album won the Grammy and topped Billboard, which is not necessarily the year it came out:

Carole King, Tapestry (1971)
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours (1977)
Saturday Night Fever soundtrack (1978)
George Michael, Faith (1988)
The Bodyguard soundtrack (1993)
Alanis Morrisette, Jagged Little Pill (1995/1996*)
Taylor Swift, Fearless (2009)

(* Morrisette's album came out in 1995 and won the Grammy for that year; but in Billboard it wound up the best-seller of 1996.)

The fact that none of these seven albums topped Pazz & Jop is unsurprising in most cases, save perhaps Fleetwood Mac in 1977. Rumours is deeply beloved by many scribes, but when polled in early '78 the critics placed it fourth; 1977 was the year of the punk watershed, and so naturally the Mac placed behind three of that genre's totemic albums—Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True and Television's Marquee Moon. All of the other six albums didn't even come close with critics, ranging from a 10th-place showing for King in '71 to 58th for Swift in '08—and the two soundtracks didn't place with the Pazz-pollees at all.

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