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For The Record While Sometimes Missing The Boat, Grammy Remains A Prestigious Award

Maybe the Grammy Awards should adopt Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” as a theme song.

Every year members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences try desperately to prove how hip they are and fail so miserably that bashing the music industry awards has become as tired as the show itself.

Perhaps it’s time to try something different - praise the Grammys, not bury them. Praise them for giving long overdue recognition and career boosts to such artists as Bonnie Raitt and Eric Clapton. Praise them for keeping Southern gospel, tropical Latin and liner-note writing alive as awards categories. Praise them for allowing Placido Domingo to rub shoulders with Bruce Springsteen.


Once again, the Grammys have shown a frustrating ability to miss an exciting year in music. In excitement and relevance, the awards show has been eclipsed by the MTV Music Awards and the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction dinner. But since those gold gramophones look so much classier than the ugly gewgaws dispensed by MTV, the Grammys aren’t likely to go away.

Television personality Paul Reiser will be host of the 37th annual awards show, televised from Los Angeles on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS-TV (KREM-Channel 2 from Spokane).

By most measures, 1994 was a banner year for the business of music. The industry took in $12 billion in revenue from sales of prerecorded music and there were $1.4 billion in concert ticket sales. Both were alltime highs.

It was also a rejuvenating year for the artistic side.

In 1994, the phrase “alternative music” officially became meaningless. Artists like Green Day, Nine Inch Nails and Hole that might once have been considered on the fringe - and, in fact, even relished that distinction - became the face of popular music itself.

Punk rock became a potent sales force with Green Day and Offspring, as a youthful generation picked up on the violent thrill of moshing and body surfing.

Young people weren’t alone in craving something new. The birth of the new adult alternative radio format proved music fans in their 30s and 40s aren’t satisfied with endless repeats of “Stairway to Heaven.” It made stars of artists like Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows and Hootie and the Blowfish.

Radio stations that once took pride in playing oldies now scramble to show they’re “on the edge.”

“The dam broke. So much water pressure of new music had built up, finally they realized they couldn’t keep all of the new music down,” said Stephen Dessau, president of Track Marketing Partners, a Manhattanbased music marketing firm.

It was a solid year for soul music, from such traditionalists as Boyz II Men to adventurous newcomers like Des’ree and Dionne Farris. Rap continued to be influential, although the genre shows a disturbing tendency to chew up and spit out its big stars.

Little of this ferment, of course, is reflected in the top Grammy nominations.

The confused jumble of nominees in the Grammy category of best alternative music performance speaks volumes about the awards show’s inability to cope with the new terrain. Voters must choose between Tori Amos, Crash Test Dummies, Green Day, Sara McLachlan and Nine Inch Nails.

As for the top awards, there are embarrassing nominations as well as some confusion. Here’s an attempt to handicap some of the big awards, which are decided by the 7,000 voting members of NARAS:

Record Of The Year: Voters may give Bruce Springsteen, who’s won only two Grammys, a sentimental edge for “Streets of Philadelphia.” However, the sultry Boyz II Men ballad, “I’ll Make Love to You,” is the best choice.

Album Of The Year: Perhaps the most embarrassing list of nominees in many years: two live albums, two albums by respected Grammy favorites that have done better in the past and Seal. Seal? Did anyone hear that album? Since Bonnie Raitt (1989) and Eric Clapton (1992) both had years to take home armloads of statues, Tony Bennett is the favorite.

Song Of The Year: Again, B-r-r-uu-u-c-c-e could be the cheer of the night. Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” is too quirky for voters. “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” has the commercial muscle, but will two Elton John nominations cancel each other out?

Best New Artist: A solid batch of nominees, although this category historically has been responsible for some hideous judgments. For that reason, don’t count Ace of Base out. In this Crow-down, give Sheryl the edge over Counting.

Best Rock Song: Very strong category that raises an interesting question: Will there be a sentimental vote for Kurt Cobain, a very generation-specific hero who shot himself to death? “Black Hole Sun” is superb, and may win the hard rock award. “I’m the Only One,” the best of two Melissa Etheridge nominations, is the prediction.

Best Alternative Music Performance: A Nine Inch Nails victory would give David Letterman new monologue fodder. But this seems like the category in which voters will reward Green Day for selling millions of albums.

Best Country Album: “Stones in the Road” was a little dour, but Grammy voters have a longstanding love affair with Mary Chapin Carpenter.

MEMO: A sidebar appeared with this story under the headline “Grammy nominations.”

A sidebar appeared with this story under the headline “Grammy nominations.”

Tags: award, music