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Analysis: Grammy nominations off key

Thursday, January 04, 2001

By Ed Masley, Post-Gazette Pop Music Critic

The Grammys have joined with Rolling Stone, The New York Times and Spin in endorsing the musical hate crimes waged against women and gays on Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP," nominating the sociopathic screed as album of the year.

Complete List of Grammy from the Associated Press


Yes, it sold. 'N Sync sold even more. And yet, the Grammys didn't feel the need to nominate 'N Sync's "No Strings Attached," the biggest-selling album of the year.

So why the Eminem endorsement?

It would seem the Grammys, like The New York Times and Rolling Stone, don't care about the safety of women and gays as much as they care about creating the illusion of being provocative.

What's nearly as alarming is the fact that not a single black or female act is up for album of the year.

Why no D'Angelo, whose "Voodoo" was the PG's album of the year? Not only was his album big, it was a big, important masterpiece, better than anything the Grammys chose to nominate.

And Jill Scott would have been another solid pick for album of the year.

Instead, you've got two awful new releases from lily-white veterans whose best work is light years behind them.

Yes, Paul Simon's latest is at least a little better than the Steely Dan.

But neither one is half as good as Britney Spears.

And I would hesitate to say they should have nominated Spears.

Beck's funked-up, sexed-out "Midnite Vultures" is a solid pick, as is "Kid A," an instant pop-art classic from Radiohead, a British act too challenging to take the prize on Grammy night.

That's Feb. 21 on CBS for those who feel the need to watch.

But two great albums out of five is still a pretty shabby lot.

Other notable snubs of solid new releases with sufficient sales to warrant an album nod from Grammy include "There Is Nothing to Lose" by the Foo Fighters; "Still I Rise" by 2Pac & Outlawz; "The Battle of Los Angeles" by Rage Against the Machine; "Infest" by Papa Roach and "White Pony," an impressive attempt from the Deftones at bringing the drama, ambition and courage of Radiohead to the rap-metal genre.

Scott and Papa Roach, at least, received a best new artist nod, as did the equally intriguing Shelby Lynne. Too bad they're up against that noted thong and dance man, Sisqo. The Grammy is almost assuredly his.

The picks for record of the year are better, headed by the classic soul revival of "I Try" by Macy Gray and the infectious disco throb of "Music" by Madonna. "Beautiful Day," U2's return to form, and "Say My Name," a sexy R&B hit for Destiny's Child, are respectable choices. Even 'N Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" is understandable. And hey, it's better than the Steely Dan, if nothing else.

"Say My Name," "Beautiful Day" and "I Try" all show up again as nominees for song of the year, an award for the writing as opposed to the recording of a song. Perhaps the Grammys noticed that Madonna's record, as great as it is, isn't really a song. Or maybe they were making room for country. Rounding out the list are country hits "I Hope You Dance" by Lee Ann Womack and the breathy "Breath" by country sexpot Faith Hill.

Dr. Dre and Beyonce Knowles of Destiny's Child were nominated most, with five nods each. Eminem was close behind with four, perhaps the only way in which the rapper is at all like four-time nominee Vince Gill. Britney and N Sync, two of last year's biggest selling artists, each received two nominations.

Of the artists that by all rights should have been contenders for the album of the year but aren't, Rage Against the Machine and the Foo Fighters both earned nominations in the more-than-likely-given-out-before-the-broadcast category, Best Rock Album, but they're up against pathetic new releases by Bon Jovi, matchbox twenty and No Doubt. Both the Foos and Rage are up again in smaller rock and hard rock categories. And the Deftones did receive a nod for metal performance.

Snubbed in all the major categories, D'Angelo received three nominations in the R&B field -- album for "Voodoo," male vocal performance and song for the brilliantly soulful "Untitled (How Does It Feel?)."

An overlooked contender for record and song of the year, Erykah Badu's "Bag Lady" is up against D'Angelo for R&B song of the year. The jazzy cut is also up against Jill Scott for female R&B vocal performance.

Scott received three nominations -- best new artist, female R&B vocal performance and R&B album.

While we're on the subject of the ladies, the competition for female pop vocal performance is hot, with Macy Gray, Madonna, Joni Mitchell, Aimee Mann and Britney Spears all going up against the biggest-selling artist ever to have launched a career from the Wexford backyard party circuit, last year's best new artist pick, Christina Aguilera.

Ohmigod, you guys!

And that's just one of two for Aguilera. "Mi Reflejo," mostly re-recorded versions of her biggest hits, is up for Latin pop album.

Another big local connection, Dennis Miller, is up for spoken comedy album with "I Rant, Therefore I Am."

For musical comedy albums, check the Steely Dan and Simon.

A number of other respectable choices are sprinkled throughout the list. But for the most part, it's Grammy as usual.

That means funny picks like Paul McCartney in the race for alternative music album.

Who knew?

Not John Lennon, that's for sure.

And where but the Grammys would you find a Moby record up against the Baha Men for dance recording?

Grammy knows who let the dogs out. And you know they're gonna throw their share of bones on Grammy night.

As former Grammy best new artist Bruce Hornsby could tell you, that's just the way it is.

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