Phil Collins' ears must have been burning when this year's Grammy nominations were announced yesterday, because his name certainly kept coming up. Collins is up for eight Grammys this year, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Producer of the Year. As if that weren't enough, his ". . . But Seriously" album was also nominated for Best Engineered Recording (Non-Classical).
That put him well ahead of M. C. Hammer, Mariah Carey, Wilson Phillips and Leonard Bernstein, each of whom landed five nominations, and Sinead O'Connor, with four. ("Nothing Compares 2 U," which was sung by O'Connor but actually written by Prince, was also nominated for Song of the Year).
But if overall mentions are what counts, then the man with the most to gain come Grammy night is veteran producer Quincy Jones. His "Back On the Block" album generated a total of 10 nominations, ranging from Album of the Year to R&B Performance By a Duo or Group to Best Arrangement on an Instrumental.
Think of it as the year of the stealth candidate.
Apart from Jones' unexpected ubiquity, there were few real surprises when the ballot was announced for the 33rd Annual Grammy Awards. (Winners will be named on Feb. 20 in New York; CBS will carry the awards program live beginning at 8 p.m.). As is usually the case, the nominations favored the professionally established, the musically conservative and the well-connected.
Among the established were Bette Midler, whose "Wind BeneatMy Wings" was named 1990 Record of the Year and Song of the Year, and who might repeat that sweep next month with "From a Distance." Arif Mardin, Midler's man-behind-the-board, was also nominated for Best Producer. Eric Clapton's "Bad Love" is up for the Rock Vocal Performance, Male award, and Tina Turner's "Steamy Windows" will contend on the female side of the Rock Vocal category. (Can anyone remember when Turner wasn't nominated in that category?)
As for conservatism, we're not talking politics -- even if former Republican National Committee chair Lee Atwater is up for Best Contemporary Blues Recording. We're talking musical style. Even though the Grammys are slowly easing into the modern era with categories like Metal Performance (nominees include Anthrax, Megadeth and Judas Priest), Best Rap Solo Performance (Monie Love, Queen Latifah, M. C. Hammer) and Alternative Music Performance (Replacements, Kate Bush, World Party), rarely is there any radical music in the running.
Consequently, the pop vocal awards lean heavily toward conventional Top-40 fare like Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight" and Michael Bolton's remake of "Georgia On My Mind," while the rock vocals never get any harder than Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet" or Jon Bon Jovi's "Blaze of Glory." Even in the R&B category, old-style crooners like Luther Vandross or Johnny Gill far outnumber new jack swingers like Al B. Sure!
Nor does it hurt to be connected, either professionally -- if everyone Quincy Jones ever worked with voted for him, he'd walk away with everything -- or personally. After all, being related to Brian Wilson or John and Michelle Phillips hasn't exactly hindered the trio Wilson Phillips, nor has Mariah Carey's romance with Columbia Records head Donny Ienner stymied her career.
Who, then, is on the outs?
Well, Milli Vanilli weren't nominated -- sorry, but Best Lip-Sync isn't an official category yet -- and neither were New Kids On the Block. Vanilla Ice, despite having sold over 6 million albums in the last three months, received only one nomination (Best Rap Solo Performance). And Madonna, never an industry favorite, was only named once -- and then for Best Music Video (Short Form). Now, how do you suppose they justified that?