Who will win? Who really cares? For the record, Clapton, 'Beauty' are looking good

THE GRAMMYS:

February 21, 1993|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

It's Grammy time again, that magical moment when the entire recording industry gets together to celebrate the year's best music! It's a night of great entertainment, of prize-winning performances and heart-stirring tributes! It's also a time of excitement, as millions of Americans will gather 'round their TV sets Wednesday night, breathless with anticipation over which artist will win the award for Best . . .

Yeah, right. Who are we trying to kid here? Nobody watching the Grammy Awards broadcast is ever left breathless with anything -- unless they pass out from boredom during the Winners In Categories Not Even the Nominees Care About announcement and fall face first into the guacamole dip.

True, many music fans are interested in finding out who won, though not enough to tune in for the whole three-hour marathon (it starts at 8 p.m. on WBAL, Channel 11). That's why, year after year, the Grammy broadcast usually trails the Oscar ceremony, the American Music Awards and "Heroes of NHL Hockey" in the Nielsens.

Consequently, the only people who truly care which nominees will emerge victorious Wednesday are those who have been nominated, and those who have money on the outcome. And since it's too late to help the nominees -- unlike the People's Choice Awards, which actually relies on morons like you and me, only qualified members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) are given Grammy ballots -- perhaps the following will be of interest to the sporting crowd.

(Note to readers: We at The Sun do not condone placing illegal wagers on televised music events, nor do we suggest the following be used for those purposes. Especially given the author's success with previous Grammy predictions).

Record of the Year: Forget Billy Ray Cyrus' "Achy Breaky Heart" -- it may have been a massive seller, but that doesn't mean we'll see him line-dance his way to the winner's circle. Nor will the tremulous emotion of k.d. lang's "Constant Craving" or the professional polish of Vanessa Williams' "Saving the Best for Last" quite carry the day.

No, the only real contenders here are Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" and the Celine Dion/Peabo Bryson duet, "Beauty and the Beast." Industry consensus is that Clapton has it in the bag -- not only is "Tears In Heaven" his most affecting single in years, but the fact that it was inspired by the death of his young son Conor is sure to guarantee him a massive sympathy vote.

So why am I not convinced? Two reasons: First, everybody votes in this category, and "Beauty and the Beast" will appeal to NARAS' massive fogey contingent far more readily than any Clapton song. Moreover, the Record of the Year Grammy most frequently goes to big, sappy ballads -- and "Beauty and the Beast" fits that profile to a T.

Album of the Year: If we were dealing with normal rock fans, the obvious choice would be U2's "Achtung Baby," which recently took the honors in the Rolling Stone readers poll.

But we're dealing with NARAS members here, which means anything can happen. As such, Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" is the likeliest victor -- it's relatively quiet, respectably bluesy, full of oldies, and managed to sell millions. But don't discount k.d. lang's quietly intense "Ingenue," an album whose fans may not be as numerous as Clapton's but are far more passionate in their devotion.

But if the filler-packed "Beauty and the Beast" soundtrack wins, start praying -- it's a sure sign the end is near.

Song of the Year: This, as the Grammy announcers tirelessly remind us, is a songwriter's award, meaning that it goes not to the lunkheads who made the record, but the faceless hacks who came up with the words and music. And as such, it is supposed to reward different qualities than Record of the Year -- though just what those qualities are, no one quite knows.

So it usually isn't wise to take the Record of the Year results as an indicator here. That means that "Achy Breaky Heart" writer Don Von Tress still has a chance here even though Billy Ray Cyrus himself is certain to be shut out.

Don't count on it, though. In fact, don't even count on a Clapton victory in Record of the Year (if he has one) carrying over to this category. Because even if "Beauty and the Beast" The Single is )) not sure-fire Grammy-winning material, "Beauty and the Beast" The Song is a virtual shoo-in.

Best New Artist: This is the Dan Quayle of Grammy categories, an award that has been laughed at for so long that no amount of rehabilitation will ever restore it to prominence. Granted, a lot of that has to do with Milli Vanilli's 1989 win, an award that NARAS eventually rescinded in the wake of the Milli's lip-sync scandal, but there are plenty of other reasons to laugh: Christopher Cross, for example. Or A Taste of Honey. Or Marvin Hamlisch.

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