Forget the dull nominees: Here's the rock and rap that should raise praise THE GRAMMYS REAL & IDEAL

February 27, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

One of the most aggravating things about the annual Grammy Awards ceremony is its presumption of excellence.

Tune in to this year's broadcast (8 p.m., Tuesday on CBS), and what you'll see is a show ostensibly dedicated to celebrating the best in recorded music. Trouble is, "the best" quite frequently aren't even in the running. As a result, all the awards really represent is a sense of status quo in the recording industry.

To be fair, things have been worse. In 1972, for instance, the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street" did not make the cut for Album of the Year, although "Jesus Christ Superstar" and Neil Diamond's "Moods" did. In 1984, neither Van Halen's "Jump" nor Prince's "When Doves Cry" were candidates for Record of the Year, but Chicago's "Hard Habit to Break" -- remember that one? I didn't think so -- was.

Under its current president, Michael Greene, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) has tried to make the Grammys a little less laughable, but with limited success (remember when Jethro Tull won the "Best Hard Rock/Metal" Grammy?). Needless to say, this year's list of final nominees was full of dubious choices and glaring omissions.

In an ideal world, the list of Grammy nominees really would be the best the music industry has to offer. So this year, I'm supplementing my usual list of Grammy predictions with a "wish list" of who should have been nominated, and who ought to win. Think of it as a case of Real World Grammys versus the Ideal World Grammys.

Record of the Year

Real Nominees: "A Whole New World (Aladdin's Theme)," Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle; "I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston; "The River of Dreams," Billy Joel; "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You," Sting; "Harvest Moon," Neil Young.

Probable Winner: "I Will Always Love You." It helps, of course, that Houston sang the pants off this one, putting every bit of her voice into the song. But what cinches it is that the single was the sort of mega-hit that appealed equally to R&B, pop and country )) audiences, giving it a base of support far broader than anything the opposition can muster.

Ideal Nominees: " 'Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," Dr. Dre featuring Snoop Doggy Dogg; "Rain," Madonna; "Man in the Moon," R.E.M.; "Supermodel," RuPaul; "Runaway Train," Soul Asylum.

Deserving Winner: " 'Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang." Given the amount of anti-gangsta rap propaganda being pumped out by well-meaning activists and would-be Comstocks, it's worth remembering that what made this music popular in the first place wasn't guns or aggression, but hooks. And this single had more pop savvy than anything on the radio last year, from Dre's sinuous synth lines to Snoop's laconic cadences.

Album of the Year

Real Nominees: "Kamakiriad," Donald Fagen; "The Bodyguard: Original Soundtrack Album," Whitney Houston; "River of Dreams," Billy Joel; "Automatic for the People," R.E.M.; "Ten Summoner's Tales," Sting.

Probable Winner: "Ten Summoner's Tales." In addition to good looks and a winning personality, Sting has two things NARAS voters can't seem to resist: impeccable musicianship and a flair for melody. The former should give him the edge over Joel and R.E.M., while the latter should ease his triumph over Fagen and the wildly uneven "Bodyguard" soundtrack.

Ideal Nominees: "The Chronic," Dr. Dre; "Exile in Guyville," Liz Phair; "Sons of Soul," Tony! Toni! Tone!; "Zooropa," U2; "Saturation," Urge Overkill.

Deserving Winner: "Zooropa." Good as "The Chronic" is, sonic detours like "The $20 Sack Pyramid" keep the album from achieving the greatness Dre's singles promise. U2, on the other hand, understands how to weave in-jokes and sound bites into the fabric of the music without losing the listener, and that makes "Zooropa" the clear winner in this category.

Song of the Year

Real Nominees: "Harvest Moon," Neil Young, songwriter; "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," Jim Steinman, songwriter; "If I Ever Lose My Faith In You," Sting, songwriter; "The River of Dreams," Billy Joel, songwriter; "A Whole New World (Aladdin's Theme)," Alan Menken and Tim Rice, songwriters.

Probable Winner: "A Whole New World (Aladdin's Theme)." With "I Will Always Love You" inexplicably out of the running, we have to look at the next most schlocky ballad, and that's "A Whole New World." In fact, its only real competition is "I'd Do Anything for Love," but at 12 minutes long, it would have a better shot at Symphony of the Year.

Ideal Nominees: "Anniversary," Raphael Wiggins and Carl Wheeler, songwriters; "Man in the Moon," Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills and Michael Stipe, songwriters; "Passionate Kisses," Lucinda Williams, songwriter; "Rain," Madonna Ciccone and Shep Pettibone, songwriters; "Runaway Train," David Pirner, songwriter.

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