Grammy wakes up, smells coffee New beat: Many nominations go to types of artists largely ignored in the past.

January 05, 1996|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Could this be the year that Grammy gets hip?

Judging from the Final Nominations List for the 38th annual Grammy Awards, it seems a distinct possibility. Instead of the usual mix of Disney themes and power ballads, candidates for the top awards -- which will be presented Feb. 28 in Los Angeles -- consist almost entirely of alternarockers, angry young women and hip-hop artists.

Record of the Year even has a rap single in the running, as Coolio's chart-topping "Gangsta's Paradise" is up against Joan Osborne's "One of Us," Seal's "Kiss From a Rose," TLC's "Waterfalls" and the Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men collaboration "One Sweet Day."

Carey's "Daydream" and Osborne's "Relish" are also up for Album of the Year, along with Alanis Morissette ("Jagged Little Pill") and Pearl Jam ("Vitalogy"). But the big surprise for many fans will be the nomination of Michael Jackson's "HIStory Past, Present and Future Book 1," an album whose sales have lately been about as healthy as the singer himself.

Jackson's hit "You Are Not Alone" was nominated in the Song of the Year category, but since that award goes to the songwriter, not the recording artist, it's actually R. Kelly who stands to win the Grammy. It's a similar situation for two other nominees: Joan Osborne's "One of Us" was written by Eric Bazilian, while "I Can Love You Like That," which was recorded by both All-4-One and John Michael Montgomery, is the work of composers Maribeth Derry, Steve Diamond and Jennifer Kimball. But Seal could claim the Grammy himself if "Kiss From a Rose" is named Song of the Year, and Alanis Morissette would have to share the podium with Glen Ballard should "You Oughta Know" win.

Finally, in what may prove the closest race of all, Osborne, Morissette, teen-age R&B singer Brandy, country poster girl Shania Twain and multi-platinum rockers Hootie & the Blowfish are all vying for the Best New Artist award.

Osborne is the only artist competing in all four of the big categories; add in her nominations for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Best Female Rock Performance, and she stands to walk away with six Grammys. (Her producer, Rick Chertoff, is also up for Producer of the Year.)

But she's not the only artist with that many chances to win. Morissette is also up for six Grammys (including Best Female Rock Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Album), and so is Mariah Carey (including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Best Pop Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance).

Hot on their heels with five nominations is singer, songwriter and producer Babyface. But since two of his nominations are in the same category -- Best R&B Song -- the most statues he could actually take home is four. That's how many nominations Michael Jackson got (including Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Best Music Video, Short Form), although with R. Kelly up for Song of the Year and Bruce Sweiden's work on "HIStory" in the running for Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical, the King of Pop has at least a link to two other Grammys.

Shania Twain is clearly the country artist to watch, with three nominations on her own (including Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Album), plus a fourth shared with her husband, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, for the song "Any Man of Mine."

TLC also has four chances to win, as does conductor Pierre Boulez. But while TLC's nominations are spread among four separate categories, including Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, Best R&B Album, and the incredibly wordy Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, Boulez got two each in Best Classical Album (for his recordings of Bartok's Divertimento and Debussy's La Mer) and Best Orchestral Performance (for the same albums).

Missing from the list of multiple nominees are such traditional favorites as Bryan Adams, who is only up for two awards (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television, both for "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman"), and Elton John, who is only up for one (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance). And if it weren't for the two nominations Boyz II Men share with Mariah Carey for "One Sweet Day," the group would have been shut out entirely.

Most surprising of all is the poor showing "Pocahontas" made. Although the music from Disney musicals has done exceptionally well in recent years, the studio's latest project picked up a paltry two nominations: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, for the Vanessa Williams single "Colors of the Wind," and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television, for the song itself. A spin-off album, "Pocahontas Sing-Along," is up for Best Musical Album for Children.

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