Grammy Awards are serious business Music: Where have all the kiddies gone? Ask Paula Cole, Babyface and other mature-crowd nominees.

January 07, 1998|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

NEW YORK -- On the charts, 1997 was mostly kid stuff, all fluff, silliness and sentimentality.

But at the Grammys, 1997 turns out to have been a very grown-up year, indeed. When nominations for the 40th Annual Grammy Awards were announced in New York yesterday, the major categories -- Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist -- were dominated by adult pop acts, including Paula Cole, R. Kelly, Shawn Colvin, Bob Dylan and Babyface.

Cole, in fact, was named in all four categories. An adult contemporary artist in the truest sense of the term, her hit "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" is in the running for both Record and Song of the Year. In addition, Cole was named in the Female Pop Vocal Performance, Pop Album and Producer categories, giving her a total of seven nominations.

Winners will be announced Feb. 25 at Radio City Music Hall in New York (the show will be carried live by CBS).

The only members of the youth brigade to crack the big four were Hanson and Fiona Apple, with the three teen-age Hansons up for Record of the Year with "MMMBop," and competing against the 20-year-old Apple (as well as Cole, Erykah Badu and Puff Daddy) for Best New Artist honors.

Even more astonishing than the maturity of the major nominees was their seriousness. Unlike years past, when the Grammy ballot was dominated by popular piffle, this year's card emphasizes musical merit. Just look at the field for Album of the Year. In addition to Cole's "This Fire" and Babyface's "The Day," the contenders include such well-reviewed releases as Bob Dylan's "Time Out of Mind," Paul McCartney's "Flaming Pie" and Radiohead's "OK Computer."

By contrast, the year's best-sellers were all but ignored. Elton John's "Candle In the Wind 1997," which broke sales records across the globe, picked up a paltry one nomination, for Male Pop Vocal Performance. Jewel, whose "Pieces of You" album was one of the year's most enduring hits, also snagged but a single spot on the Grammy ballot, with a Female Pop Vocal Performance nod for "Foolish Games."

Even Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, an inescapable presence on the pop and R&B charts, wound up with a relatively low profile on the Grammy front. Although he picked up an impressive seven nominations, five of those were split between two categories: Rap Performance by a Duo or Group and Rap Album. The other two were an R&B Song nod for the Mariah Carey hit "Honey" (shared with Carey and seven others), and Best New Artist.

And the Spice Girls? Totally ignored. (Don't worry, Spice fans -- the Grammy voters don't like Madonna, either.)

R&B powerhouse Babyface led the field as he did last year, earning eight nominations in all for his work as a performer and producer. But unlike last year, when the bulk of his nominations were for his songwriting and production, this year's slate mostly rewards him for his singing, with "Every Time I Close My Eyes" up for Pop Male Vocal Performance, "How Come, How Long" (which he cut with Stevie Wonder) up for Pop Vocal Collaboration, and "The Day" up for both Album of the Year and Best Pop Album.

Gospel star Kirk Franklin was another well-rewarded jack of all trades, picking up nominations as performer, songwriter and producer for "Stomp," which he recorded with God's Property. Impressively, only one of those nominations was in the gospel category; two of the others were in R&B (for R&B Song and R&B Performance by a Duo or Group), with the third being for Producer of the Year.

Badu was another major multiple nominee. In addition to a Best New Artist nod, the rising R&B star has a shot at Grammys in the R&B Female Vocal Performance, R&B Song and R&B Album categories. Patty Loveless was the most-honored country artist, having been nominated for Female Vocal Performance, Collaboration with Vocals, and Country Album.

It was slim pickings for the local scene, though. Outgoing Baltimore Symphony director David Zinman was nominated, along with the BSO, for a recording of Barber and Walton violin concertos with Joshua Bell. Zinman also shared two Grammy nominations (Classical Album and Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra) with cellist Yo-Yo Ma for the disc "Premieres -- Cello Concertos," but the orchestra they used was Philadelphia's, not Baltimore's.

Still, Baltimore saxophonist Antonio Hart is up for a Jazz Instrumental Solo Grammy for "The Community," from the album "Here I Stand," while the late Michael Hedges, who studied guitar and composition at the Peabody Conservatory, was nominated in the New Age category.

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Top categories

Nominees for Grammy Awards in these major categories were announced yesterday

Record of the year: "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?", Paula Cole; "Sunny Came Home," Shawn Colvin; "Everyday Is a Winding Road," Sheryl Crow; "MMMBop," Hanson; "I Believe I Can Fly," R. Kelly

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