Santana is music to Grammy's ear

Wednesday night will probably belong to the popular, respected veteran with a Latin heritage.

February 20, 2000|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

"And the winner is ... Carlos Santana!" Expect to hear that phrase a lot when the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards telecast airs on Wednesday (live at 8 p.m., on CBS, Channel 13). It won't be simply because the veteran guitarist is the most-mentioned name on the Grammy ballot, with 11 nominations spread across 10 categories. No, Santana will probably make a Grammy sweep because he's the ideal Grammy candidate.

To begin with, he's popular. "Supernatural," Santana's current album, has sold more than 6 million copies to date, and shot back to the top of the charts after the Grammy nominations were announced last month.

He's a respected industry veteran, having released more than 20 albums in his 31-year recording career, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But he also has youth appeal, thanks both to his constant touring, which has earned him an audience similar to that of Phish or the Dave Matthews Band, and to the fact that "Supernatural" includes cameo vocals by Matthews and Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas.

Add in his Hispanic heritage -- which plays neatly into the recording industry's current fascination with Latin crossover stars -- and it's hard to imagine why anyone in the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences would not want to vote for him.

Not that Santana will win in every category. But it does make handicapping this year's Grammys a lot easier.

Record of the Year

Nominees: "I Want It That Way," Backstreet Boys; "Believe," Cher; "Livin' La Vida Loca," Ricky Martin; "Smooth," Santana, featuring Rob Thomas; "No Scrubs," TLC.

By "Record," what they really mean is "Single of the Year," which in Grammy-talk usually translates as "A big hit we're not embarrassed to endorse." Usually, that would translate into a win for TLC, whose sharp, tuneful "No Scrubs" was a critical and popular favorite. But because the song was more of an R&B than a pop hit, and because TLC is in the midst of a messy and public meltdown, expect to see the voters opt instead for Santana.

Should Win: TLC

Will Win: Santana

Album of the Year

Nominees: "Millennium," Backstreet Boys; "Fly," Dixie Chicks; "When I Look In Your Eyes," Diana Krall; "Supernatural," Santana; "Fanmail," TLC.

Forget the seeming diversity of the field; although Krall and the Chicks will doubtless draw some votes, they're mainly there to keep the top categories from looking like a total popularity contest. Expect Santana to dominate this generally lame field (though, personally, I'd rather listen to the Backstreet Boys).

Should Win: None of the above

Will Win: Santana

Song of the Year

Nominees: "I Want It That Way," Andreas Carlsson and Max Martin, songwriters (performed by Backstreet Boys); "Livin' La Vida Loca," Desmond Child and Robi Rosa, songwriters (Ricky Martin); "Smooth," Itaal Shur and Rob Thomas, songwriters (Santana, featuring Rob Thomas); "Unpretty," Dallas Austin and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, songwriters (TLC); "You've Got A Way," Robert John "Mutt" Lange and Shania Twain, songwriters (Shania Twain).

This award goes to the songwriters, those anonymous tunesmiths who collect all the publishing royalties, and that's part of the reason people couldn't care less about this award. Strangely, that's likely to work to the advantage of the Backstreet Boys hit "I Want It That Way," especially since Santana's hit "Smooth" gets by more on groove than on melody. But don't be surprised if "Livin' la Vida Loca" winds up a dark-horse winner.

Should Win: "I Want It That Way"

Will Win: "I Want It That Way"

Best New Artist

Nominees: Christina Aguilera; Macy Gray; Kid Rock; Britney Spears; Susan Tedeschi.

Keep in mind that "new artist" is a relative term; Gray and Tedeschi are each on their second album, while Rock is on his fourth. Still, assuming that the two former Mouseketeers, Aguilera and Spears, cancel each other out, the award will go to the hard-working Kid Rock.

Should Win: Macy Gray

Will Win: Kid Rock

Best Female Pop Vocal

Nominees: "Genie In A Bottle," Christina Aguilera; "Beautiful Stranger," Madonna; "I Will Remember You," Sarah McLachlan; "Thank U," Alanis Morissette; ". . . Baby One More Time," Britney Spears.

Did you ever think you'd see the day when Madonna would seem the older, more conservative choice? But that's definitely the case here, and it should work to the former Boy Toy's advantage -- especially if older Grammy voters are creeped out by the level of sexual innuendo in the teen pop of Aguilera and Spears.

Should Win: Alanis Morissette

Will Win: Madonna

Best Male Pop Vocal

Nominees: "I Need To Know," Marc Anthony; "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of. . . )," Lou Bega; "Sogno," Andrea Bocelli; "Livin' La Vida Loca," Ricky Martin; "Brand New Day," Sting.

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