Although their requirement is the basis for our liberal arts education, most general education classes are rarely memorable for their content and expressed purpose. Do I remember the defining characteristics of the Medici family or the correct posture for oration? Regretfully, no. What I definitely do remember is the guy that spilled his dip cup on the girl next to him in my History 200 class. Come to think of it, I think it was the same guy who, on the last day of that same course, wanted a little closure on the Civil War issue — namely, who won?
Likewise, the Grammy Awards are much more memorable for their mishaps and misjudgments than their expressed purpose of lauding the year’s best artists and recordings. Quickly, the top three Grammy moments of the last five years: 3. Eminem’s poorly disguised discomfort when performing with Target advertisement Elton John; 2. Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s intrusion on Shawn Colvin’s speech to proclaim that “Wu Tang’s for the children;” and 1. the stunning upset of “The Adventures of Elmo In Grouchland” (Various artists) over “The Butcher, the Baker and the Candlestick Maker” (King Friday and friends) in the always unpredictable children’s album category.
Luckily, the fellows over at the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences have taken steps to make the awards the focal point of the show. Most important, albums that have received critical acclaim have been given prominence over weaker but better selling albums. Of course, I’m not expecting or even asking the Academy to nominate albums solely based on merit. After all, this is pop music, and by definition, it must be popular.
This year’s Grammy field showcases a delightful number of popular artists who have also managed to move units, not the least being legends U2 and standard-bearers Outkast. In fact, each general category is interesting for the various genres and ages represented. Nonetheless, what makes all awards ceremonies personally intriguing is rooting interest. The following paragraphs explain who I am rooting for, who I hope gets worked, and who, despite my wishes, will stand victorious in the three most prominent categories. If this fails to inspire your own competitive juices, just put some money on it.
Album of the Year. Nominees: “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” by U2, “Love and Theft” by Bob Dylan, “Acoustic Soul” by India.Arie, “Stankonia” by Outkast and “O Brother, Where Art Thou” by Various artists.
Who will win: This will undoubtedly be a slugfest between the legends. Dylan would seem to be a lock based on his legendary status and the superlative critical response to his latest effort were it not for two things: First, Dylan only fairly recently received this very award, and second, U2’s latest has served as the unofficial soundtrack to post Sept. 11 America. On its own merit, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” is a good album that will emerge victorious based on its optimism, hit singles and the legend that is U2, reconfirmed this year by the band’s touring and increasing ubiquity. A dark horse candidate may be the “O Brother” soundtrack, a nomination whose legitimacy I question. Although it’s a great collection of songs, how could best album honors be bestowed upon a mix tape, especially when the majority of songs are decades old?
Who should win: Outkast’s “Stankonia” should win, if only for the album’s 11th track, the jaw dropping “Bombs Over Baghdad.” If academy voters wanted to bestow the Grammy certificate of legitimacy to hip hop, they could not pick a more soulful, experimental and accessible album to laud. Alas, Outkast’s year will not be 2002, an affront that will send them crying all the way back to Big Boi’s boom boom room for some ham hocks and Alize.
New Artist of the Year. Nominees: India.Arie, Nelly Furtado, David Gray, Alicia Keys and Linkin Park.
Who will win: This is certainly the most depressing category. It’s hard to believe that Keys will win this award despite her songs’ boring melodies and mediocre neo-soul appeal, not to mention that ridiculous crooked hat. Especially annoying is the critically beloved novelty of her classical training in piano, an aspect she’s promoted by dropping phrases like “Chopin’s my dog.” Hey Alicia, how about letting your music speak for itself instead of marketing yourself as blaxploitation goddess meets straight-A student?
Who should win: Hopefully Academy members will look past the press of Ms. Keys and the ranting of Linkin Park to recognize either Furtado or Gray. Furtado is an especially bright artist, writing all the material on her debut record “Whoa, Nelly!”, an ambitious album that is not perfect, but is notable for its combination of true idiosyncrasy with pop appeal. Gray is far from being a new artist, and although his music is noticeably easy and risk free, he seems like a nice enough guy.
Song of the Year. Nominees: “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, “Fallin’” by Keys, “I’m Like a Bird” by Furtado, “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” by U2, and “Video” by India.Arie.
Who will win: Once again, Keys is the frontrunner with her hit single “Fallin’, ” a song that is about as deep as an Amelia Bedelia book. U2 may seem to be like stiff competition, but the recent popularity of “Walk On” may overshadow the worth of this particular song. Both Furtado and India.Arie have not only outside chances, but songs that are surprisingly similar. India.Arie’s chances may be increased by the fact that she will almost certainly be snubbed for album of the year and new artist, causing Academy voters to offer a pity vote.
Who should win: Undoubtedly, “Stuck in a Moment” is the best song in this group, not to mention one of the best songs of last year. Bono’s conversational style is initially engaging, but when you realize that the song is based on actual talks with Michael Hutchence, the former INXS frontman who committed suicide, the brilliance of the song settles in. Instead of solely mourning the passing of his friend, Bono does what he does best and reapplies the situation universally. Despite the sad ending of Hutchence’s struggle with depression, bitterness and hopelessness don’t triumph in Bono’s world. Life and love can, and will, prevail.
February 21, 2002