It’s the Grammy time of year and they are happening on Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. on CBS.

Everyone knows the Grammys aren’t about talent, creativity or artistry. It’s the popularity, sales and hype that really matter, but regardless there are some great song selections nominated this year. Whether or not they’ll win is debatable, but Record of the Year, which is for commercially released singles, should be an exciting contest.

All of the songs up for the award, India.Arie’s “Video,” Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’,” Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson,” Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” and U2’s “Walk On” are good examples of their respective genres, but in the end Keys will probably win with “Fallin’.” While “Video” is a better song on a number of levels, Keys has been the media’s darling since the release of her single and that wave of popularity will probably carry her to a Grammy.

The next major category, Album of the Year, has an interesting mix of candidates from the aged Bob Dylan to The Soggy Bottom Boys, who did the soundtrack to the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou.” While it is possible a wave of post-Sept. 11 interest in Americana could get The Soggy Bottom Boys the award it’s more likely that Bono and U2 will win Album of the Year for the well-produced “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” ? just another in their career of strong albums.

As much as I want India.Arie to win a Grammy, and as much as she deserves one for her stellar album, its unlikely that she’ll win “Song of the Year” either. As junior and CT music columnist Nasser Al-Qatami put it, “she’s going to be this year’s Joan Osborne. Joan got nominated for 5 awards and Melissa [Etheridge] won them all.”

Once again media darling Keys will probably win this award with “Fallin’.” I don’t dislike the song or Keys, but I do feel that she is overrated. She is a talented young lady, but her music just isn’t particularly new or different. It’s the same Soul and R&B that’s been sung for years, now it just has a younger, more photogenic face to go with it.

The Best New Artist of the year is David Gray by far. My younger brother introduced me to his single “Babylon” over the summer and I proceeded to use Napster ? it still worked at the time ? to find as many of his songs as possible. After years of angsty women with guitars (or pianos) it was refreshing to find a guy doing the same. His raspy voice over the minimalist accompaniment of his songs is a pleasure to listen to while driving.

Notable in this category is the inclusion of Linkin Park. With the current surge in hard rock from bands such as Linkin Park, Alien Ant Farm and New Found Glory, this may signal a return of rock to the Record, Album and Song of the Year categories next year.

If one Jackson is going to win an award this year it certainly won’t be Michael, with his “comeback” album “Invincible,” which fell flat with audiences. Instead, it will be in the hands of his sister Janet with “Someone to Call My Lover” from her album “All for You” which is up against Nelly Furtado, Sade, Lucinda Williams and Faith Hill. Some bets are on Furtado to win this category, but her album ? while enjoyable ? fails in comparison to Janet’s.

For Best Male Pop Vocal, Craig David should win despite a good showing from Elton John’s “I Want Love.” David has a younger sound that is more in tune with younger audiences. Sir John will continue to keep his core audience for years to come, but unless he does more musicals like Aida and the Lion King, his Grammy days are numbered. Jackson’s musical rehash of everything he’s done since his days in the Jackson 5 hardly deserved a rehashing.

The strangest collection of music I think I’ve ever seen in a category is definitely this year’s Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. This category has the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, REM, U2 and Five for Fighting all vying for the same award. While BSB and *NSYNC go well together as do Five for Fighting, REM and U2, those two groupings don’t make sense together. They just don’t compare. The boy bands are manufactured pop music that is fun but generally lacking in artistic merit.

The other three bands are people I’m comfortable referring to as artists and musicians ? hell, they even play instruments. So discounting the popularity of *NSYNC, the sheer drivel that BSB’s Black and Blue album was and that strange reworking of REM to make it pop while keeping Michael Stipe’s trademark vocals ? it really is worth listening to because it’s so strange ? we’re left with U2 and Five for Fighting. Honestly, while both groups are deserving I think U2 has been around long enough that the relative newcomer should win the award, so my hat goes in with Five for Fighting in the category.

The last three categories I’m going to cover are ones that get a little less publicity than the previous ones, but are categories I highly suggest branching out into if you’re not familiar with them.

First is Best Female Rock Vocal Performance which is being fought for by five highly respected and experienced women ? Tori Amos, Stevie Nicks, Melissa Etheridge, PJ Harvey and Lucinda Williams. Tori’s “Strange Little Girl” was probably the best album out of these, but Etheridge’s “I Want To Be In Love” is also a top contender. Really, any of these albums could win the Grammy and deserve it completely.

Next is Best Hard Rock Performance. I guess I was wrong about Michael’s songs not winning a Grammy this year, because its likely that his old hit “Smooth Criminal” ? resurrected by Alien Ant Farm ? could take this award. It does the one thing any cover song should do ? rethink the song and come up with a different way to approach and perform the song. Why bother covering a song if you won’t bring anything new to it?

The hard rock sonorities and distinctive vocals of AAF helped them break into even the Top 40 stations with this hit, and hopefully it’ll win them a Grammy. If they lose, though, it could be to Linkin Park with “Crawlin'” or Rage Against the Machine’s “Renegades of Funk.”

Finally one of the fields, such as pop or rock, that has only one category in it ? Alternative Music. The only award for this field is Best Alternative Music Album. Somehow Tori Amos makes an appearance here along with her nomination in the Rock field. Is the academy having multiple personality disorder? Here she competes against Bjork, Coldplay, Fatboy Slim and Radiohead.

While I have friends who will kill me for saying this, I hope Fatboy Slim wins. Radiohead put out another fantastic album and Bjork’s “Vespertine” was just as good, but Fatboy Slim deserves this award if only for the video for “Weapon of Choice.” The ever creepy Christopher Walken dancing around like Fred Astaire? I loved that video and the other tracks on the album are just as choice. I won’t be too upset if anyone else in the category wins either though.

So there it is, you’re not burdened with having to think about things like Best Polka Album or Best Spoken Word Comedy Album ? I’ll let you handle those categories on their own. My only suggestion now is to tune in and watch to see my predictions proven wrong and to find out about the other categories I didn’t cover. You’ll probably even get to hear a clip from that eerie new REM album. Imagine Belle and Sebastian’s bastard love child from a union with k.d. lang. Now give the kid Michael Stipe’s voice and have your own nightmares. Enjoy the imagery and the Grammy’s too.

Paris can be reached at tparis@campustimes.org.



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