1997 Grammy Predictions- by Thomas Donald Clarke

Yes folks, I'm at it again, ripping off the first column I did for this paper in order to bring more Grammy predictions for this year. Again, the symphonic Santa known as the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) brings a bag full of awards to Radio City this February 20 for the most worthy. But the most worthy musicians are judged by a group of uptight music critics whose past mistakes have included awarding Jethro Tull the first "best metal performance" and giving the 1987 Record of the Year award to a single from the 1986 Album of the Year. That single, Paul Simon's "Graceland" was ignored by most music critics, the 45-buying public, and even the radio programmers of Memphis, Tennessee. Two years ago, the NARAS tried to appease its critics by allowing Alanis Morissette to win Album and Best New Artist of the Year. Last year, Celine Dion, Leann Rimes, and Babyface won the big awards. This year, their critical appeasement includes nominating Paula Cole, Bob Dylan, Jakob Dylan and The Wallflowers and creating a new dance category while shutting out the Spice Girls.
Read on for how the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences should distribute their little gifts. (Apologies to Entertainment Weekly and every other professional who gets paid to do this sort of thing.)

Record of the year: Hanson, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, R. Kelly, Sheryl Crow

Should win: "Candle in The Wind 1997" by Elton John and Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You," were 1997's biggest hits and should have been nominated for this award. What do they have in common? They are tribute songs, for 1997 was a year of mourning and a year of apology. (My year of mourning was 1995, but several prominent music execs rejected my songs about doing a 187 on the butchers at Hillhaven Nursing Home.) Of the nominated songs, only Paula Cole's "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone," fits this tribute category.

Most likely to win: R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly." Inspirational songs usually beat out tribute songs in this category. Besides, no self respecting NARAS member would vote for Kiddie Pop (Hanson) or a controversial song about a pyromaniac ("Sunny Came Home").

Album of the Year: Paula Cole, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Radiohead, Babyface.

Should Win: The best album of the year was Jamiroquai's Travelling Without Moving. But since that wasn't even nominated in this category (It was nominated instead for Best Pop Album), I'll pick Bob Dylan, because of the NARAS Geezer Award Rule #1369 and because some of Jakob Dylan's fans might want to vote for his father as well.

Most likely to Win: NARAS Geezer Award Rule #1369 doesn't apply when more than one geezer is nominated in the same category. I wouldn't rule out Radiohead's OK Computer, but this award (for The Day) will probably grace Babyface's mantle by the end of the week.

Best New Artist: Paula Cole, Puff Daddy, Erykah Badu, Hanson, Fiona Apple.

Should win: Puff Daddy. He produced or rapped in half of 1997's #1 singles. He dominated the rap chart with a more than 40 week stay at the top of that chart. And how many people remember that the sample in "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" was originally Grandmaster Flash's "The Message"?

Most likely to win: The NARAS threw us music critics for a loop last year by giving LeAnn Rimes this award. Look for someone who defies critical wisdom, maybe Puff Daddy. But the safe bet is on Paula Cole.

Best Rap Album: Notorious BIG, Puff Daddy, Missy Elliott, Wu-Tang Clan, Wyclef Jean

Should Win: Puffy or Biggie. "The Carnival" was also good, but even disregarding the sympathy and Bad Boy votes, Wyclef has little chance this year because the Fugees beat out a dying 2Pac for this award last year.

Most Likely to Win: Biggie. With the exception of Puff Daddy, the other nominees don't have a prayer. Biggie has a posthumous nomination and dead artists usually do very well at the Grammys (Nat King Cole in 1992, John Lennon in 1982). It is sad but prophetic that I wrote back in 1997 that a dead rapper would be up for an award at this time in 1998. There was massive critical buzz for Life After Death even before Biggie's murder.

Best Dance Music: Daft Punk, Gina G, Pet Shop Boys, Quad City DJs, Donna Summer & Giorgio Moroder.

Should Win: Daft Punk's "Da Funk". The other artists seem to have been nominated for work recorded before the NARAS dreamed of a dance category. The Pet Shop Boys have been insignificant since the late 1980s to mainstream dance audiences.

Most Likely to Win: Most critics wouldn't have a clue to handicap this race, so I'll offer a semi-detailed analysis. All the nominees are nominated for work recorded in 1996 but released within the Grammy nomination period. The work that the Pet Shop Boys ("To Step Aside") and Quad City DJs ("Space Jam") were nominated for wasn't that well recieved. Daft Punk got airplay on WKTU, but are not that well known. Gina G's "Ooh Ahh" was featured in the 1996 Eurovision song contest, hit top 20 on the US Pop charts, and would seem to be the favorite here along with disco legends Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder and their minor hit song from late 1996, "Carry On". Given the NARAS's just plain weird award procedures for new categories (i.e., Jethro Tull winning the first metal award), the $2 should be on Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder.
February 17, 1998/BC Excelsior