1998 Grammy Predictions- by Thomas Donald Clarke

   February 24, 1999 constitutes Grammy Day. The telecast has moved 
to LA after a couple of years here in New York. The Grammy Awards are 
still determined by a group of uptight music critics (the NARAS or 
National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences) 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. In the past few years, the NARAS
tried to appease its critics by allowing Alanis Morissette, the
Fugees, Puff Daddy, and Beck to win major awards. But this year, they
have gone off the deep end. Lauryn Hill as Best New Artist- two years
after she and her bandmates Pras and Wyclef were nominated for Best
Album? Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" nominated for Record and
Song of the Year? Aural pollutions such as Goo Goo Dolls and Natalie
Imbruglia with multiple nominations? Has the NARAS been inhaling too
much of that toxic California air? Read on for some critical nominees,
my picks, and who is most likely to win. The 1998 Eligibility period 
is from October 1, 1997 to September 30, 1998. Personally, I think 
they should go calendar year to calendar year. If Billboard can find 
the winners for their awards show within a week of the end of their 
eligibility period, how come the NARAS needs three months to decide 
on nominees? 

(Apologies to Entertainment Weekly and every other professional who
gets paid to do this sort of thing.)

Record of the year: "The Boy Is Mine"- Brandy and Monica, "Ray of 
Light"- Madonna, "You're Still the One"- Shania Twain, "Iris"- Goo 
Goo Dolls, "My Heart Will Go On" (AKA That Damn Titanic Song)- Celine 
Dion

Should win: Next's "Too Close", the biggest song of 1998 and the song 
that shattered the public erection taboo. But of the nominees 
featured, I'll pick Madonna's "Ray of Light", 1998's best dance song, 
over "Iris" and That Damn Titanic Song, which are two of the worst 
songs EVER recorded. And speaking of "Iris", how did a song that was 
never released as a single ever get nominated for "Record of the 
Year"?

Most likely to win: I would guess (or at least hope) that any 
momentum "My Heart Will Go On" or "Iris" had will have evaporated 
after multiple listenings by NARAS members. If that's the case, then 
the likely winner is Shania Twain's "You're Still the One". If not, 
the Celine Dion NARAS Permanent Fan Club will prevail and Celine will 
win "Record of the Year" for her most putrid effort ever.

Album of the Year: "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill"- Lauryn Hill, 
"Ray of Light"- Madonna, "Come On Over"- Shania Twain, "Version 2.0"- 
Garbage, "The Globe Sessions"- Sheryl Crow

Should Win: "Ray of Light" was the best album of 1998 and the most 
musically mature Madonna album ever. But I only rank it slightly 
ahead of Lauryn Hill's solo album. Come to think of it, I don't think 
Lauryn Hill has ever sang or rapped on an album that didn't deserve 
an "Album of the Year" nod.

Most likely to Win: "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill". As critically 
acclaimed as Madonna's "Ray of Light" was, I don't think she can beat 
Lauryn Hill here.

Best New Artist: Backstreet Boys, Andrea Bocelli, Dixie Chicks, 
Lauryn Hill, Natalie Imbruglia

Should win: The only nominee who deserves this award is the Dixie 
Chicks. Since when has an opera singer (Bocelli) deserved this honor? 
Natalie Imbruglia had the year's third most annoying song with
"Torn" (for some reason, 1998 had some atrocious songs and artists 
win multiple nods). In perhaps the most blatant violation of NARAS's 
standards in years, the Backstreet Boys and Lauryn Hill should never 
have been nominated here because THEY ARE NOT NEW ARTISTS! Lauryn Hill
has recorded with the Fugees since 1994, and she got a featured credit 
with the Refugee All Stars in their 1997 song "The Sweetest Thing". 
And the Backstreet Boys had their first hit in 1995 with "We've Got 
It Goin' On"; their second hit, "Quit Playing Games," hit #2 three
months before the 1998 Grammy eligibility period. The NARAS refused to
nominate Whitney Houston for best new artist in 1985 because she
recorded a duet with Jermaine Jackson that appeared on the soundtrack
of the 1984 movie "Perfect."

Most likely to win: If the Grammy voters realize their nominating 
error, the Dixie Chicks should win (especially since Leann Rimes 
removed the country taboo from this award in 1996). But Lauryn Hill 
is the most critically acclaimed of the nominees. She deserved most 
of the nominations that she received (although I reiterate, she is 
NOT a new artist) and has a very good shot (albeit undeserved in this 
particular category) at winning here.

Best Rap Album: "Capital Punishment"- Big Punisher, "Life in 1472"- 
Jermaine Dupri, "The Love Movement"- A Tribe Called Quest, "Hard 
Knock Life"- Jay Z, "Harlem World"- Mase

Should Win: "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" is better than the 
nominees here. Why did the NARAS nominate Lauryn Hill for best new 
artist and ignore her here? Anyway, the best of the nominees is 
"Harlem World", the album that proved Mase was not just a Puff Daddy
puppet. But thanks to Jay Z, we all know there isn't a putrid song 
left that won't end up as a sample- first Annie, in 15 years, maybe 
That Damn Titanic Song?

Most Likely to Win: Mase's only major competitors are critical 
darlings A Tribe Called Quest and Jermaine Dupri (who was best known 
as a producer for such acts as Kris Kross and Da Brat before last 
year). And Mase had a major presence on last year's award winner,
Puff Daddy's "No Way Out", which upset even the ghost of Biggie Smalls.

Best Dance Recording: "When Will You Learn"- Boy George, "Around the 
World"- Daft Punk, "Heaven's What I Feel"- Gloria Estefan, "Disco 
Inferno"- Cyndi Lauper, "Ray of Light"- Madonna

Should Win: Madonna. "Ray of Light" was the only dance nominee to get 
major airplay and the best track off her "Ray of Light" album. But 
I'm upset certain good dance songs as Olive's "You're Not Alone," 
Rockell's "In A Dream," and Monifah's "Touch It" were passed over
in favor of records by has-beens such as Boy George, Daft Punk, and
Cyndi Lauper.

Will Win: If Madonna doesn't win here, she will be completely shut 
out of this year's awards. And her only real competition here is
Gloria Estefan. Considering the Celine Dion NARAS Permanent Fan Club,
I'm surprised (but thankful) that the remix to That Damn Titanic Song
wasn't nominated here. Perhaps that's a good omen for the "Record of
the Year" voting.

The Grammy Awards air Wednesday, February 24, 1999, at 8:00PM on 
CBS 2. I strongly urge any NARAS
members who read this column to settle their feud with Mayor Giuliani
and move back to New York before the next nominations come out.


Click here for The Official Grammy Website.

February 9, 1999/BC Excelsior