1996 Grammy Predictions- by Thomas Donald Clarke

February 26, 1997 can easily be considered Christmas for the music industry. For on that day Santa brings his bag full of awards to Madison Square Garden for the most worthy. But the most worthy musicians are judged by a group of uptight music critics (the NARAS) 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. Last year, the NARAS tried to appease its critics by allowing Alanis Morissette to win Album and Best New Artist of the Year. This year, their appeasement nominees include Beck, the Fugees, 2Pac, and the Smashing Pumpkins. But then this year there are also perennial NARAS favorites like Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, and Babyface on the list. 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: Alanis, Tracy Chapman, the Smashing Pumpkins, Celine Dion, Eric Clapton.

Should win: "Macarena" by Los Del Rio and the Bayside Boys. Perhaps the most influential record in 40 years, "Macarena" mixed techno with a seductive but naughty English vocal, corny Spanish lyrics, and the most popular dance since the Lambada. I could express my opinion of the "Macarena's" omission, but I doubt this paper would print it.

Most likely to win: Entertainment Weekly's predictors are betting on Babyface's Clapton collaboration "Change the World". But I think the NARAS is more likely to honor Celine Dion and her played-ad-infinitum theme from Up Close and Personal, "Because You Loved Me".

Album of the Year: Fugees, Beck, Celine Dion (again), Smashing Pumpkins (again), Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack.

Should Win: The best album of the year was Everything But the Girl's Walking Wounded. But since that wasn't even nominated, I'll pick either Beck or the Fugees, both of whom will have as much influence on 21st Century music as EBTG.

Most likely to Win: "EW" says Celine Dion will win here instead of Single of the Year. Obviously their predictors forgot about the NARAS's love affair with Babyface (12 nominations) and the fact that he wrote and produced virtually the entire Waiting to Exhale soundtrack.

Best New Artist: Garbage, Jewel, LeAnn Rimes, Tony Rich Project, No Doubt
Should win: Tony Rich. He brought rhythm back into 1996's R&B scene before anyone ever heard of Maxwell (the so-called "next big thing in R&B" who wasn't even nominated for this award), and brought R&B back to pop radio. Garbage also did some innovating (bringing rhythm and dance back to grunge- overridden modern rock), but Rich's "Nobody Knows" was a much better song than "Stupid Girl".

Most likely to win: No Doubt, Garbage, and Jewel appeal to the same audience. Jewel has already beat No Doubt in the American Music Award for this category. LeAnn Rimes can really sing, but these days twang can be poison come awards time. I'm betting that the Tony Rich Project rides the Babyface express (Babyface is one of Rich's executive producers) to the Grammy trophy.

Best Rap Album: 2Pac, Fugees, LL Cool J, Coolio, A Tribe Called Quest

Should Win: Fugees' The Score. Any group that can pull off recording "Killing Me Softly", "No Woman, No Cry", "Ready or Not", and "Mista, Mista" and putting all those songs on the same album deserves this award. Where was the NARAS (and the CD buying public) when Blunted on Reality came out in 1994?

Most Likely to Win: "EW" says the Fugees. Normally I would agree with them, but 2Pac has a posthumous nomination and dead artists usually do very well at the Grammys (Nat King Cole in 1992, John Lennon in 1982). Of course this will become moot if those rumors about 2Pac faking his death have any truth to them. Don't be surprised to see his alter ego Makaveli up for an award at this time next year.

February 16, 1997/BC Excelsior