Gaffes galore at the Grammys

ON Wednesday in Los Angeles, winners in more than 80 Grammy Award categories will be announced.

In its 35th year, nominations for the recording industry awards were determined by the 7,000 voting members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS).

Sound important? Sound huge? It may be both to an estimated worldwide television audience of two billion.

But to people within the industry - and for many musicians - the Grammys have become little more than a night where a win could catapult a disappearing album back into the top 10.

And an increasing amount of Grammy nominations seem out of sync with the listening public.

NARAS members tend to be experts within their given category but are often blind as to what is happening in other fields. Hence, the more mainstream and recognisable the name in some categories, the more likely an artist will get a nomination or Grammy.

Though the award organisers have tried to keep up with rapidly chan ging musical styles by adding rap and alternative categories, there is still no rhyme or reason for the selection of nominees or winners much of the time.

A case in point is Paul Simon's Album of the Year award in 1986 for his Graceland LP. A year later the title track from that album was inexplicably named Record of the Year.

In another Grammy mis-step, a comeback effort by semi-retired art rock band Jethro Tull called Crest of a Knave beat out the hot favourite Metallica for the first Heavy Metal award in 1988.

The biggest Grammy gaffe is often the sin of omission. Rock legends the Rolling Stones and The Who have never won an award.

This year, once again, Grammy nominations lean heavily towards safe choices.

Eric Clapton, who has won two previous Grammys, has the most nominations with nine. Canadian country-turned-torch-singer K. D. Lang and Peter Gabriel each have four nominations. Michael Jackson, En Vogue, Annie Lennox, Arrested Development and Vanessa Williams all have three. The Beauty and the Beast soundtrack received five nominations.

All of the top nominees are platinum acts. With the exception of Arrested Development, all have received at least three nominations in years past.

So where are Nirvana, U2, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, the Black Crowes, Tori Amos or any of the other artists who released acclaimed albums over the past year's Grammy voting period? Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with career-making albums, received only two nominations. U2 is up for Album of the Year. None of the rest were nominated.

The choices beg many questions.

Surely Nirvana and Pearl Jam had more of an effect on music in '92 than Lennox's Diva ? Did Bruce Springsteen's past success harm his more subdued releases? And why was Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus nominated for record of the Year anyway? We may never know. STAR Plus will show the 35th Grammy Awards at 8 pm on February 28.