2004 / Music / Previews

Soundbytes: Glimpse Predictions For Grammy 2004

Hip-Hop, R&B Artists Likely To Take Top Prizes

In existence for going on 46 years, the Grammy awards has steadfastly maintained its place as the oldest and most revered of the music industry’s self-congratulatory galas.

Photo: Grammys.com

Photo: Grammys.com

In past 20 years alone, the awards have faced stiffening competition from a band of whippersnappers, like the American Music Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards, and the Billboard Music Awards, who’ve threatened to displace them.

But what has kept the awards show one step away from complete irrelevancy is its willingness to adapt. It incorporated awards for rock in the 1960s, disco in the ’70s and hip-hop in the ’80s.

Take this year for example. In contrast to the stodginess of the past, 2004’s nominees were selected with the youth audience in mind. Hip-hop and R&B artists clearly dominate in the top categories. Beyonce, Jay-Z, Outkast and uber-producer Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes garnered six Grammy nominations apiece, while Missy Elliott, Eminem, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake, Luther Vandross, and Chad Hugo (Williams’ Neptunes partner), each snagged five nods of their own.

In fact, rap and R&B stars make up four out of the five nominees for Record Of The Year, and three out of five for both Album Of The Year and Song Of The Year.

But regardless of whose nominated, if Grammy history has taught anything, it is that the awards are almost never award solely on artistic merit. Rather, Grammy voters most often gravitate toward artists with the right kind of hype (Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys) or to honor the well-established but long unappreciated (Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Carlos Santana).

So, here’s my list of predictions on who’ll walk away with the top prizes this year:

Record Of The Year

  • “Crazy In Love,” Beyonce (featuring Jay-Z)
  • “Where Is The Love,” Black Eyed Peas (featuring Justin Timberlake)
  • “Clocks,” Coldplay
  • “Lose Yourself,” Eminem
  • “Hey Ya!,” Outkast

The prediction: Beyonce. “Crazy In Love” was a monster hit last summer for the former Destiny’s Child frontwoman. As well as recognizing the greatness of the song and her growing songwriting/producing prowess, Beyonce will likely get votes for the well-publicized effort that she, her erstwhile bandmates and her parents (her father is Beyonce’s manger, her mother is her stylist) undertook to reach stardom. Eminem and Outkast could prove strong competition, but will likely find recognition in other awards. However unlikely, Coldplay could slip in there as a dark horse should the voting be split between the rap and R&B nominees.

Album Of The Year

  • “Under Construction,” Missy Elliott
  • “Fallen,” Evanescence
  • “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” Outkast
  • “Justified,” Justin Timberlake
  • “Elephant,” The White Stripes

The prediction:Justin Timberlake. He nabbed a handful of MTV awards last September and magazines are already crowning him the new king of pop (despite the fact that “Justified” is his only solo disc). Yes, an “American Idol”-like publicity/promotion machine is at work here. Regardless, “Justified,” like Beyonce’s “Dangerously In Love,” was an unusually strong solo debut and should walk away victorious. Outkast’s double album was surely the most ambitious in this category and the White Stripes’ latest was as solid as their 2001 breakthrough, but both won’t likely be able to muster enough support.

Song Of The Year

  • “Beautiful,” Linda Perry (Christina Aguilera)
  • “Dance With My Father,” Richard Marx and Luther Vandross (Luther Vandross)
  • “I’m With You,” Avril Lavigne and The Matrix (Avril Lavigne)
  • “Keep Me in Your Heart,” Jorge Calderon and Warren Zevon (Warren Zevon)
  • “Lose Yourself,” J. Bass, M. Mathers and L. Resto (Eminem)

The prediction: Eminem or Christina Aguliera. This is a tough call for a songwriter’s award. “Beautiful” was a raise-your-lighter hit penned by Linda Perry (the former 4 Non-Blondes lead screecher who’s now a songwriting factory to the stars) and its upbeat, all-inclusive message about the many sizes, shapes and shades of beauty reverberated for pop fans who feel marginalized. Meanwhile, the Rocky-theme of “Lose Yourself” was the lone bright spot for Eminem’s “8 Mile” experience, and proved rap’s most controversial figure hasn’t completely lost his touch. Both Warren Zevon and Luther Vandross were included out of deference for the former’s passing and the latter’s recent ailments. While the power of the sympathy vote shouldn’t be discounted, I think the quality of the other songs will overpower them.

Best New Artist

  • Evanescence
  • 50 Cent
  • Sean Paul
  • Fountains Of Wayne
  • Heather Headley

The prediction:50 Cent. He sold more records last year (a little more than 5 million) than anybody. It’s as simple as that.

Pop Vocal Album

  • “Stripped,” Christina Aguilera
  • “Brainwashed,” George Harrison
  • “Bare,” Annie Lennox
  • “Motown,” Michael McDonald
  • “Justified,” Justin Timberlake

The prediction: Justin Timberlake. Once again, I think Justin will pull this one off. (Was that a pun? Sorry). Sure, Michael McDonald and Annie Lennox might have better voices technically, and recently passed George Harrison was nominated because of the sympathy factor (like Zevon and Vandross), Timberlake should prove too much for them. Christina Aguilera should be a contender because her sale figures are closest to Timberlake’s among this group, but I think he’ll once again walk away with something in his hand (pun again, sorry).

Best Rock Album

  • “Audioslave,” Audioslave
  • “Fallen,” Evanescence
  • “One by One,” Foo Fighters
  • “More Than You Think You Are,” matchbox twenty
  • “The Long Road,” Nickelback

The prediction: Evanescence. This category changes wildly from year to year. Sometimes it’s filled by veteran acts, other times by pop-rock standardbearers. This year, hard rock artists predominate. This leaves matchbox twenty as light-rock’s only champion. By and large, the Foo Fighters and Audioslave were nominated for past achievements and not for their current records, which were both disappointments. Nickelback has endured on heavy rock radio playlists, but the band suffers from the lack of personality that will hurt them come voting time. Evanescence was a hard rock’s force to be reckoned with this year, thanks to a series of creepy yet catchy singles. They should snag this one.

Best Rock Song

  • “Bring Me To Life,” Evanescence
  • “Calling All Angels” Train
  • “Seven Nation Army,” The White Stripes
  • “Disorder In The House,” Warren Zevon
  • “Someday,” Nickelback

The prediction: The White Stripes. This is another tough contest. While Evanescence, Train and Nickelback all had solid hits with their tunes, “Seven Nation Army” is an odd, little song that has become truly loved by rock fans and artists alike. Bands as divergent as Audioslave and the Flaming Lips worked a cover of the song into their live set in 2003.

Best Alternative Music Album

  • “Elephant,” White Stripes
  • “Hail To The Thief,” Radiohead
  • “Fight Test,” The Flaming Lips
  • “Untitled,” Sigur Ros
  • “Fever To Tell,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The prediction: The White Stripes. If the Detroit duo doesn’t get Best Rock Song, it’s a good bet that they’ll sweep this category. This probably won’t be much of a contest. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Sigur Ros remain mostly underground sensations, and Radiohead’s “Hail To The Thief” can be categorized as a half-hearted return to guitar-oriented rock at best. The Flaming Lips won a Grammy last year for an instrumental song, but it would seem unlikely that Grammy voters would back this great track (especially considering the controversy that arose about the cut’s similarities to an old Cat Stevens song, “Father And Son.” In fact, the artist formerly known as Cat — now known as Yusuf Islam — is reportedly getting a cut of the song’s royalties).

Best Hard Rock Performance

  • “Like A Stone,” Audioslave
  • “Bring Me To Life,” Evanescence
  • “Just Because,” Jane’s Addiction
  • “Go With The Flow,” Queens Of The Stone Age
  • “Straight Out Of Line,” Godsmack

The prediction: Evanescence. Queens Of The Stone Age have continued to win fans while mostly remaining under the radar. In comparison, Jane’s Addiction’s reunion never really caught fire among a majority of the rock audience. And although “Like A Stone” brought Audioslave’s record back to life and back on the charts after the album’s first single stiffed, Evanescence will be able to bask in its gloominess after winning this award.

Best Metal Performance

  • “Did My Time,” Korn
  • “mOBSCENE,” Marilyn Manson
  • “St. Anger,” Metallica
  • “Smothered” Spineshank
  • “Inhale,” Stone Sour

The prediction: Metallica. Putting aside the merits (or lack there of ) of “St. Anger, Grammy voters will likely give metal’s elder statesmen just about anything after they let Jethro Tull rob the group of the award back in the late ’80s. In addition, most of their compatriots in this race just don’t stack up.

Best Contemporary R&B Album

  • “Chocolate Factory,” R. Kelly
  • “Dangeroulsy In Love, ” Beyonce
  • “Love & Life, ” Mary J. Blige
  • ” Comin’ From Where I’m From,” Anthony Hamilton
  • ” Chapter II,” Ashanti

The prediction: Beyonce. No Timberlake in this category should mean Ms. Knowles will have an easy time. Her emergence as a solo superstar outshines the other nominees.

Best R&B Song

  • “Crazy In Love,” Beyonce (featuring Jay-Z)
  • “Dance With My Father,” Luther Vandross
  • “Rock Wit U (Awww Baby),” Ashanti
  • “Danger,” Erykah Badu
  • “Comin’ From Where I’m From,” Anthony Hamilton

The prediction: Beyonce. This too should be a cakewalk for her. If she’s smart, she should also thank the Chi-Lites, the old-time soul group, from whose record the sashaying horn sample that drives “Crazy In Love” was derived from.

Best Rap Album

  • “Under Construction,” Missy Elliott
  • “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” 50 Cent
  • “The Blueprint 2: The Gift & the Curse,” Jay-Z
  • “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” Outkast
  • “Phrenology,” The Roots

The prediction: 50 Cent. I think this is the most competitive category. Each artist (maybe except for Jay-Z) has a solid shot at getting this award. Outkast is currently ruling the charts with “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,” and the Roots and Missy Elliott are widely praised for pushing hip-hop’s musical parameters. Those should count in their favor. However, I think the hype surrounding 50 Cent — justified or not — will prove too much.

Best Rap Song

  • “Excuse Me Miss,” Jay-Z (featuring Pharrell Williams)
  • “In Da Club,” 50 Cent
  • “Lose Yourself,” Eminem
  • “Work It,” Missy Elliot
  • “Beautiful,” Snoop Dogg (featuring Pharrell Williams and Uncle Charlie Wilson)

The prediction: 50 Cent. Like the Best Rap Album category, these nominees all have chance. Eminem, 50’s mentor, has the best shot of unseating him. The award could also go to the nominees who’ve shown some musical progression. “Beautiful” put Snoop Dogg back on the hip-hop map and established that he can land on the charts without riding Dr. Dre’s coattails. Similarly, “Work It” was a new peak for the ongoing collaboration between Missy Elliot and producer Timbaland, but might be too avant-garde for voters. In the end, the Dre-produced “In Da Club” will likely be too irresistible.

Best Contemporary Folk Album

  • “Stumble Into Grace,” Emmylou Harris
  • “Looking For The Moon,” Tom Paxton
  • “World Without Tears,” Lucinda Williams
  • “The Wind,” Warren Zevon

The prediction: Warren Zevon. If anywhere, I think Zevon will get recognized in this category. “The Wind,” the singer-songwriter’s final record, isn’t a folk record, but this category typically ends up being reserved for those artists that merit appreciation, but get beaten by more mainstream acts for the big awards. Zevon’s musical legacy will also be the subject of an all-star tribute during Sunday’s show.

Best Country Album

  • “Cry,” Faith Hill
  • “My Baby Don’t Tolerate,” Lyle Lovett
  • “Run That by Me One More Time,” Willie Nelson and Ray Price
  • “Live and Kickin’,” Willie Nelson
  • “Up!,” Shania Twain
  • “Livin’, Lovin’, Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers,” Various Artists

The prediction: Faith Hill. While she’s not the cross-over monster that she was a few years ago, Faith Hill is still country’s leading lady. The genre’s former queen, Shania Twain, saw her latest record fare poorly in 2003 — this despite two separate media campaigns to try and resuscitate it. She’ll likely leave the ceremony empty handed. The odds also don’t look good for Willie Nelson. Like the late Johnny Cash, Nelson has been pushed the periphery by the Nashville county music establishment, and add the fact that he’s competing against himself, any goodwill coming his way could be split.

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Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2004 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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