Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Bruce Springsteen are among the top Grammy contenders this year, with each artist nominated yesterday for five awards. Maryland natives Mary Chapin Carpenter and Me'Shell NdegeOcello are up for four awards each, as are Green Day, Soundgarden and Seal.
But the lion's share of nominations went to Disney's "The Lion King" and its spin-offs, which snagged a total of nine nominations in seven categories -- including two shots at Song of the Year (for "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "Circle of Life," both written by Elton John and Tim Rice).
Winners of the music industry's most prestigious awards will be announced at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on March 1. The 37th annual Grammy Awards show, with comedian Paul Reiser as host, will be shown live on CBS (WJZ, Channel 13, locally).
The Grammy Awards are presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Crow wound up with the choicest crop of nominations, giving her a chance at three of the top four awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year (both for "All I Wanna Do") and Best New Artist. The only major category Crow wasn't nominated in was Album of the Year, presumably because her album, "Tuesday Night Music Club," was released before the current eligibility period, which ran from Oct. 1, 1993 through Sept. 30, 1994.
Springsteen, astonishingly, is in the running on the strength of TC single piece of work, "Streets of Philadelphia," which earned him nominations for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television.
Raitt was nominated for a somewhat larger body of work: her current album, "Longing in Their Hearts," which is up for Album of the Year and Pop Album of the Year; the single "Love Sneakin' Up on You," which is vying for Record of the Year and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance; and the album track "Longing in Their Hearts," which is competing for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
As usual, the Grammy list is likely to raise eyebrows among music fans -- particularly those who aren't conversant with its occasionally arcane eligibility rules. Green Day and Crash Test Dummies are both among the Best New Artist nominees, along with Crow, Counting Crows and Ace of Base. But the Crash Test Dummies' latest album is their second, while Green Day's "Dookie" (which also got a nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance) is the group's third.
What gives? According to the ballot sent out to NARAS members, Best New Artist is open to any artist "who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist." In other words, if you never heard of them before this, that's good enough for the NARAS.
Qualification quibbles aside, this year's Grammy field is impressive. Not only are there no major howlers (as in 1988, when Jethro Tull won the Best Hard Rock/Metal award), but the list of nominees reflects a surprising degree of hipness. For instance, among the Alternative Music contenders are Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan and Nine Inch Nails; the Rap Solo Performance slate includes Coolio (for "Fantastic Voyage"), Craig Mack ("Flava in Ya Ear"), Queen Latifah ("U.N.I.T.Y."), Snoop Doggy Dogg ("Gin & Juice") and Warren G ("This DJ").
Of course, there were plenty of familiar names among the list of nominees. Aretha Franklin was included among the Best Female R&B; Vocal Performance nominees. Barbra Streisand is up for two awards, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for her single "Ordinary Miracles." Anita Baker earned two nominations on her own, while "Body and Soul," which she recorded, is a contender for R&B; Song of the Year.
Producer David Foster will get yet another chance to add to his shelf of Grammys -- provided he beats Don Was, Trevor Horn, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Brendan O'Brien in the Producer of the Year category. And Tony Bennett's album, "MTV Unplugged," was nominated for Album of the Year and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.
Locally, Mary Chapin Carpenter led the pack, thanks to four nominations, including a Record of the Year nod for "He Thinks He'll Keep Her." But Me'Shell NdegeOcello, who is also up for four awards, is not far behind, thanks to mentions in the Pop Vocal Collaboration (for the version of "Wild Night" she recorded with John Mellencamp), Female R&B; Vocal Performance, R&B; Song (both for "If That's Your Boyfriend"), and R&B; Album (for "Plantation Lullabies") categories.
Severn native Toni Braxton, last year's Best New Artist winner, is competing in the Female R&B; Vocal field, while the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's recording with Yo-Yo Ma of cello concertos by Bela Bartok, Stephen Albert and Ernst Bloch is up for the Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (With Orchestra) Grammy. Albert's concerto is being considered for a separate Grammy, Best Classical Contemporary Composition.