You oughta know who was the big winner at the Grammy Awards last night.
Although Seal dominated the major categories, winning both Record and Song of the Year, it was Alanis Morissette who took home the most trophies: Album of the Year, Female Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song. Hootie & the Blowfish were named Best New Artist.
It would be an understatement to say that Morissette's work is not typical Grammy fare. As host Ellen DeGeneres said after "Jagged Little Pill" was named Album of the Year, "I really couldn't imagine going to my parents and playing that song for them. 'You did what in a theater? Why must you always ruin Thanksgiving?' "
Joking aside, this year's results mark a major step forward for the Grammys.
After years of taking lumps for rewarding conservatism and complacency, the members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences got hip -- or, at least, hipper than expected.
In addition to Morissette's wins, Joni Mitchell topped Mariah Carey and Madonna in the Best Pop Album category. Seal edged out Elton John and Sting to take the Best Pop Male Vocal Performance Grammy. Van Morrison and the Chieftains came out ahead of Mariah Carey with Boyz II Men and the duo of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson.
Pearl Jam won for Best Hard Rock Performance, Blues Traveler for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, and Nirvana for Best Alternative Album. Even Nine Inch Nails went home with a Grammy, although many fans will wonder why it was for Best Metal Performance.
Still, that's better than Jethro Tull, isn't it?
Even the ". . . and the winner is . . ." segments held surprises, as when Tupac Shakur turned up onstage in full Versace, only to be joined by the original members of KISS, all in full makeup. "We need to shock the people," smirked Tupac. Of course, some of the shock may have had to do with the size of the bellies on a few of the Kiss-ers, but hey -- a shock is a shock.
Not every category delivered a surprise. Not only was Stevie Wonder last night's Lifetime Achievement Award winner, but he breezed past new jacks D'Angelo and Babyface to take Grammys in the Best Male R&B; Vocal and Best R&B; Song categories.
Alison Krauss added to the momentum she generated at the Country Music Association awards last fall as she won in the Best Female Country Vocal and Best Country Vocal Collaboration categories. Pierre Boulez continued his Grammy streak by taking the awards for Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance. Frank Sinatra had to make room on his trophy case after "Duets II" was named Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.
Of course, most of the folks at home weren't holding their breath to see if Vince Gill would win another Grammy. (He won two, for Male Country Vocal and Country Song.) They were watching to hear this year's "Save the National Endowment for the Arts" speech by Academy president Michael Greene.
No, seriously, they watched to hear some of the biggest names in pop music perform their biggest hits. And for the most part, they were disappointed.
Sure, there were some great moments last night. Morissette offered a stately, serious rethink of "You Oughta Know," one that traded the alternarock urgency of the original with a taut and dramatic arrangement stressing strings and acoustic guitars. It was a beautiful performance, marred only by CBS' overlong bleep of the song's single four-letter word.
But for the most part, the broadcast was long on star power, but short on brilliance. You'd think a show meant to spotlight the best and brightest of the music world would be content simply to let the performers do what they usually do, but no. Instead, what we got were bloated, made-for-TV spectaculars that ended up serving neither the artists nor the material very well.
That was clearly the case with the show-opening performance of "One Sweet Day" by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men. Ostensibly, this was to introduce us to the first of the five Record of the Year nominees, but it quickly became an exercise in overkill. As Carey and the Boyz took turns showing how many twists and turns they could add to the melody, the stage slowly filled with choir-robed gospel singers, until it began to look like the music-biz equivalent of "Where's Waldo?" By the end of the number, neither Carey nor the melody could be found without assistance.
Robed singers were a bit of a fixation for the Grammy crowd. It wasn't just when Whitney Houston, CeCe Winans and Shirley Caesar raised the roof with a tribute to gospel music; Coolio also had a crowd of choristers behind him as he did "Gangsta's Paradise," though it was hard to say why, exactly. Maybe it was all an effort to balance out what Shania Twain and TLC weren't wearing.
Not every failure could be blamed on excess, though. D'Angelo and Tony Rich kept their tribute to Wonder deliberately understated, using only two keyboards and a guitar, but the most their performance did was remind listeners just how Wonder towers over the younger generation. And though it was nice to see Seal offering a string-drenched rendition of "Kiss from a Rose," the thorny quality of his singing made it easy to understand why he later thanked producer Trevor Horn "for making me sound good enough."
On the local end, two Baltimore-born songwriters were honored, although for work somewhat outside their normal fields.
"Smokey Joe's Cafe -- The Songs of Leiber and Stoller," a Broadway show built around the songs of Baltimorean Jerry Leiber and his Los Angelean partner Mike Stoller, won in the Best Musical Show Category.
And the late Frank Zappa shared a Grammy with his wife, Gail, for the boxed set "Civilization Phaze III." But that award wasn't for the music -- it was for the art direction.
Record of the Year: "Kiss From a Rose," Seal
Album of the Year: "Jagged Little Pill," Alanis Morissette
Song of the Year: "Kiss From a Rose," Seal
New Artist: Hootie & the Blowfish
Female Pop Vocal Performance: "No More 'I Love You's'," Annie Lennox
Male Pop Vocal Performance: "Kiss From a Rose," Seal
Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: "Let Her Cry," Hootie & the Blowfish
Pop Collaboration with Vocals: "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?" the Chieftains with Van Morrison
Pop Instrumental Performance: "Mariachi Suite," Los Lobos
Pop Album: "Turbulent Indigo," Joni Mitchell
Traditional Pop Vocal Performance: "Duets II," Frank Sinatra
Female Rock Vocal Performance: "You Oughta Know," Alanis Morissette
Male Rock Vocal Performance: "You Don't Know How It Feels," Tom Petty
Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: "Run-Around," Blues Traveler
Hard Rock Performance: "Spin The Black Circle," Pearl Jam
Metal Performance: "Happiness In Slavery," Nine Inch Nails
Rock Instrumental Performance: "Jessica," The Allman Brothers Band
Rock Song: "You Oughta Know," Glen Ballard, Alanis Morissette
Rock Album: "Jagged Little Pill," Alanis Morissette
Alternative Music Performance: "MTV Unplugged In New York," Nirvana
Female R&B; Vocal Performance: "I Apologize," Anita Baker
Male R&B; Vocal Performance: "For Your Love," Stevie Wonder
R&B; Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: "Creep," TLC
R&B; Song: "For Your Love," Stevie Wonder
R&B; Album: "CrazySexyCool," TLC
Rap Solo Performance: "Gangsta's Paradise," Coolio
Rap Performance by a Duo or Group: "I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need To Get By," Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige
Rap Album: "Poverty's Paradise," Naughty by Nature
Female Country Vocal Performance: "Baby, Now That I've Found You," Alison Krauss
Male Country Vocal Performance: "Go Rest High on that Mountain," Vince Gill
Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal: "Here Comes the Rain," The Mavericks
Country Collaboration with Vocals: "Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart," Shenandoah, Alison Krauss
Country Instrumental Performance: "Hightower," Asleep at the Wheel
Country Song: "Go Rest High on that Mountain," Vince Gill
Country Album: "The Woman in Me," Shania Twain
Bluegrass Album: "Unleashed," The Nashville Bluegrass Band
New Age Album: "Forest," George Winston
Contemporary Jazz Performance: "We Live Here," Pat Metheny Group
Jazz Vocal Performance: "An Evening with Lena Horne," Lena Horne
Jazz Instrumental Solo: "Impressions," Michael Brecker
Jazz Instrumental Performance, Individual or Group: "Infinity," McCoy Tyner Trio featuring Michael Brecker
Large Jazz Ensemble Performance: "All Blues," GRP All-Star Big Band, Tom Scott
Latin Jazz Performance: "Antonio Brasileiro," Jobim
Rock Gospel Album: "Lesson of Love," Ashley Cleveland
Pop-Contemporary Gospel Album: "I'll Lead You Home," Michael Smith
Southern Gospel, Country Gospel or Bluegrass Gospel Album: "Amazing Grace A Country Salute to Gospel," Various Artists
Traditional Soul Gospel Album: "Shirley Caesar Live ... He Will Come," Shirley Caesar
Contemporary Soul Gospel Album: "Alone in His Presence," CeCe Winans
Gospel Album by a Choir or Chorus: "Praise Him ... Live!," Carol Cymbala, choir director
Latin Pop Performance: "Amor," Jon Secada
Tropical Latin Performance: "Abriendo Puertas," Gloria Estefan
Mexican-American Performance: "Flaco Jimenez," Flaco Jimenez
Traditional Blues Album: "Chill Out," John Lee Hooker
Contemporary Blues Album: "Slippin' In," Buddy Guy
Traditional Folk Album: "South Coast," Ramblin' Jack Elliott
Contemporary Folk Album Vocal or Instrumental: "Wrecking Ball," Emmylou Harris
Reggae Album: "Boombastic," Shaggy
World Music Album: "Boheme," Deep Forest
Polka Album: "I Love to Polka," Jimmy Sturr
Musical Album for Children: "Sleepy Time Lullabys," J. Aaron Brown and David R. Lehman, producers
Spoken Word Album for Children: "Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf," Dan Broatman & Martin Sauer, producers
Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album: "Phenomenal Woman," Maya Angelou
Spoken Comedy Album: "Crank Calls," Jonathan Winters
Musical Show Album: "Smokey Joe's Cafe -- The Songs Of Leiber And Stoller"
Instrumental Composition: "A View From The Side," Bill Holman
Instrumental Composition for a Motion Picture or Television: "Crimson Tide," Hans Zimmer
Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or Television: "Colors Of The Wind," "Pocahontas"
Instrumental Arrangement: "Lament," Robert Farnon
Instrumental Arrangement with Vocals: "I Get A Kick Out Of You," Rob McConnell
Recording Package: "Turbulent Indigo," Robbie Cavolina, Joni Mitchell
Recording Package, Boxed: "Civilization Phaze III," Frank Zappa, Gail Zappa
Album Notes: "The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Volume 3: 1972-1975," Rob Bowman
Historical Album: "The Heifetz Collection," Jascha Heifetz, various artists
Engineered Album, Non-Classical: "Wildflowers," Dave Bianco, Richard Dodd, Stephen McLaughlin and Jim Scott
Producer of the Year: Babyface
Classical Engineered Recording: "Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra; 'Kossuth' -- Symphonic Poem," Michael Mailes and Jonathan Stokes
Classical Producer of the Year: Steven Epstein
Classical Album: "Debussy: La Mer; Nocturnes; Jeux, etc.," Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra
Orchestral Performance: "Debussy: La Mer," Pierre Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra
Opera Recording: "Berlioz: Les Troyens," Charles Dutoit, conductor, Orchestre Symphonie de Montreal
Choral Performance: "Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem," Herbert Blomstedt, conductor, San Francisco Symphony and Symphony Choir; various artists
Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra: "The American Album (Works of Bernstein, Barber, Foss)," Itzhak Perlman
Instrumental Soloist Performance without Orchestra: "Schubert: Piano Sonatas" Radu Lupu
Chamber Music Performance: "Brahms/Beethoven/Mozart: Clarinet Trios," Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma and Richard Stoltzman
Classical Vocal Performance: "The Echoing Air -- The Music Of Henry Purcell," Sylvia McNair
Classical Contemporary Composition: "Messiaen: Concert A Quatre," Olivier Messiaen
Music Video, Short Form: "Scream," Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson
Music Video, Long Form: "Secret World Live," Peter Gabriel