Grammys Bewitched by 'Supernatural' Santana
By Richard Harrington
Every couple of years, the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which bestows the prestigious Grammy Awards, gets a chance to honor a previously overlooked but much-loved veteran act. It happened with Bonnie Raitt in 1990, and Eric Clapton in 1994. This year, the role of Grammy favorite--sentimental or not--falls to guitarist Carlos Santana, whose commercial comeback album, "Supernatural," produced 10 Grammy nominations, including album of the year, record of the year and song of the year, NARAS announced yesterday.
Other top nominees announced yesterday include the R&B trio TLC and classical music conductor Pierre Boulez, each with six nominations; veteran country group Asleep at the Wheel, with five nominations, and the group's front man, Ray Benson, nabbing an additional solo nod to bring his total to six.
Among the acts with four Grammy nominations were the teen combo Backstreet Boys, country acts the Dixie Chicks and Emmylou Harris, and R&B singers Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill, last year's big winner with five Grammys.
The 42nd annual Grammy Awards, voted on by 10,000 members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, will be handed out Feb. 23 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The academy honors works for their artistic merit, but commercial success plays an inevitable role in voters' decisions.
Santana, 52, is enjoying a huge comeback with "Supernatural," his group's first new album in seven years, and the first for his new label, Arista. In a career spanning more than three decades, Santana, who pioneered Latin rock when he began his career 30 years ago, has received just one Grammy, for the 1988 rock instrumental "Blues for Salvador." Santana's band, like many veteran rock acts, remained a popular concert draw, but experienced weak album sales and airplay limited to classic rock stations. "Supernatural," which teamed Santana with such contemporary stars as Lauryn Hill, Dave Matthews, Everlast and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, has now sold 4.6 million copies in the United States.
"Supernatural" is competing in the album of the year category with the Backstreet Boys' "Millennium" (last year's best-selling album), the Dixie Chicks' "Fly," TLC's "FanMail" and jazz singer Diana Krall's "When I Look in Your Eyes," clearly the long shot in this field. All but the Krall album topped the Billboard charts last year.
In the record of the year category, Santana's "Smooth," a collaboration with Rob Thomas, is vying with the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way," veteran pop diva Cher's "Believe," TLC's "No Scrubs" and Latino singing sensation Ricky Martin's "Livin' la Vida Loca."
It was Martin's performance on last year's Grammy Awards show that catapulted him to stardom and multiplatinum record sales in 1999, and ignited media buzz about the coming Latin pop revolution. Aside from Martin, Enrique Iglesias, Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, all of whom released English-language pop albums, Latin pop bubbled under without bursting through. Still, the male pop vocal category had a clear Latin flavor with Martin's "Livin' la Vida Loca," Anthony's "I Need to Know" and Lou Bega's "Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit of . . .)."
Nominees for song of the year, which goes to the songwriter, are "Smooth," "I Want It That Way," "Livin' la Vida Loca," TLC's "Unpretty" and Shania Twain's "You've Got a Way." In the best new artist category, teenage pop stars Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears will vie with R&B singer Macy Gray, rocker Kid Rock and blues guitarist Susan Tedeschi.
Santana's nominations reflected the all-star cast supporting him on "Supernatural." Besides the big three (album, record, song of the year), it earned nods for best rock album, group vocal ("Maria Maria"), pop vocal collaboration ("Love of My Life" with Dave Matthews), pop instrumental ("El Farol," also nominated for instrumental composition), rock instrumental ("The Calling" with Eric Clapton), and rock vocal by duo or group ("Put Your Lights On" with Everlast, who earned his own male rock vocal nod with "What It's Like").
Last year's other dominant musical trends, teen pop and rap-metal, were much recognized, though the latter tended to be ghettoized in the same way that rap and country have been in the past. Kid Rock, Limp Bizkit and Korn all ended up in the hard rock category, while newcomers Spears and Aguilera will be battling it out in the pop vocal categories with the likes of Madonna, Sarah McLachlan and Alanis Morissette.
The Backstreet Boys scored record and album of the year nods (for "I Want It That Way" and "Millennium," respectively). Their chief competitors, 'N Sync, had to settle for several minor categories, pop vocal collaboration ("Music of My Heart" with Gloria Estefan) and country collaboration (with Alabama on "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You").
Cher, in the midst of a career comeback of her own, scored three nominations for "Believe"--record and song of the year and best dance record. The latter pits Cher against divas Estefan, Jennifer Lopez, Donna Summer and . . . Fatboy Slim? (The British deejay's "Praise You" was nominated for best dance record).
Angry women also got noticed: "No Scrubs," TLC's caustic put-down of men lacking money and ambition, earned a record of the year nomination, and will compete with "Bills, Bills, Bills," a similar complaint by Destiny's Child, for R&B song and R&B group performance. Another TLC song, "Unpretty," which deals with unnatural expectations of beauty, earned a song of the year nomination for its writers, Dallas Austin and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins.
Local artists receiving nominations included the Washington Chorus, Maryland Boys Choir and Washington Orchestra for Benjamin Britten's "War Requiem" (best choral performance); pianist Lambert Orkis and supporting violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter on "Beethoven: The Violin Sonatas" (best classical album and best chamber music performance); Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys with Jim Lauderdale for "I Feel Like Singing Today" (best bluegrass album); the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with violinist Hilary Hahn, David Zinman conducting, for "Beethoven: Violin Concerto/Bernstein: Serenade" (best instrumental soloist's performance with orchestra); and Washington Opera head Placido Domingo for "100 Adios de Mariachi" (best Mexican American performance). Washington scored best in the category of musical album for children, with three of the five nominations: Dinorock's "Dreamosaurus," produced by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer; John McCutcheon's "Four Seasons: Springsongs," produced by McCutcheon and Bob Dawson; and Ella Jenkins's "Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends Pulling Together," released on Smithsonian Folkways.
© 2000 The Washington Post Company