"I can't believe this," Tony Bennett said, accepting his Grammy for best album Wednesday night. "I really don't believe this."
For much of the night, he wasn't alone.
Time and again as winners were announced during the three-hour ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium, it was hard to believe what we were hearing.
Bennett was a gracious winner, but his "MTV Unplugged" wasn't the best album of the year.
Sheryl Crow was nicely appreciative, but her single, "All I Wanna Do," was in no way the best record of the year.
It was nice to see the Rolling Stones win their first Grammy, but "Voodoo Lounge" was merely an affectionate tip of the hat to the group's own roots--not the best rock album of the year, not when R.E.M.'s "Monster" and Neil Young's "Sleeps With Angels" were in the running.
Green Day is an entertaining young rock group, but its "Dookie" album was kid stuff next to the harrowing drama of Nine Inch Nails' "The Downward Spiral," which it defeated in the best alternative music category.
Aerosmith is lots of fun, but it's maddening to see its flimsy "Crazy" honored over Nirvana's soul-stirring "All Apologies" in the best rock group performance category.
The scary thing is that it could all have been worse.
When it was time to announce the album of the year winner, you could almost sense the members of the National Academy of Recordings Arts & Sciences cringing in fear--against the possibility of the words "Three Tenors" coming through the speakers and into millions of homes.
If Bennett's victory was just a poor choice in a year in which albums by such bands as Nine Inch Nails, Hole and R.E.M. defined pop music, a "Three Tenors" victory would have been nothing short of a disaster.
Because the academy's voting process is under such widespread attack, the tension at the Grammys is no longer limited to the competition between artists, whose egos and sales can be bolstered by victories.
On Wednesday, the main anxiety was among Grammy voters concerned about their own credibility.
It's no longer a matter of just critics, musicians and a growing segment of the pop audience grumbling about the Grammys' continuing tendency to favor mainstream bestsellers over challenging forces. Industry executives are speaking out publicly in favor of voting reform.
Nothing happened Wednesday to lessen that discontent.
At times during the telecast, you got the idea that Bruce Springsteen was the only thing between the academy and total embarrassment.
And the academy knew it. The ceremony seemed to cling to Springsteen like a life raft. If he had been eligible in 40 categories, he would probably have won in 35 of them.
Here's someone who came into the competition with an Oscar for his Grammy-nominated song "Streets of Philadelphia" and two decades of almost unprecedented critical acclaim.
Within 15 seconds of the start of the show, he was stepping from the shadows to sing "Streets of Philadelphia," the tender reflections of a man struggling with AIDS. Five minutes later, he was back on stage to accept the first of his four awards.
Everyone in the Western world fully expected to see him back at the podium to accept the best record award at the end of the evening.
But it tells you how haywire the Grammy voting is that Springsteen lost to Crow. She's a spunky singer, but there's no way "All I Wanna Do" deserves to win anything short of a Rickie Lee Jones sound-alike contest.
We hear you, Tony.
Top Awards Album of the Year
Tony Bennett and David Kahne
Record of the Year
"All I Wanna Do"
Sheryl Crow and Bill Bottrell
Song of the Year
"Streets of Philadelphia"
Female Pop Vocal
"All I Wanna Do"
Male Pop Vocal
"Can You Feel the Love Tonight"
Male Rock Vocal
"Streets of Philadelphia"
Female Rock Vocal
"Come to My Window"
"Streets of Philadelphia"
Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers
"I'll Make Love to You"
Big Winners Bruce Springsteen: 4
Sheryl Crow : 3
Chicago Symphony: 3
Tony Bennett: 2
Pierre Boulez: 2
Boyz II Men: 2
Mary Chapin Carpenter: 2
Andrae Crouch: 2
Lyle Lovett: 2
The Rolling Stones: 2
Complete list of winners, F10
Robert Hilburn's Grammy report, A1
Grammy Vocies Bruce Springsteen,
after winning song of the year:
"I'd like to thank all those disparaged and mysterious Grammy voters out there, wherever you are, whoever you are."
president of the National Academy
of Recording Arts & Sciences:
"We must not allow the arts to be politicized, privatized, commercialized, sanitized, neutralized or zeroed-out."
describing Tony Bennett:
"The coolest guy on the planet. . . . There's the Pope--that's the only one left (to top that)."
after beating both the Bible
and Shakespeare in the spoken-
"Imagine seeing someone like me in a place like this, getting something like this. . . . I'll keep it short because you're bored to tears like I am."
Grammy host, after 3 1/2 minutes of
stalling while Bonnie Raitt's band set up:
"OK, I'm boring myself."
And All the Top Vote-Getters Are . . .
* Record of the Year: "All I Wanna Do," Sheryl Crow (Bill Bottrell, producer)
* Album of the Year: "MTV Unplugged," Tony Bennett (David Kahne, producer)
* Song of the Year: "Streets of Philadelphia," Bruce Springsteen, songwriter
* Best New Artist: Sheryl Crow
* Female Pop Vocal: "All I Wanna Do," Sheryl Crow
* Male Pop Vocal: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," Elton John
* Pop Duo or Group With Vocal: "I Swear," All-4-One
* Pop Vocal Collaboration: "Funny How Time Slips Away," Al Green and Lyle Lovett
* Pop Instrumental Performance: "Cruisin,' " Booker T & the MG's
* Pop Album: "Longing in Their Hearts," Bonnie Raitt
* Traditional Pop Vocal: "MTV Unplugged," Tony Bennett
* Female Rock Vocal: "Come to My Window," Melissa Etheridge
* Male Rock Vocal: "Streets of Philadelphia," Bruce Springsteen
* Rock Duo or Group With Vocal: "Crazy," Aerosmith
* Hard Rock Performance: "Black Hole Sun," Soundgarden
* Metal Performance: "Spoonman," Soundgarden
* Rock Instrumental Performance: "Marooned," Pink Floyd
* Rock Song: "Streets of Philadelphia," Bruce Springsteen, songwriter
* Rock Album: "Voodoo Lounge," the Rolling Stones
* Alternative Music Performance: "Dookie," Green Day
Rhythm & Blues
* Female R&B; Vocal: "Breathe Again," Toni Braxton
* Male R&B; Vocal: "When Can I See You," Babyface
* R&B; Duo or Group With Vocal: "I'll Make Love to You," Boyz II Men
* R&B; Song: "I'll Make Love to You," Babyface, songwriter
* R&B; Album: "II," Boyz II Men
* Rap Solo Performance: "U.N.I.T.Y.," Queen Latifah
* Rap Duo or Group: "None of Your Business," Salt-N-Pepa
* Female Country Vocal: "Shut Up and Kiss Me," Mary Chapin Carpenter
* Male Country Vocal: "When Love Finds You," Vince Gill
* Country Duo or Group With Vocal: "Blues for Dixie," Asleep at the Wheel with Lyle Lovett
* Country Vocal Collaboration (for artists who do not normally sing together): "I Fall to Pieces," Aaron Neville and Trisha Yearwood
* Country Instrumental Performance: "Young Thing," Chet Atkins
* Country Song: "I Swear," Gary Baker and Frank J. Myers, songwriters
* Country Album: "Stones in the Road," Mary Chapin Carpenter
* Bluegrass Album: "The Great Dobro Sessions," Jerry Douglas and Tut Taylor, producers (various artists)
* New Age Album: "Prayer for the Wild Things," Paul Winter
* Contemporary Jazz Performance: "Out of the Loop," Brecker Brothers
* Jazz Vocal Performance: "Mystery Lady (Songs of Billie Holiday)," Etta James
* Jazz Instrumental Solo: "Prelude to a Kiss," Benny Carter, soloist
* Jazz Instrumental Performance: "A Tribute to Miles," Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Wallace Roney, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams
* Large Jazz Ensemble Performance: "Journey," McCoy Tyner Big Band
* Latin Jazz Performance: "Danzon (Dance On)," Arturo Sandoval
* Rock Gospel Album: "Wake-Up Call," Petra
* Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album: "Mercy," Andrae Crouch
* Southern Gospel, Country Gospel or Bluegrass Gospel Album: "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow," Alison Krauss and the Cox Family
* Traditional Soul Gospel Album: "Songs of the Church--Live in Memphis," Albertina Walker
* Contemporary Soul Gospel Album: "Join the Band," Take 6
* Gospel Album by a Choir or Chorus: "Through God's Eyes," the Rev. Milton Brunson, choir director (the Thompson Community Singers); "Live in Atlanta at Morehouse College," Hezekiah Walker, choir director (the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir)
* Latin Pop Performance: "Segundo Romance," Luis Miguel
* Tropical Latin Performance: "Master Sessions Volume 1," Cachao
* Mexican-American Performance: "Recuerdo a Javier Solis," Vikki Carr
* Traditional Blues Album: "From the Cradle," Eric Clapton
* Contemporary Blues Album: "Father Father," Pops Staples
* Traditional Folk Album: "World Gone Wrong," Bob Dylan
* Contemporary Folk Album: "American Recordings," Johnny Cash
* Reggae Album: "Crucial! Roots Classics," Bunny Wailer
* World Music Album: "Talking Timbuktu," Ali Farka Toure with Ry Cooder
* Polka Album: "Music & Friends," Walter Ostanek Band
* Musical Album for Children: "The Lion King (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)," various artists (Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin, Chris Thomas and Hans Zimmer, producers)
* Spoken Word Album for Children: "The Lion King Read-Along," original cast, Robert Guillaume (Ted Kryczko and Randy Thornton, producers)
* Spoken Word or Non-Musical Album: "Get in the Van: On the Road With Black Flag" (Henry Rollins, author), Henry Rollins
* Spoken Comedy Album: "Live From Hell," Sam Kinison
* Musical Show Album: "Passion," Phil Ramone, producer (Stephen Sondheim, lyricist; Stephen Sondheim, composer; original Broadway cast)
* Instrumental Composition: "African Skies," Michael Brecker, composer
* Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television: "Schindler's List," John Williams, composer
* Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television: "Streets of Philadelphia" (from "Philadelphia"), Bruce Springsteen, songwriter
* Instrumental Arrangement: "Three Cowboy Songs," Dave Grusin, arranger
* Instrumental Arrangement With Accompanying Vocal: "Circle of Life," Andrae Crouch, Lebo Morake and Hans Zimmer, arrangers
* Recording Package: "Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys," Buddy Jackson, art director
* Recording Package--Boxed: "The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books," Chris Thompson, art director
* "Louis Armstrong: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, 1923-1934," Dan Morgenstern and Loren Schoenberg, album notes writers
* Historical Album: "The Complete Ella Fitzgerald Song Books," Michael Lang, compilation producer
* Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical: "I'm Alive," Ed Cherney, Paul Dieter and Rik Pekkonen, engineers (Jackson Browne, artist)
* Producer of the Year: Don Was
* Classical Engineered Recording: "Copland: Music for Films ('The Red Pony,' 'Our Town,' Etc.)," William Hoekstra, engineer (Leonard Slatkin, artist)
* Classical Producer of the Year: Andrew Cornall
* Classical Album: "Bartok: Concerto for Orch.; Four Orchestral Pieces, Op.12," Pierre Boulez, conductor; Karl-August Naegler, producer (Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
* Orchestral Performance: "Bartok: Concerto for Orch.; Four Orchestral Pieces, Op.12," Pierre Boulez, conductor; Chicago Symphony Orchestra
* Opera Recording: "Floyd: Susannah," Kent Nagano, conductor; Jerry Hadley, Samuel Ramey, Cheryl Studer and various artists (Orchestra of Opera de Lyon; Chorus of Opera de Lyon)
* Choral Performance: "Berlioz: Messe Solennelle," John Eliot Gardiner, choir director (Orch. Revolutionnaire et Romantique, the Monteverdi Choir and various artists)
* Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (With Orchestra): "The New York Album (Works of Albert, Bartok, Bloch)," Yo-Yo Ma, cello and alto violin (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)
* Instrumental Soloist Performance (Without Orchestra): "Haydn: Piano Sons. Nos. 32, 47, 53, 59," Emanuel Ax, piano
* Chamber Music Performance: "Beethoven/Mozart: Quintets (Chicago-Berlin)," Daniel Barenboim, piano; Dale Clevenger, horn, Chicago Symphony; Larry Combs, clarinet, Chicago Symphony; Daniele Damiano, bassoon, Berlin Philharmonic; Hansjorg Schellenberger, oboe, Berlin Philharmonic
* Classical Vocal Performance: "The Impatient Lover (Italian Songs by Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart, etc.)," Cecilia Bartoli, mezzo-soprano (Andras Schiff, piano)
* Classical Contemporary Composition: "Albert: Cello Concerto," Stephen Albert, composer (Yo-Yo Ma, cello; David Zinman, conductor; Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)
* Music Video, Short Form: "Love Is Strong," the Rolling Stones; Cean Chaffin, video producer; David Fincher, video director
* Music Video, Long Form: "Zoo TV--Live From Sydney," U2; Ned O'Hanlon and Rocky Oldham, video producers; David Mallet, video director
* OTHER CRITICS' VIEWS
Analysis of country, jazz, R&B; / rap, Latin, classical categories. F11