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Sting leads Grammy noms

Sting scored six nominations Thursday to lead contenders for the 36th annual Grammy Awards. Recognition for his most accessible collection yet was indicative of a return by Grammy voters to more mainstream and adult-oriented selections.

Producer David Foster and songwriter Alan Menken were next, scoring five noms apiece. Whitney Houston received four noms, as did Billy Joel, R.E.M. and Neil Young.

Tangerine Dream and Luther Vandross rounded out the top contenders with three nominations each.

Winners, voted on by 7,500 members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, will be revealed March 1 at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Show will be telecast by CBS.

In all, 9,000 entries were submitted, of which 408 were nominated from 142 record companies in 79 categories. Albums released between Oct. 1, 1992, and Sept. 30, 1993, were eligible.

Nominations once again skewed toward the predictable. Most artists who were the subject of heavy buzz were ignored in the voting, despite sales volumes generated by those acts. The Acad did temper its best new artist nomination list with works by a varied group mixing Belly and SWV.

Four Non Blondes and the Gin Blossoms were ignored, despite earning critical and commercial acclaim. Nirvana, whose genre-spawning grunge rock has practically become mainstream, copped just one nom in the alternative category.

But ballad-heavy works such as Sting’s “Ten Summoner’s Tales” and Houston’s performance on “The Bodyguard” soundtrack further solidified the notion that Academy members prefer to sing and sway than to rock ‘n’ roll.

Barbra Streisand’s “Back to Broadway” disc copped two nominations as best traditional pop vocal and best pop duo perf with Michael Crawford.

Mariah Carey, who had been expected to secure a handful of nominations alongside Houston and who had one of the biggestalbums of the year, selling more than 5 million units, took home only one nomination. It was for best pop vocal performance, female, for her single “Dreamlover.”

And the Academy again telegraphed its penchant for sappy duets, tapping Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle for best pop performance by a duo or group.

Last year Bryson, duetting with Celine Dion, won the category for “Beauty and the Beast.” This year Dion also scored her own entry, her duet with Clive Griffin on “When I Fall in Love” from the “Sleepless in Seattle” soundtrack. The double entry increases her chances for a win. But R.E.M. could pull an upset with its popular “Man on the Moon” single.

Album of the year award mixed the old guard with the new. R.E.M.’s presence in the category with “Automatic for the People” will give Sting’s “Ten Summoner’s Tales” and Joel’s “River of Dreams” a run. The Donald Fagen entry of “Kamakiriad” appears the dark horse.

Record of the year, an award that goes to an album’s first single released during the eligibility period (singles often precede the album’s release by up to eight weeks), has the Aladdin theme “A Whole New World” competing against Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You,” Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” and Joel’s “River of Dreams.”

Traditional division

Song of the year, an award that goes to the writer, often divides sentiments of voters who prefer to recognize the artist that popularized the tune rather than the writer who created it.

Sting’s “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” was written and performed by the artist, as were Joel’s “River of Dreams” and Young’s “Harvest Moon.””A Whole New World” was penned by Alan Menken and Tim Rice.

Best new artist, which usually splits critical from commercial success, leaned toward the latter in recognizing newcomer Belly, yet tapping Blind Melon, one of the 1993 success stories of the new Capitol Records regime, and Toni Braxton, the first successful fruit from the LaFace/Arista deal. SWV, also a surprise success, joins critic faves Digable Planets to round out the category.

The naming of Boy George in the best pop vocal male category for his warbling of “The Crying Game” title track caught some handicappers by surprise, as did the nod to Rod Stewart for “Have I Told You Lately.”

Best pop vocal female turned some heads when Tina Turner’s “I Don’t Wanna Fight” was picked to compete against the seemingly shoo-in “I Will Always Love You” by Houston.

Country predictable

Country nominations yielded no surprises, with Garth Brooks weighing in with a nom for best male country vocal for “Ain’t Going Down (til the Sun Comes Up) the first single off his “In Pieces” disc. Joining Brooks are Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee,” Neville’s “The Grand Tour,” Dwight Yoakam’s “Ain’t That Lonely Yet,” and the return of the Possum, George Jones, for his “I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair.”

Alternative faves Smashing Pumpkins copped a nomination for “Siamese Dream” challenging “Star” from Belly, “In Utero” by Nirvana and “Automatic for the People” by R.E.M. and U2’s “Zooropa” as best alternative album.

The recorded return of popular crooners Tony Bennett and Michael Crawford will help focus interest on best traditional pop vocal.

Comedian Garry Shandling will host the Grammys for the fourth time. Telecast will be directed by Walter Miller, produced by Ken Ehrlich. Pierre Cossette will exec produce.

During the morning press conference in Los Angeles (nominations were also announced in New York and Nashville), NARAS president Mike Greene chided local civic leaders, saying the move of the Grammy Awards to New York was partially based on that city’s support of the Academy’s philanthropic interests such as Grammy in the Schools and its MusiCares program.

Greener pastures

“We wanted a city whose city fathers are as dedicated to leaving something behind as we are,” Greene said. He also expressed hope that the new administration in L.A. City Hall would work with the org and support its efforts. Just days before last year’s award ceremony in Los Angeles, the City Council decided to send NARAS a bill for police overtime and fees for using the Shrine Auditorium.

Although the bill was later withdrawn, that action precipitated the org’s move to New York, responding to overtures made by East Coast civic and business leaders.

Ballots will be mailed to NARAS voters next week.

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