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THE 38TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS

The Grammy Rap, by the Original Beastie Boy

February 29, 1996|HOWARD ROSENBERG | TIMES TELEVISION CRITIC

Waz up!

I've been spending most of my life living in the critic's paradise. So naturally me and my homies watched Wednesday night's Grammy telecast on CBS.

But when I turned in my review, my Calendar editors told me, "Coolio Howio, this won't do."

They said the review was too cutting edge for Calendar's mainstream readers.

I replied, "Don't be picky. Just be happy with this quickie."

They fired back, "Don't argue, fool. Be cool."

I didn't give an inch. "You better watch how you talking, and where you walking."

The editor of the paper himself called. "I can tell from your everyday fits, you ain't rich. So cease and desist with them tricks."

I said, "Yo, I own them keys, write what I please."

But when I pictured my own hangin', I hit the keys with some serious bangin'.

So no cutting edge today from Coolio Howio. Just this:

Grammy-winning Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder got the telecast off to a rousing start with this acceptance speech: "I don't know what this means. I don't think it means anything. . . . My dad would have liked it. My dad died before I got to know him. . . . So that's why I'm here. Thanks . . . I guess."

Way to go, Eddie! I guess.

Anyone who bothered to stay tuned after that minimalist gateway to the evening saw a very nice show from executive producer Pierre Cossette, whose centerpieces were the kind of live performances of music--from classical violin to a rock-'em, sock-'em gospel segment with Whitney Houston and Grammy winner CeCe Winans--that you rarely see on regular TV except on the late-night Leno and Letterman shows.

The Grammys themselves may have lacked diversity through the years, but no awards show is as much of an eclectic hoedown, making it a real kick to watch even in years when other areas of the production come up short.

Moreover, "Ellen" star Ellen DeGeneres was Ms. Right as Wednesday night's host. She produced no big laughs but was amusing and likable without soaring over the top or trying to eclipse the ceremony or the winners. DeGeneres had one witty set piece, a brief trip backstage to the "Grammy" room, the surprise "Grammys" turning out to be the grandmothers of performers.

The show offered some notable sidelights, one of them being Grammy winner Coolio's levitation following his performance of "Gangsta's Paradise," another being Vince Gill's speech after winning a Grammy for "Go Rest High on That Mountain," the song he wrote about the death of his brother. He thanked his mother "for giving me a big brother to love."

Meanwhile, the pre-show buzz about Grammy-winning Alanis Morissette concerned whether CBS would bleep some of her lyrics when she sang her "You Oughta Know." It didn't and it did, leaving in a reference to oral sex but deleting the colorful bleep word for sex. Not letting her utter the bleep word? Why, that's censorship, an assault on freedom of speech. That's absolutely un-American. If someone bleeped bleep from my writing, I wouldn't stand for it.

Something that could have used some bleeping, perhaps, was Mr. Dreyfuss' opus, a well-intended but preachy speech by actor Richard Dreyfuss about cutting government funding of school music programs ("We seem to feel in this country lately that we spend too much money. . . . This is an insane anxiety") that came across as overkill.

It's been a tough political year for the arts, though, and the prevailing wisdom at awards shows is, if you have the soapbox, use it.

Coolio Howio is now giving up his.

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