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THE 2001 GRAMMYS | COUNTRY

Faith Hill Victories Would Show Where the Academy Stands

February 18, 2001|RANDY LEWIS

The most revealing country categories continue to be the best song and best album contests--and the winners will tell us whether the academy members remain more impressed by commercial muscle than emotional depth.

Voters seem to love hyper-emotional ballads and hit singles, which makes "Breathe" the front-runner for best song. Faith Hill's hit was written by Stephanie Bentley and Holly Lamar. However, Mark D. Sanders-Tia Sillers' nominated "I Hope You Dance," a breakthrough hit for Lee Ann Womack, best exemplifies quality songwriting.

The academy also is likely to reward Hill for selling 5 million copies of her "Breathe" album with a win in the best album category, even though Trisha Yearwood's "Real Live Woman" is by far the most compelling work nominated.

In an unusually diverse male vocal field, industry favorites Vince Gill and Tim McGraw might split votes enough for a left-field contender to have a shot at winning, and this year that's Johnny Cash.

His nominated version of Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man" isn't the strongest cut from his latest album, but there's no mistaking the weight of Cash's singular musical integrity in his performance. In addition, voters should be in the mood to salute him for persevering through serious illness in recent years.

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