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Grammys Cast a Wider Net Than Usual

Awards * Breaking recent tradition, the academy's nominations are spread out among many acts.


In a year when no artist stepped forward to dominate the Grammy Award nominations, veterans such as Paul Simon, Steely Dan and U2 will contend in marquee categories against a newer generation of eclectic talents such as Beck, Radiohead and Eminem.

More than two dozen acts took three or more nominations Wednesday for the 43rd annual Grammys, breaking a recent tradition of one standout--such as Santana or Lauryn Hill--earning a singular spotlight with an armful of nods.

The most nominations, five, went to rapper-producer Dr. Dre and Beyonce Knowles, a member of the powerhouse R&B trio Destiny's Child. Dre had a stellar year with a comeback solo album along with his work on protege Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP," and Knowles' nominations include song and record of the year for "Say My Name."

In the race for record of the year (given to the artist, producer, recording engineer and/or mixer), Knowles' group will vie with some long-familiar names--U2 ("Beautiful Day") and Madonna ("Music")--along with the quirky but soulful voice of Macy Gray ("I Try") and the mega-selling youth pop stars of 'N Sync ("Bye Bye Bye").

The key album of the year category pits controversial rapper Eminem against two celebrated alt-rock heroes, Beck ("Midnite Vultures") and Radiohead ("Kid A"), and a pair of veteran acts that have set standards for music craft, Simon ("You're the One") and Steely Dan ("Two Against Nature").

Eminem is the only newcomer to the best album category--Beck was nominated in 1996, Radiohead in 1997, while Steely Dan got nods in 1977 and 1981. (Half of the group, Donald Fagen, had his album "The Nightfly" nominated in 1982.) "Two Against Nature" marked the first Steely Dan release in nearly two decades.

For Simon, a 16-time Grammy winner, it marks the fifth consecutive decade that he has been nominated in the best album category as a solo artist or member of Simon & Garfunkel. He has won the trophy four times, most recently for "Graceland" in 1986, with his only loss coming four years later with "Rhythm of the Saints."

C. Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, said he sees an encouraging eclecticism in this year's field of nominees.

"It's the most diverse group of artists we've ever had, and it's a very unusual year in terms of having 10 totally different artists as nominees in record of the year and album of the year. I don't think it's ever happened before," Greene said. "That diversity has really reinforced the fact that there's a lot of delineations in genres that are being torn down . . . , which from my perspective is a really good thing."

Grammy voters have often been criticized through the years for focusing on mainstream bestsellers rather than cutting-edge or innovative underground artists.

In nominating Simon and Steely Dan, however, the committee reached far beyond the national bestseller list. In fact, Eminem's collection is the only one of the five albums to crack the coveted 1 million sales mark. The album was the second-biggest seller of 2000 with almost 8 million copies sold since its release in May.

Simon's album has sold only about 350,000 copies since its release in October, and Steely Dan's album has sold about 786,000 since its spring release. Radiohead's "Kid A" has also been a sluggish seller, generating only about 660,000 sales since October. Beck's "Midnite Vultures" sales tally since its release in the fall of 1999 is about 605,000 copies.

The 43rd annual Grammy Awards, to be broadcast globally, will be staged Feb. 21 at Staples Center and aired in the U.S. by CBS.

The nominees for best new artist are country-soul singer Shelby Lynne, Vacaville rock-rap outfit Papa Roach, country singer Brad Paisley, soulful singer Jill Scott and Sisqo, of the R&B group Dru Hill, who scored one of the biggest hits of the year with "Thong Song."

Nominees for song of the year are the members of U2 for "Beautiful Day"; Stephanie Bentley and Holly Lamar for Faith Hill's "Breathe"; Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sellers for Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance"; Macy Gray, Jinsoo Lim, Jeremy Ruzumna and David Wilder for Gray's "I Try"; and LaShawn Daniels, Fred Jerkins III, Rodney Jerkins, Knowles, LeToya Luckett, LaTavia Roberson and Kelendria Rowland for "Say My Name" by Destiny's Child.

The mix of longtime artists and newer faces also defined the character of secondary races. In best female pop vocal, for instance, iconic singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell ("Both Sides Now") is nominated along with teen pop queens Christina Aguilera ("What a Girl Wants") and Britney Spears ("Oops! . . . I Did It Again").

In the counterpart male category, heartthrobs Ricky Martin ("She Bangs") and Marc Anthony ("You Sang to Me") will contend with elder rock statesmen Sting ("She Walks This Earth [Soberana Rosa]") and Don Henley ("Taking You Home").

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