U2, Alicia Keys will be big winners at Wednesday's Grammy Awards

U2 goes into Wednesday's Grammys as the odds-on favorite to walk off with eight awards

by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., February 22, 2002) -- With no Eminem to contend with, it will be a kinder, gentler Grammy Awards ceremony this year, one wholly devoid of controversy, unless you can get yourself really worked up over who’s better, Alicia Keys or India.Arie, or the fact that the broadcast will be at least a half-hour longer than usual due to the surfeit of scheduled performances.

Going into tonight’s program (CBS-TV or online at, 8 p.m.), the favorites to win the most awards are U2, with eight nominations, and Keys, with six. While U2’s album All That You Can’t Leave Behind has been around for nearly a year and a half, this year’s awards honor albums released between October 1, 2000 and September 30, 2001.

U2 already garnered several Grammys last year for the album’s first single, “Beautiful Day” (which was released before the album). But U2’s spiritual-minded anthems of faith and peace and an eponymous ode to New York took on all new meaning – in fact, they seemed shockingly prophetic -- in the wake of 9/11, making U2 the sentimental favorites to walk away with a cart full of awards tonight.

With six nominations and not much in the way of fierce competition, Alicia Keys also looks good to walk away with an armful of awards, including Best New Artist. Although India.Arie beat Keys with seven nominations, including best album (a nomination Keys did not receive), Keys is the music industry favorite, in large part for the way her success provides vindication for her svengali Clive Davis, the deposed chief of RCA Records. Keys and U2 have been scheduled to perform on the broadcast for weeks, while Arie was a last-minute addition to an ensemble number – perhaps offering an additional hint of who the big winners will be.

Here’s my annual forecast in selected categories. “W” indicates who I think will win; “SR” is who I’d like to see win.

Best Record: Arie’s “Video” and Keys’s “Fallin’” vie against each other in this category as well as for best r&b song, and here they’re likely to cancel each other out. Outkast’s “Ms. Jackson” is the dark horse in this category, but it’s likely to pick up the award for best rap performance by a duo or group. Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” isn’t even in the running, because U2’s “Walk On” is pretty much the theme song for the post 9/11 world, and thus the sentimental favorite to win. Look for a heavily emotional speech from Bono when he accepts this award. (W and SR: U2).

Best Album: An odd assortment of albums in this category includes the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers’ film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? which curiously enough was not nominated for best country album, although several songs were nominated in individual categories, including Ralph Stanley’s “O Death,” which will win best male country vocal award, and “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow,” which will win for best country vocal collaboration. Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft is certainly a better album than India.Arie’s Acoustic Soul and Outkast’s Stankonia -- although the latter has its guilty pleasures – and it would be a hoot to see Dylan sharing the award with produce “Jack Frost,” who shares the nomination with Dylan. (Frost is one of Dylan’s many aliases.) But U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind is the group’s best album since The Joshua Tree, and perhaps one of the great rock records of all time. (W and SR: U2.)

Best Song: This songwriter’s award replays the competition between Keys and Arie from the best record category. For some reason U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out of” was nominated here instead of “Walk On.” Nelly Furtado is nominated for her modern-day girl group anthem, “I’m Like a Bird,” and Train scored another nomination for its rock ballad, “Drops of Jupiter.” A tough one to call. Keys has to win more than just best new artist, Train is performing tonight so has to win something, but it’s U2’s year to sweep as many awards as possible. (W and SR: U2.)

Best New Artist: It’s within the realm of possibility that votes could be split among three deserving young-yet-mature female artists, India.Arie, Alicia Keys and Nelly Furtado, each of whom is a breath of non-Britney fresh air, thus allowing brat-rappers Linkin Park or David Gray – a “newcomer” who like last year’s winner, Shelby Lynne, has been making albums for a decade -- to eke out a victory. But that’s unlikely. This is Keys’s award to lose. (W: Alicia Keys. SR: Nelly Furtado.)

Best Female Pop Vocal: Newcomer Furtado, with four nominations to her credit, vies with industry legend Janet Jackson for this award, along with Faith Hill, Sade and Lucinda Williams. The academy always goes with the legend. (W: Janet Jackson. SR: Nelly Furtado.)

Best Male Pop Vocal: Local favorite James Taylor snuck in here with a nomination for his new version of “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” from jazzman Michael Brecker’s “Nearness of You” album. But the indefatigable Elton John will defeat Taylor, Michael Jackson, Craig David and Brian McKnight for this award. (W: Elton John. SR: James Taylor.)

Best Pop Group Vocal: U2 fends off boy groups ‘N Sync and Backstreet Boys, rock wannabes Five For Fighting, and fellow legends R.E.M. to win this award for “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.” (W and SR: U2.)

Best Pop Vocal Album: It would be quite a coup for Nelly Furtado to steal this award away from Janet Jackson, Elton John, ‘N Sync and Sade for Whoa, Nelly!, her debut album that casts her as the new, female Beck. But this battle is between industry giants John and Jackson. (W: Elton John. SR: Nelly Furtado.)

Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals: With 12 Grammy awards between them and a scheduled performance of their nominated song, “New York State of Mind,” Billy Joel – who will also be honored with a humanitarian award – and Tony Bennett are unbeatable in this category. (W and SR: Billy Joel and Tony Bennett.)

Best Male Rock Vocal: Old guys Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton and John Mellencamp vie with thirty-something Lenny Kravitz and newcomer Ryan Adams for this award. Before Dylan was announced as a performer last week, I’d called this category for Lenny Kravitz, who won last year. Now I’m calling this – and the award for best contemporary folk album – for Dylan, who turned in one of his all-time great sneering vocals on “Honest with Me.” (W and SR: Bob Dylan.)

Best Rock Performance by a Group: Again, Train goes up against U2 (for the latter’s “Elevation”). Again, Train loses. (W and SR: U2. )

Best Rock Song: This is Train’s only chance, because of a quirk in the nominations. U2 is nominated here twice: for “Elevation” and “Walk On.” Unless they add the votes for both U2 songs together, U2 voters will split their ballots, giving Train the shadiest victory since George W. Bush stole the presidency from Al Gore. (W: Train. SR: U2.)

Best Rock Album: Can you say U2? (W and SR: U2.)

Best Alternative Album: Radiohead make it two years in a row. (W and SR: Radiohead.)

Best Female R&B Vocal: Keys and Arie face off in this category with considerable competition from Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige. But sentimentality always wins out, so the late Aaliyah will receive this award posthumously. (W: Aaliyah. SR: India.Arie.)

Best R&B Song: It’s between Keys’s “Fallin’” vs. Arie’s “Video.” (W and SR: Keys.)

Best R&B Album: Keys vs. Arie, although Aaliyah could surprise. (W: Keys. SR: Arie.)

Best Male Country Vocal: A strong lineup of contenders includes newcomer Ryan Adams, current pop favorites Tim McGraw and Lyle Lovett, and legends Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. But the trophy goes to Ralph Stanley for his version of “O Death” from the O Brother soundtrack. (W and SR: Ralph Stanley.)

Fifteen nominated artists performed in the Berkshires in the last year or so, including James Taylor, Tony Bennett, Michael Feinstein, Gillian Welch, Mose Allison, Dianne Reeves, Regina Carter, Pat Martino, Sonny Rollins, Nicholas Payton, Blind Boys of Alabama, Keb Mo’, Beausoleil, Garrison Keillor and Bela Fleck.

[This article originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on February 27, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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