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Pop music's invisible man

Garth Brooks tops the charts so why isn’t he nominated for Album of the Year?

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With three of the year’s biggest-selling albums, Garth Brooks was easily the pop-music phenomenon of 1991. He became the symbol of Nashville’s new gold rush, in which dozens of country artists have roped spots on the pop charts.

Yet, astonishingly, when it came time to recognize the major achievements of 1991, Brooks — although nominated for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, and Best Music Video, Shortform — was shut out of the two biggest Grammy categories, Album of the Year and Record of the Year.

”We were surprised that Garth didn’t get one of the major nominations,” says Mike Greene, president of NARAS. ”But vast commercial success doesn’t have anything to do with why people vote for Grammys. The Grammys are supposed to reward creative excellence.”

That clearly means that Academy members — who vote on thousands of candidates to determine the nominees — don’t care about Brooks’ revenues or about his music, either. Of course, excellence is in the ear of the beholder, but not very many ears of NARAS voters seem tuned to country. In fact, fewer than one-quarter of the members are country oriented.

”NARAS is a pop deal,” says Jimmy Bowen, president of Liberty Records, Garth Brooks’ label, and he doesn’t sound real disappointed. Bowen understandably prefers the Academy of Country Music awards, coming April 29. ”In L.A. and New York, the Grammys are the biggest thing there is. But in Nashville, they don’t mean anything.”