The orchestra launches into a few sanitized bars of ”Bullet With Butterfly Wings.” A thoroughly clean-shaven Billy Corgan takes the podium, his ”Zero” T-shirt belying the number of trophies the Smashing Pumpkins have racked up in a Grammy sweep. A tear twinkles in his eye as he leans into the microphone and haltingly speaks: ”Despite all my rage, I am still just…eternally grateful to everyone who voted for us! First, I’d like to send a shot out to the big man upstairs, from whom all blessings flow, and my mom, and…”
A pipe dream? Well, yeah. Though the Grammy nominations have gotten hepper, with rock-critic faves going up against the usual zeptuple-platinum powerhouses, the lion’s share will still almost certainly be claimed by traditionalists like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Babyface, and surprise nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. But at least some major nominees — beautiful-noise makers like Fugees, Garbage, Beck, and the Pumpkins — actually reflect known reality of what’s shaping pop music today. We’ll see just which faction flowers at the Garden (New York’s Madison Square, that is) on Feb. 26.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
”Give Me One Reason,” Tracy Chapman; ”Change the World,” Eric Clapton; ”Because You Loved Me (Theme From Up Close & Personal),” Celine Dion; ”Ironic,” Alanis Morissette; ”1979,” the Smashing Pumpkins
WILL WIN: Clapton’s mix of old-school virtues and new-school sleekness (courtesy of producer and multiple nominee Babyface) is a safe, hip way for Grammy voters to prove their world is changing.
SHOULD WIN: The Pumpkins’ ode to adolescent suburban ennui, set to an inordinately subtle hook, makes you forget Billy Corgan’s scary Goth Uncle Fester look.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Odelay, Beck; Falling Into You, Celine Dion; The Score, Fugees; Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, the Smashing Pumpkins; Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack, Various Artists
WILL WIN: The worthier, edgier entries should cancel each other out, letting blandest choice Dion rise to the top.
SHOULD WIN: In any other year, Beck or Fugees would be our dark horse of choice. But in this unusually strong patch, the Pumpkins scored the truest teen-zeitgeist smash.
SONG OF THE YEAR
”Because You Loved Me,” Diane Warren, songwriter; ”Blue,” Bill Mack; ”Change the World,” Gordon Kennedy, Wayne Kirkpatrick, and Tommy Sims; ”Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” Babyface; ”Give Me One Reason,” Tracy Chapman
WILL WIN: Warren’s movie theme will score; giving awards to Lite FM ballads is as much a part of the telecast as the boring classical segment.
SHOULD WIN: Chapman’s blues lament made no overwrought statements and was thus the most eloquent of the bunch.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Garbage; Jewel; No Doubt; The Tony Rich Project; LeAnn Rimes
WILL WIN: Unless voters chicken out in favor of a safe tart like Jewel or No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani, Garbagewoman Shirley Manson remains the industry’s favored diva-in-waiting.