Courtesy Jive Records
January 05, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

At Tuesday’s Grammy nominations ceremony, Best New Artist nominee Britney Spears was deep in conversation with producer du jour Rodney Jerkins, the 22-year-old behind the Brandy & Monica smash ”The Boy Is Mine.” Spears, whose midriff-baring outfit broke her Teen People vow not to show her belly button anymore, remained mum about her upcoming album (due out May 16). But Jerkins, who’s currently in the studio with both Michael Jackson and Toni Braxton, told EW Online that he and the ”Crazy” gal were talking about collaborating on a song for her new album, or maybe a future soundtrack. ”I’m gonna give her a more sexy-sounding Janet Jackson feel,” said Jerkins, ”not so poppy.”

This isn’t the only Janet Jackson-like move Spears is mulling. She has said that she wants photographer/video director Herb Ritts to snap the cover of her sophomore album, because Ritts was responsible for Jackson’s sexy ”Love Will Never Do (Without You)” video. Makes sense. Positioning herself as the next Janet Jackson is a sure way for Spears to distance herself from fellow Best New Artist nominee Christina Aguilera, who seems intent on becoming the next Mariah Carey.

Spears was visibly beaming while her Grammy nominations were read, but at least one presenter wasn’t so pleased. Sisqo, the frontman for the R&B group Dru Hill, was disappointed that his group received no nods despite being named Billboard’s Top Hip Hop/R&B Group of ’99. Perhaps Dru Hill’s gritty sound put off Grammy voters, who seemed to prefer their R&B smoothed-out (Mary J. Blige), crossover-approved (Whitney Houston, Brian McKnight, R. Kelly), or by TLC. ”I don’t know what we haven’t done,” said a frustrated Sisqo, ”but somehow we’ve fallen short of the glory of Boyz II Men [who’ve collected four Grammys].”

One of the ceremony’s lighter moments came when Sisqo announced the Best Musical Show Album nominees, pronouncing ”Fosse” (a tribute to famed choreographer Bob Fosse) as ”fuzi.” Given Sisqo’s penchant for breakneck dancing and in-concert theatrical displays like flying through the air, we thought he’d be down with the Great White Way. But the silver-haired soulman, who’s just released a side project ”Unleash the Dragon,” explains, ”I’ve been so busy with the solo album that the last show I saw was ‘The Lion King.”’ And of course, there’s nothing like a little ”hakuna matata” to help ease one’s no-Grammy-nomination blues.

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