- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

The collection of artists who announced 2003's Grammy hopefuls yesterday at Madison Square Garden in New York was an eclectic bunch, a reflection of the ever-expanding scope of the coveted music industry awards.
Country crooner Kenny Chesney, teen pop sensations Avril Lavigne and Justin Timberlake, funky folk rocker John Mayer, R&B; producer Jimmy Jam, neo-soul singer Ashanti and the rapper Nelly each took turns reading a roster of artists that's as segmented as any group of nominees in Grammy history.
Though mainstream and well-established artists including Bruce Springsteen and Sheryl Crow, each nominated for five Grammys, led the pack, casual music fans will face a bewilderingly diverse stable of artists and categories if they tune in to CBS' Feb. 23 broadcast of the 45th annual Grammy Awards.
"This year's nominations reflect the diversity and eclecticism that make music our universal language," Recording Academy President Neil Portnow explained at yesterday's press conference.
In its strenuous effort to leave no genre unturned, the Recording Academy, the Santa Monica-based music industry group that runs the Grammys, added two new categories to the R&B; field best contemporary R&B; album and best urban/alternative performance.
A category for best dance recording also was created, bringing the total number of awards to 104, up from 101 last year.
"I think the intention was to get dance purists to vote for dance acts rather than pop voters cherrypicking a familiar name such as Janet Jackson," says Larry Flick, senior talent editor at Billboard magazine in New York, over the phone.
The new R&B; and dance awards were added to a field of categories already as scattershot as the college football bowl series.
A sample of some of the more obscure not to say minor Grammy categories: best classical crossover album; best spoken-word album (which the junior senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, won in 1997 while first lady); and best Native American music album.
Grammys also are awarded in both the alternative and hard rock genres, seemingly indistinguishable categories for a band such as Nickelback, whose "How You Remind Me" was nominated for record of the year.
Conspicuously absent from this year's list of nominees were Celine Dion, a perennial media favorite, and the classical singer Josh Groban, whose debut album sold 2.7 million copies without much help from radio stations. Also missing were the critically acclaimed "saviors of rock" the Strokes, the White Stripes, the Hives and the Vines.
Takoma Park-based folk artists Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer received a total of three nominations, including a nod for best folk album for their "Postcards" recording.
Plenty of ubiquitous radio fare was recognized by the academy this year.
Rappers Eminem and Nelly, pop-jazz vocalist Norah Jones, the R&B; singer Raphael Saadiq and Ashanti received five nominations apiece.
"A lot of teen acts still managed to get nominated," Mr. Flick says.
The teen-pop diva Avril Lavigne, for example, joined the pack leaders with five nominations, including for best new artist.
"It confirms what a lot of critics believe: that the Grammys tend to honor commercial success rather than artistic merit," Mr. Flick says.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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