Sure, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds has, as his nickname suggests, an agreeable visage and, yeah, he makes some pretty good music, but we're hoping the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) spreads the wealth around tonight at the 39th annual Grammy Awards.
Babyface tied Michael Jackson's record 12 nominations--and will even compete against himself in the top R&B and movie song categories--and he's a lock to win at least one award, for best producer. He and Eric Clapton will perform a duet on "Change the World." Whitney Houston, Brandy, CeCe Winans and Mary J. Blige will sing a medley of his tunes from Waiting to Exhale. In short, we may suffer Babyface overload.
Fortunately, for the second straight year the recording academy has stumbled toward credibility, giving multiple nominations in glamour categories to alternative acts like the Smashing Pumpkins and Beck. Both will perform tonight, and we can't wait to see how the industry's Tony Bennett-loving old guard reacts to Beck's bohemian-folk-rock-hip-hop "Where It's At." Other performers include No Doubt, Tracy Chapman, Celine Dion, Fugees, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, violinist Gil Shaham and the happy-footed casts of Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk and Riverdance.
This is the first year the event will be staged in an arena. The 12,000 seats in Madison Square Garden sold out instantly, but virually all tickets went to industry folks. NARAS itself has 13,000 members, 9,000 of which voted on the Grammys.
In addition to the suspense surrounding some categories (best new artist is a toss-up with Jewel, LeAnn Rimes, No Doubt, Tony Rich and Garbage all with legitimate shots), another drama will play out Wednesday evening. New York and Los Angeles have engaged in a tug-of-war over the event and if tonight's ceremony goes over well, Manhattan could have the upper hand in keeping the show.
There will be a total of 89 awards presented tonight, beginning with an off-camera ceremony at 5 p.m. ET. That's when Hillary Clinton could become the first first lady to win a Grammy--she's favored to capture best spoken word performance for her rendition of It Takes a Village. The CBS broadcast, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, begins at 8 p.m. ET (tape delayed to 8 p.m. PT).