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Grammys drop 'granny' image, get hip (-hop)

Pharrell Williams
Pharrell Williams

First, the Grammys got respectable. Now, they're threatening to get hip.

With acts like OutKast, the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams and Jay-Z eating up lots of nominations this year, the Grammys have finally caught up with the age of two-way pagers and baggy pants.

True, in recent times voters have allowed token rappers into their exclusive ranks.

But the big winners still tended to be artists who appeal to the old folks, such as Norah Jones and Steely Dan.

This year marks the first time styles associated with urban lives have made headway into the otherwise suburban enclaves of Grammyville.

Not that the most deserving records are necessarily the ones that were picked.

Beyonce isn't exactly breaking deep emotional ground with "Crazy in Love" (up for Record of the Year). And even OutKast's critically hailed "Hey Ya' amounts to little more than a very enjoyable novelty song.

Christina Aguilera's icky "Beautiful," nominated for Song of the Year, conforms to the Grammy's old taste for corn.

This year, there are more than the usual number of what-were-they-thinking moves.

How did a mediocre album from the Broadway/R&B singer Heather Headley earn her a Best New Artist bid?

And did voters really mean to put up the fluffy "I'm With You" by Avril Lavigne and the Matrix in the important Best Song slot?

One pleasant jolt this year was the appearance of snappy pop band Fountains

of Wayne in the Best New Artist bin.

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And no one deserves a chance at Best Album more than Missy Elliott, whose "Under Construction" rates as one of the most creative hip-hop albums ever conceived.

Missy snuck in just under the deadline this year.

Not so lucky was Johnny Cash's latest album.

That recording, so it turns out, was released right after this year's cut-off and so was shut out at a time when the industry was most likely to pay Cash, who died in September, the most attention.

At least Warren Zevon, who also died in September, got a well-deserved posthumous Best Song nod for his wonderful, and very moving farewell, "Keep Me in Your Heart for Awhile."

But if we read the signals of the nominees right, a more likely winner for Song and Record might be Eminem's "Lose Yourself."

If so, the Grammys may finally shed its granny image.