Analysis: Music awards and changing tastes

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter  |  Sept. 17, 2003 at 12:50 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- The list of nominees for the 31st American Music Awards, announced Tuesday in Beverly Hills, illustrates the sometimes rapid rate of change in public taste in popular music, even if it does include some perennial favorites such as Cher, Celine Dion and Alan Jackson.

The list reflects change in more ways than one. Not only are many of last year's winners absent from this year's roster of nominees, but the actual awards categories have also been changed substantially -- continuing the American Music Awards' historical tendency to adjust to the constant evolution of pop music styles and forms.

Last year's hip-hop/R&B category has been broken into two seprate categories this year -- one for soul/R&B and one for rap/hip-hop. New artist awards -- presented last year in the pop/rock, hip-hop/R&B and country music categories -- are not part of this year's awards. The category for favorite movie soundtrack is also gone from the list.

The biggest change of all, of course, is the date. Traditionally, the American Music Awards have been held in January. This year, the awards are being presented in November.

The change was made partly to move the show out of the increasingly congested traffic of Hollywood's awards show season, which became even more compressed earlier this year when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to move the Academy Awards up one month -- from the end of March to the end of February. That decision set off a chain reaction, with other awards shows moving their presentations up accordingly.

However, American Music Awards producers said moving their show to November made sense on other counts as well. The date is particularly attractive to the recorded music industry, since the telecast will showcase top recording artists at the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. The show will probably enjoy heavy promotion by ABC, since it falls within the November sweeps ratings period.

No one artist dominated the proceedings this year. Instead, 14 recording acts picked up two nominations each.

They included pop stars Dion, Kid Rock and Justin Timberlake; country stars Toby Keith, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain; and hip-hop stars Missy Elliott and 50 Cent. Grammy-winner Norah Jones also scored two nominations, along with R&B stars Luther Vandross, Ashanti and Beyonce Knowles, and hip-hop artists R. Kelly and Sean Paul.

The nominees also include some pop music "old timers" who are enjoying renewed popularity. Fleetwood Mac -- one of the top-selling recording acts of the 1970s -- is up for favorite pop/rock band, duo or group. The Isley Brothers -- best known for the '60s classic "Twist and Shout" -- are nominated for favorite soul/R&B band, duo or group.

Clay Aiken, this year's runner up on "American Idol," is up for favorite male pop/rock artist -- along with Kid Rock, Timberlake and John Mayer. Last year's winner, Eminem, was not nominated in the category this year -- although he was nominated for favorite male rap/hip-hop artist.

Dion -- who has returned to performing and recording following a long hiatus -- is up for favorite female pop/rock artist, along with Avril Lavigne and Jennifer Lopez. Last year's winner in the category, Sheryl Crow, was not nominated this year.

Last year's winner for favorite pop/rock band, duo or group -- Creed -- was not nominated this year. In addition to Fleeetwood Mac, the other nominees in the category are Matchbox Twenty and 3 Doors Down.

The nominees for favorite pop/rock album are "Fallen" (Evanescence); "Come Away With Me" (Jones); "Cocky" (Kid Rock); and "Justified" (Timberlake).

The nominees for favorite soul/R&B artist are Ginuwine, Jaheim, Kelly and Vandross -- the R&B superstar who is recovering from a massive stroke he suffered earlier this year, just before the release of his latest album, "Dance with My Father." The album has been one of this year's top-sellers, and is up for favorite soul/R&B album -- along with Ashanti's "Chapter II," Knowles' "Dangerously in Love" and Kelly's "Chocolate Factory."

Ashanti and Knowles are up for favorite female soul/R&B artist, along with the late Aaliyah.

Kenny Chesney joined Jackson, Keith and McGraw on the list of nominees for favorite male country artist. Twain is up for favorite female country artist, along with Faith Hill and Martina McBride. McGraw and McBride were the winners last year.

The nominees for favorite country band, duo or group are Alabama, Brooks & Dunn and Dixie Chicks -- who won the award last year, then put their popularity on the line several weeks later with their outspoken criticism of President Bush's preparation for war in Iraq.

The 30th American Music Awards served as something of a platform for anti-war sentiment, as Crow wore a T-shirt to the podium that said "War is not the answer," and ended her thank you speech with the words: "Peace, peace this year!" Later -- as she introduced a duet featuring Toby Keith and Willie Nelson -- Crow told the audience: "I know this is an awards show but I just want to encourage everybody to get involved in some kind of movement for peace."

Keith ("Unleashed"), McGraw ("Tim McGraw & The Dancehall Doctors") and Twain ("Up!") are nominated for favorite country album, along with Rascal Flats, for their album "Melt."

In the rap/hip-hop categories, Eminem is up for favorite male artist along with 50 Cent, Nelly and Sean Paul. Favorite female artist nominees are Missy Elliott, Eve and Lil' Kim. Black Eyed Peas, Bone Crusher and Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz are up for favorite duo, band or group. Elliott ("Under Construction") and 50 Cent ("Get Rich or Die Tryin'")are both up for favorite album.

The awards telecast will also featured the annual presentation of an Award of Merit, in recognition of "outstanding contributions to the musical entertainment of the American public." Past winners have included Johnny Cash, Ella Fitzgerald, Chuck Berry, Stevie Wonder, Kenny Rogers, Michael Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Frank Sinatra. Alabama won the award last year.

Winners of the American Music Awards are selected by the public, based on a national sampling of approximately 20,000 people, conducted by National Family Opinion, Inc., under the supervision of Broadcast Research and Consulting, Inc. The list of nominees was compiled from data supplied by the music industry trade publication Radio & Records and the Soundscan Inc., management information system. Results of the voting, tabulated by the Ernst & Young LLP accounting firm, are kept secret until envelopes are opened during the presentation ceremonies.

The 31st American Music Awards will be presented on Nov. 16 in ceremonies hosted by Jimmy Kimmel at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, to be telecast by ABC.

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