A rare feat • There are many good reasons Cross' achievement has yet to be duplicated, including the theory that Grammy voters like to "spread the wealth" among the artists nominated in those four categories. Yet the strongest reason is that it's rare for acts to be nominated for both Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
Typically, Grammy voters like to hand out Album of the Year to well-established acts. Over the past 20 years, the award has gone to three debut offerings Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" in 2003, Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" in 1996 and "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" in 1990. And for our purposes, Hill's win must be coupled with an asterisk, since she had previously proven her talent as a member of the Fugees.
Yet this is a new era for the Grammy Awards, as voters seem dead set on showing that they're not oblivious to what is current and noteworthy in the music industry. That's a major change for a crew that had previously awarded Album of the Year to Natalie Cole (over R.E.M.) in 1991, Celine Dion (over Beck, the Fugees and Smashing Pumpkins) in 1997, Steely Dan (over Radiohead and Eminem) in 2001 and Herbie Hancock (over Amy Winehouse and Kanye West) in 2008.
Aiming for hip • In 2011, Grammy voters made a strong statement that they're no longer ignoring indie/alt rock and newer artists when they gave Album of the Year to Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs," over Eminem's more-deserving "Recovery." (We're still waiting for voters to improve on their pitiful record in honoring rap artists with the big awards.)
This year's batch of major-category nominees is further proof that Grammy voters want to show they're hip to what is hip. They ignored offerings by longtime Grammy favorites such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Coldplay even though Springsteen's and Dylan's efforts are better than most of the nominees in the Album of the Year category and embraced hot R&B newcomer Frank Ocean, indie-rock god Jack White, fun. and other trendy picks.
The exclamation point could come if Grammy voters decide to really have some fun. on Sunday night and etch that band's name alongside Cross as the only artists to win all four of the general-field categories in a single year.
Now that would be hip.
Listen to the music
The 55th annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast (with a one-hour tape-delay) at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10, on Channel 2.