Okay, here's the score. Kanye West - eight.


Amy Winehouse - six.

CHADWICK: These two singers are leading this year's Grammy pack. Nominations for the awards were announced this morning. This is going to be the 50th year for the Grammys. The actual awards show is in February.

So we asked our curmudgeonly musical friend David Was for his thoughts about this august anniversary.

DAVID WAS: As the Grammy Awards turn 50, I don't know whether to break out the cold duck and quack, or put on a black suit and bemoan the sorry state of our celebrity-driven consumerist culture.

The music business has ever been a hotbed of crassness and corruption, with historical roots and organized crime and a reputation for crooked bookkeeping when it comes to paying royalties. True to form, when the awards season rolls around, money talks and music walks.

(Soundbite of song, "Money")

WAS: The august sounding National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences is less art and science than it is a front for the ownership class that lobbies hard to make sure its most profitable records get nominated and voted for.

Quincy Jones, who has won 26 of the guild's gramophones, is certainly a gifted musician and producer, but he's equally well-known in Hollywood for his persuasive politicking once the Grammy nominations are announced.

(Soundbite of song, "Bad")

Mr. MICHAEL JACKSON (Singer): (Singing) Who's bad?

WAS: Oh, yes. He's bad, all right.

(Soundbite of song, "Bad")

WAS: After all, a Grammy win translates into a post-telecast sales boost for the winners. And let's face it, if you can manipulate presidential votes in November with the whole nation watching, how hard was it to ensure that a lightweight band like Hootie and the Blowfish will win for Best New Artist in 1995? Well, when you sell over 10 million units, it's pretty much a lock.

(Soundbite of song, "Let Her Cry")

WAS: Then there's an even darker side to be considered. During the go-go '90s, the supposedly non-profit NARAS attracted legal scrutiny over its failure to return more than 10 percent of the moneys raised by its philanthropic arm, Music Cares, to the education and health care programs it was earmarked for.

Mike Greene, who presided over the outfit at the time, was earning more than $2 million annually, a record for nonprofit executive pay. Greene survived those headlines but was forced out after sexual harassment allegations surfaced and left with a severance package reportedly worth $8 million. Remind me to harass someone when this story is over.

(Soundbite of song, "Money")

WAS: Since that benighted era, former record exec Neil Portnow was brought aboard to clean things up, and noble efforts have been made to democratized the process of who wins what in which category.

But now the menu of sub-genres is as confusing as the latte lineup at Starbucks. Urban alternative, gospel versus soul gospel, Native American and Hawaiian music, Tejano and meringue - are some of the hundred or so awards given out.

In 1958 there were only 28 categories, and the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald won for best female pop performance.

(Soundbite of song, "Ain't No Other Man")

Ms. CHRISTINA AGUILERA (Singer): (Singing) Do your thing, honey.

WAS: Last year the same award went to the consummately tasteless Christina Aguilera, which says a lot about the demise of the music business and Western civilization in general.

(Soundbite of song, "Ain't No Other Man")

Ms. AGUILERA: (Singing) Something moved me deep inside. I don't know what you did, boy.

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY's answer to Andy Rooney, musician David Was.

(Soundbite of song, "Ain't No Other Man")

Ms. AGUILERA: (Singing) Ever since. I told my mother, my brother, my sister and my friends. I told the others, my lovers, both past and present tense. That every time I see you everything starts making sense.

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