Grammy-Award Night Delivers a Few Surprises, Departs From Tradition

Alanis Morisette's win reflects a move toward rewarding raw, adventurous songwriting

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ALANIS MORISETTE'S ''Jagged Little Pill'' won best rock album and album of the year as the Grammy Awards broke with tradition and embraced the not-so-romantic view of life.

Other big winners Wednesday night included Hootie and the Blowfish, which won awards for best new artist, and pop group vocal performance for ''Let Her Cry'' from 1995's best-selling album, ''Cracked Rear View.''

Seal's ''Kiss from a Rose'' won for record and song of the year, and he also grabbed the award for best male pop vocal performance. Annie Lennox won for best female pop vocal performance. Vince Gill, the trio TLC, and Stevie Wonder captured two Grammys each.

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Frank Sinatra collected his first competitive Grammy in 29 years with his ''Duets II'' album.

Morissette, a Canadian in her early twenties, hauled away a leading four Grammys, two for her chart-topping American album debut and two - best rock song and female rock vocal performance - for her lyrically raw single ''You Oughta Know.''

''I accept this on behalf of anyone who's ever written a song from a very pure place, a very spiritual place,'' Morissette said when accepting the album-of-the-year award.

Seeking to shake its stodgy reputation, the recording industry shunned the mainstream - Mariah Carey was zero for six nominations - and looked to others to counter complaints that winners did not reflect the most vital elements of contemporary music.

Morissette, backed by an orchestra, performed a more acoustic version of ''You Oughta Know,'' about a woman reeling with jealousy and betrayal from a lover's duplicity, during the three-hour CBS telecast from the Shrine Auditorium.

Carey, who opened the show with her ''One Sweet Day'' duet with Boyz II Men, came into the show tied with Morissette for six nominations. Carey's shutout exemplified the National Academy of Recording Arts and Science's shift away from mainstream music. Her album ''Daydream'' was the kind of lush, romantic recording the academy usually loves.

But the academy changed its nominating process this year - the first time in its 38-year history. In each of the top four categories - record, album, and song of the year, and best new artist - 20 entries with the most votes from the general membership were submitted to a 25-member blue-ribbon panel picked by the academy. The panel reviewed entries and selected nominees by secret ballot.

''It was real simple,'' academy President Michael Greene said. ''For years, we felt that a lot of sentimentality, a lot of popularity, were sprinkled through'' these categories.

''The panel's decisions were reflected not only in nominees but also in some of the winners.''

As evidence, Morissette capped her night with the album of the year trophy, a major reversal of a trend that has seen the award in the last three years go to ''The Bodyguard'' soundtrack and ''Unplugged'' recordings by Eric Clapton and Tony Bennett.

Backstage, Bennett wasn't taking it personally. ''I learned a long time ago the audience is the critic,'' he said. ''No matter how they change the categories, it's never going to change how a performer is'' seen by the audience.

The change, which Greene said would be instituted again next year in a broader context, was applauded by several artists.

''We definitely benefited,'' said rapper Coolio, whose ''Gangsta's Paradise'' became the first hard-core rap single ever nominated for record of the year. It won instead for best rap solo.

''The Grammys are coming full circle,'' Coolio said. ''For a lot of years, they were real stiff. They started to loosen up the past five years, and this year they're there, and I'm real happy to be there.''

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