21 Days of Grammies: Part 16

Why should you care about the Grammy Awards? Very valid question. But let’s face it: as the Writer’s Strike threatens to shut down more and more red carpet events, the 50th Annual Grammies may be the only constant in this year’s lagging awards season. In that light, the following is the sixteenth installment in my three-week countdown to February 10. Read below for my picks & pans in one of ’08’s many Grammy categories.

The award: Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals

Past five winners: Tony Bennett & Stevie Wonder (“For Once In My Life”); Gorillaz & De La Soul (“Feel Good Inc.”); Ray Charles & Norah Jones (“Here We Go Again”); Sting & Mary J. Blige (“Whenever I Say Your Name”); Santana & Michelle Branch (“The Game of Love”)

2008 Nominees
“Steppin’ Out,” Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera
“Beautiful Liar,” Beyoncé and Shakira
“Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On),” Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
“The Sweet Escape,” Gwen Stefani and Akon
“Give it to Me,” Timbaland featuring Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake

Who’s Missing: Diddy and Keyshia Cole for “Last Night.” Up to now, Sean Combs has averaged one Grammy per name change: as Puff Daddy, he won in 1997 for No Way Out; then, in 2004, he won as P. Diddy for “Shake Ya Tailfeather.” But as Diddy, he hasn’t even been nominated — and if “Last Night” can’t pull down a nom, one wonders what can. The track is a brilliant exercise in minimal retro funk, where Diddy makes the right decision to sing as little as possible.

Who Shouldn’t Be There: Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera. Between them, Tony and Christina have 18 Grammies, and Tony is defending his ’07 title in this category. There’s just one problem: “Steppin’ Out” is not actually on Duets, Bennett’s latest CD. Nor is it on Back to Basics, Christina’s latest CD. That makes the song entirely ineligible for a Grammy nomination. I’m not sure how the track snuck onto this list, as Christina and Tony only performed it for promotional purposes — never actually recording the song. You may think I’m nuts, but check the Amazon.com listing here. “Steppin’ Out” just ain’t there.

Who Should Win: Gwen and Akon. It’s kind of a stretch to call “The Sweet Escape” a collaboration, as Gwen sings the entire thing while Akon makes a few monkey noises. But “Escape” was 2007’s second most-downloaded digital single, and rightly so: it’s a catchy piece of California pop with all the right horn stabs and bell chimes perfectly in place. It also inspired this year’s worst audition on American Idol.

Who Will Win: Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera. As you read above, “Steppin’ Out” is ineligible to even be nominated by my logic. But I also thought that David would defeat Goliath (wait, he did what?) and that the Giants would beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. (Wait, they did what?!?) I guess I’m just crazy.

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