Grammys do the time-warp again

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The Independent Online
WERE THESE the Grammy awards for 1999 or 1969? Where the British winners were concerned, anyway, this year's annual American music industry awards showed a strong penchant for the tried and tested, with old-timers such as Eric Clapton, Elvis Costello and Jimmy Page eclipsing more up- to-date, not to say youthful, names.

Clapton, who has been brandishing Grammys almost as long as he has wielded his beloved guitar, was named best male vocalist in the pop category for his song "My Father's Eyes". Page, with another heavy jamming warhorse from times past, Robert Plant, took the gong for best hard rock performance for the track "Most High". Meanwhile, Costello, a mere spring chicken, won the award for best pop collaboration with vocals for "I Still Have That Other Girl", teaming up with the legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach - not exactly a man in the prime of youth, either.

In an awards ceremony known for its conservatism,there were some daring choices. The big winner was Lauryn Hill, the 23-year-old hip hop singer from the Fugees who struck gold with her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. She won five Grammys - a record for a female artist - including album of the year and best new artist.

Women dominated almost all of the main categories, including Madonna (four Grammys for Ray of Light), Sheryl Crow (best rock album for The Globe Sessions), Alanis Morissette (best rock song and best female rock vocal for "Uninvited") and Celine Dion.

For Madonna, the awards came as belated recognition for her 16 years at the top of the music industry - she had never won a Grammy before for anything other than best video. If she had seemed risque in the past, on Wednesday night she seemed a venerable elder of the music establishment, performing one of her songs in an arresting, but hardly controversial, Japanese gown.

As for Dion, the four awards for herself and her ubiquitous tune, "My Heart Will Go On", confirmed the continuing weakness awards committees have for the hit film Titanic.

With the exception of Hill, there were no real surprises. Perhaps the emblematic moment was a performance by Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner from their award-winning spoken comedy album, The 2000-Year-Old Man in the Year 2000: entertainers raised in an earlier, more inspired, age who looked almost as old as the hero of their act.