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What do you get when you take the greatest living rapper and the greatest hip hip producer. You get one hot album. Sign the petition and lets make it happen.

by kenn on 2/06/2006 01:02:00 AM

Recognition for the team


THIS explosion of nominees stems from the academy's decision in 1999 to enfranchise the engineers and mixers who previously toiled in anonymity or at least without the prospect of an album of the year trophy for their efforts. (The same policy applies to the record of the year award.)

That expansion coincided with an increasing tendency among performers to assemble their albums using many production teams. Carey's "The Emancipation of Mimi" has 22 producers and engineers nominated for Grammys while 26 are in the running on Stefani's collection.

This trend clearly rubs old-school music romantics such as Lanois the wrong way, but it might be a stretch to blame it for some of the music business' sales woes. For one thing, the Carey and Stefani albums have bucked the tide, selling 5.1 million and 3.6 million copies, respectively. Clearly, their fans don't have a problem with it.

"In creating albums recently, people have been getting lots of producers," notes Jermaine Dupri, the main producer on Carey's album and Virgin Records' president of urban music. "You got different producers who are hot — myself, the Neptunes, Jimmy [Jam] and Terry [Lewis], blah blah blah….

"They want to make their album a rounded-out record. Most of the time that's how they end up looking — like a guest list of producers…. It's like, 'Who did that record I just heard on the radio? Let's get him.' "

But is it really fair to presume that using multiple producers is solely a strategy to get hits? There might be some old-fashioned rock snobbery at work here, because most of the targets for such criticism work in the more commercial-minded pop field. You don't hear the same complaints about U2, which will have a party of 15 winners (including Lanois) if "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" wins.

"With rock bands, they're self-contained units, and they tend to want to go in and work with one person," says Capitol Records President Andy Slater, who has produced albums by Fiona Apple and Macy Gray.

"But maybe in the other genres those artists see the construction of their records as not exclusive to one producer's particular sound….I still feel like that record has to hold together as some kind of novel at the end of the day; it has to take you somewhere and not throw you into five different short stories that are strung together.

"And depending on who's involved, you can get the feeling that you're going through the artist's vision equally as well with the right set of artists and producers."

Just Blaze, a producer nominee for Kanye West's "Late Registration," generally favors fewer producers on a project but says sometimes there's an artistic reason to branch out.

"From what I know," he says, "Gwen [Stefani] wanted to go all over the place and capture a bunch of different sounds — that's why she had so many producers on it. …. There are a lot of different genres. I read somewhere that it was her traveling through time in different periods in life that she was into. That way, getting different producers makes sense."

Don Was is another old-school guy. His latest productions include the Rolling Stones, Kris Kristofferson and Jessi Colter, and he won his album of the year Grammy for producing Bonnie Raitt's 1989 hit, "Nick of Time." But he views the evolution of his field in a broader context.

"It doesn't bother me at all," says the academy's 1994 producer of the year. "Different types of records require different things. There's a pendulum that swings from artists who have vision and point of view to artists who are great-looking and dance and sing catchy pop songs…. They're both valid ways of making records.

"And there's a form of pop music today where the producer is almost an artist," Was says. "They write the songs, they arrange the songs, they play the instruments, and along with the mixers and engineers they are the ones providing the artistic tone for the record. And when their artistic vision catches on with an audience, they deserve to be rewarded."

Even a holdout such as Lanois has to admire the efficiency. "It's kind of interesting, it's like a factory really," says Lanois, nominated this year for producing two U2 tracks, as well as for his own album, "Belladonna."

"I think the volume of work has definitely escalated, but the ratio of amazing stuff to things that will fall by the wayside I think is the same as it's ever been…. The feel, the vibe is still what people are responding to. For better or worse it's become easier to create a vibe, because you can just sample an old Joe Tex record, where the vibe is dripping, and people are gonna feel the vibe…. And you add a few things to it.

"It's a little bit like sneaking in the church at night and cutting out that old Leonardo da Vinci. 'Well, we couldn't get the whole thing, we got the arm, but it's got a vibe — let's put a hat on it.' "

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