Like a New Year's hangover, it happens every January. The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences trumpets its nominees for the next Grammy Awards, and the press responds with a music all its own a huge collective groan. If you're surprised by this year's bland picks (Celine Dion? Ace of Base? Seal?), you shouldn't be. The 7,000 mysteriously mainstream people who hand out the Grammys are never going to honor a band with a name like Hole. Even so, there are more than a few nutty enigmas among this year's nominees. Some favorites:
Beating out Hole and Pearl Jam as Best Alternative Music nominees are such savagely avant-garde acts as Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, and the Crash Test Dummies.
Why worry about this year's new music when there's so much old stuff around? Two numbers named in the Best Male Rock Vocal slot are live versions of Peter Gabriel's ''Red Rain'' and Van Morrison's ''In the Garden.'' The originals came out in 1986!
But those are a tame prelude to the R&B category. While filling the ballot with such yawn-provoking names as Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, and Gladys Knight, the Academy shut out swoon-man R. Kelly (''Bump N' Grind''), who as a songwriter, performer, and producer is easily the biggest news in R&B in years. Says Barry Weiss of Jive Records, Kelly's label: ''It's surprising, bordering on shocking, that he's not nominated.''
Who's to blame? ''Everyone moans about the Grammys, but a lot of those people don't join NARAS,'' says Hugo Burnham, senior director of A&R at Qwest Records and former Gang of Four member. ''Musicians should alert younger musicians that they could be voting. You can only change the beast from within.''