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Merit or mega-hits?

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NARAS president, Neil Portnow, says the selection process is not influenced by money issues, rather it reflects the true judgment of music professionals. For the past 16 years, the academy has also released a compilation CD of the nominees.

"If, as happens every year," says Ms. Zaremski, "all of the nominees for Album, Record, and Song of the Year perform on the show and are included on the Grammy album, it will make for an economically successful year for NARAS."

Industry analyst, Bob Grossweiner, goes so far as to call elements of the process a "sham," to which Zaremski adds, "Once the question is asked: Can these really be the best albums, songs, or records produced this year or simply the popular choice, the Grammys have lost the objectivity and respect where it matters most – with true musicians – and have devalued the honor of receiving a Grammy."

But Mr. Portnow says irregularities in the voting process that in the past may have led to undue influence from record labels have been cleaned up. The reasons, he adds, that this year's nominations are more mainstream – not as edgy as the 2008 top album win by Herbie Hancock for "River: The Joni Letters," or last year's "Raising Sand," from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – are simple. "There just may not be the same sort of albums in those less mainstream corners of the music industry" this year.

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