``Typically, the Soul Train Music Awards have been a barometer for the public sentiment of African-American people,'' said Dyana Williams, whose Center City-based International Association of African-American Music hosts an annual music conference, among other programs.
``It's further illustrated when you attend a Soul Train Music Awards show and the audience cheers or boos artists. I liken Soul Train versus the Grammys to the Oscars versus the NAACP Image Awards. It's an opportunity to recognize people wno are overlooked by Grammy voters.''
As usual, Grammy perennials Luther Vandross, Take 6 and Patti LaBelle - doing far from their best work - are nominees. Chaka Khan is inexplicably nominated in the R&B Vocal Performance category for a jazz song, while Carey is nominated in the same category and for Best R&B Song for ``Honey,'' clearly a pop song.
The only first-time nominee in the entire R&B female category is Erykah Badu. Grammy voters virtually ignored R&B queen Mary J. Blige, whose only Grammy nomination is for Best R&B Album. Meanwhile, she's a three-time Soul Train nominee this year for the single ``Everything'' and for Best Female Soul/R&B Album, and R&B/Soul Album of the Year.
Not surprisingly, the ever-present Combs received five nominations from Soul Train and four from the Grammys, including Best New Artist. He and Badu, both artists who cross over to the pop charts, were almost equally recognized by both Grammy and Soul Train voters. She is a Best New Artist nominee in both contests, achieving a total of three Grammy nominations and four Soul Train nods.
The most glaring differences are in the male categories. While Usher gets a nod for his ``You Make Me Wanna'' in both places, singers Joe, Maxwell (for his ``Unplugged lp'') and the Artist Formerly Known as Prince, and the group Dru Hill, all Soul Train nominees, were ignored by the Grammys. Dru Hill, one of the biggest R&B groups of the year, is a particularly boneheaded omission, especially when Boyz II Men's lukewarm album ``Evolution'' is a nominee.
``They've made efforts to be more reflective of popular culture,'' Williams said of the Grammy organization. ``But they still have a ways to go.''