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Tuesday, September 8, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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`Mtv Video Awards': Playing's The Thing

"The MTV Video Music Awards" are not so much about video as they are about performance. The annual telecast, set for 6 p.m. tomorrow on MTV, has become a showcase for live music, attracting the top acts in rock. The telecast lasts about three hours, but only 10 awards are presented. The rest of the time is taken up with performances.

The big news for Northwest fans is that Nirvana, which has played only a handful of shows this year, will appear, just two days before its Coliseum show here. Pearl Jam is also set to play. Guns N' Roses, which doesn't do many live shows, is promised - but with them, you never know. U2 is also on the bill, along with Bryan Adams, Eric Clapton, the Black Crowes, Bobby Brown, Def Leppard, En Vogue, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Cure.

Dana Carvey hosts the event, from UCLA's Pauley Pavilion. Following are the nominees for some of the top awards, with speculation on who will win, and our picks on who should win.

Best Video

Nominees: Def Leppard, "Let's Get Rocked"; Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"; Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Under the Bridge"; Van Halen, "Right Now."

Who Will Win: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Under the Bridge."

Who Should Win: Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Nirvana's video perfectly captures the spirit of the song with a hellish vision of a high-school pep rally. It's as visually compelling and mysterious as the lyrics. But the video came out a long time ago and has been played to death, and the parody of it by "Weird Al" Yankovic, which poked fun at lead singer Kurt Cobain's mumbled vocal, has robbed the original of much of its sting. Plus, Nirvana has lost some of its allure because of tales of drug problems and its long layoff from touring. The Peppers clip is of more recent vintage, represents a change of pace for the band - it's a ballad, and the group usually plays at warp speed - and is the best song the band has ever done. The fact that the Peppers were in the midst of headlining the giant Lollapalooza tour at the time of the voting (from the industry and the music media) didn't hurt, either. Van Halen's entry expands on the song with clever, funny and sometimes tragic written-word descriptions of things that are happening in our world "right now," but the song itself is so-so. Def Leppard's clip is interchangeable from almost every other performance video they're ever done.

Best Male Video

Nominees: Eric Clapton, "Tears in Heaven"; John Mellencamp, "Get A Leg Up"; Tom Petty, "Into the Great Wide Open"; Bruce Springsteen, "Human Touch"; "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Smells Like Nirvana."

Who Will Win: Eric Clapton, "Tears in Heaven."

Who Should Win: Tom Petty, "Into the Great Wide Open."

Clapton has the edge because his clip comes from his appearance on MTV's "Unplugged," and the moving song, about the accidental death of his young son, is one of his best ever. And, once again, it's fairly recent and fresh in the memory of thevoters. But Petty's video is a much more impressive achievement, a mini-movie about the rise and fall of a Hollywood rock star, starring Faye Dunaway and Johnny Depp. Springsteen's clip is well made but the song is bland. Same for Mellencamp. Yankovic's Nirvana parody is a kick, but humorous videos rarely win.

Best Female Video

Nominees: Tori Amos, "Silent All These Years"; Annie Lennox, "Why"; Madonna, "Holiday"; Vanessa Williams, "Save the Best for Last."

Who Will Win: Madonna, "Holiday."

Who Should Win: Madonna, "Holiday."

Madonna by default. Tori Amos created an initial stir with her powerful song about child sexual abuse, but the song didn't have legs and disappeared quickly. Lennox had an interesting new look and a classy clip, but again the song was not a keeper. Williams' pop ballad was a big hit but was much more a VH-1 than an MTV video. So the prize goes to Madonna, even though the clip was of an old song and was little more than a plug for her movie, "Truth or Dare," from which the clip came. Besides, MTV loves everything Madonna does.

Best Group Video

Nominees: Arrested Development, "Tennessee"; Cracker, "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)"; Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"; Tori Amos, "Silent All These Years."

Who Will Win: Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

Who Should Win: Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

So why will Nirvana win this one and be snubbed for best video? Because the competition here is weaker. Arrested Development may have a chance with its moody, haunting portrayal of poverty and discrimination; it would be a worthy winner. But the video didn't get the widespread airplay that Nirvana's did, and the song was not as big a hit. Cracker's clip is OK, but was hardly a breakthrough. It didn't even get played much. If the backlash against Nirvana is strong, Amos may be a compromise winner.

Best Rap Video

Nominees: Arrested Development, "Tennessee"; Black Sheep, "The Choice Is Yours"; Kris Kross, "Jump"; Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, "Good Vibrations"; Sir Mix-a-Lot, "Baby Got Back."

Who Will Win: Kris Kross, "Jump."

Who Should Win: Arrested Development, "Tennessee."

The boys of Kris Kross have the edge because their video was a giant smash, one of the biggest hits of the year. But it's just a piece of confection next to the much more substantial "Tennessee," which wasn't just a fun dance tune, like "Jump," but gave you something to think about. Sir Mix-a-Lot could be the winner, if the voters are in a puckish mood. But the tune is awfully juvenile. The Black Sheep clip is clever and stylish; however, the tune was not big. Marky Mark has got the muscle, but is up against much stronger material.

Best Dance Video

Nominees: En Vogue, "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)"; Madonna, "Holiday"; Marky Mark & the Funky Bunch, "Good Vibrations"; Prince & the New Power Generation, "Cream."

Who Will Win: En Vogue, "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)."

Who Should Win: En Vogue, "My Lovin' (You're Never Gonna Get It)."

En Vogue's video has everything - it's fun, funny, glamorous and sexy, and the tune is hot. Even though the leggy women of En Vogue don't do much more than sashay down a runway, they do it with much elan. And the other dancers in the video are great. Marky Mark doesn't dance in his clip, just flexes his pecs (although his backup dancers are good). Madonna will win in other categories. And Prince's naughtiness has become a boring cliche.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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