Ranging from hard rock to country and from rap to pop, this collection of 11 recordings covering the nominees for Grammy Awards in the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist demonstrated the diversity of popular music in 1994-1995. (Despite the "1996" in the title, the period of eligibility ran from October 1, 1994, to September 30, 1995.) Subject matter was mostly, but not exclusively romantic, leaving room for Coolio featuring L.V. to rap about life in a "Gangsta's Paradise" and for Joan Osborne to sing Eric Bazilian's Song of the Year-nominated lyrics speculating about the nature of God in "One of Us." When love was the matter at hand, sentiments were conventional no matter what the musical style: rocker Alanis Morrisette raged obscenely against a departed lover in "You Oughta Know," while country debutante Shania Twain expressed equally cliched relationship demands in "Any Man of Mine." But what these recordings really had in common was that most common of pop conventions, hooks. From Mariah Carey & Boys II Men's "One Sweet Day" to Hootie & the Blowfish's "Let Her Cry," this was catchy music that you could hum, with choruses that repeated in your mind. And that made 1996 a lot like every other year in pop music.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann