West, Carey, Legend dominate Grammys

From the cover

Hip-hop, R&B still tops at Grammys


Daring rapper Kanye West, veteran diva Mariah Carey and soulful newcomer John Legend led the way yesterday with eight nominations each for the 48th annual Grammy Awards, an acknowledgment of the powerful confluence of hip-hop and R&B as the sound of pop music in 2005.

Not only is West's Late Registration nominated for album of the year and his hit "Gold Digger" nominated as record of the year, he saw his protege, Legend, earn a spot in the best new artist race for his debut album Get Lifted. (For a full list of the Grammy Award nominees, visit baltimoresun.com/grammys.)

Carey, whose career seemed all but over a few years ago, is also nominated for best album for The Emancipation of Mimi, a weave of urban ballads, hip-hop beats and dance-floor hits. Carey is the only nominee named in the three marquee categories of best album, song and record of the year.

The melding of urban beats and the neo-soul movement have taken pop away from rock and the youth pop that held such sway just a few years ago, and the ballot-domination last year by Usher, Alicia Keys and West carries through with much of this year's most commercially successful sounds.

The album of the year contest also features Gwen Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and music from two members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Paul McCartney's Chaos and Creation in the Backyard and U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. For the former Beatle, it is his first appearance in a major Grammy category since 1998.

The placement of a Beatle, Bono and West in the top category greatly enhances the chances of a memorable acceptance speech. West, especially, has shown a flair for the dramatic. The rapper earlier this year used a national Hurricane Katrina telethon appearance for an emotional rant against the Bush administration; last year he also publicly ranted after the American Music Awards passed him over for best new artist honors.

Yesterday, West acknowledged his Grammy bounty with an uncharacteristically brief statement: "I'd like to thank the academy for paying attention to my music, not my mouth."

There was a more enthused response from Legend, whose music has been hailed as elegant and sophisticated R&B. He was nominated for song of the year, which made him swoon. "I really care about songwriting a lot and to be recognized for that, it's really big," he said.

Carey and Stefani, two dominant female figures in pop this year, will square off in three categories: album, record and the secondary category of female pop vocal performance.

In the prized record of the year category, Stefani's cheeky cheerleader anthem "Hollaback Girl" will vie with Carey's "We Belong Together," the year's most-played song on American radio. The Gorillaz, the cross-genre music experiment of Brit rocker Damon Albarn, is also nominated for its "Feel Good Inc.," a track featuring longtime hip-hop heroes De La Soul.

The final two nominees for record of the year bring back memories of last year's Grammys: Ray Charles posthumously won the category last year and is "back" via West's "Gold Digger" - it features a sample of "I Got a Woman" and a channeling of Charles by actor Jamie Foxx - while Green Day, nominated last year for "American Idiot," is back with the forlorn "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."

Legend will contend for the title of best new artist against Brit-pop trio Keane, the emo-band Fall Out Boy and two very different acts who hail from Atlanta: the country trio SugarLand and teen R&B chanteuse Ciara.

Not far behind the nomination leaders were artists who heard their name called six times at yesterday's announcement ceremony in New York: 50 Cent, Beyonce, Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas and Stevie Wonder.

Wonder's nominations included best male R&B performance for "So What's the Fuss" and bring his career total of nominations to 71. Among nonclassical nominees, only Quincy Jones (79) and Henry Mancini (72) have more career nominations.

The Grammy list of nominations is a long and deep document - there are 108 categories that veer across genres (with room for polka and Hawaiian recordings).

For the 2005 Grammys, only recordings released between Oct. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30 of this year were eligible. Grammy winners are picked by the voters of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. The Grammys will be handed out Feb. 8 and televised that night by CBS (WJZ, Channel 13).

Geoff Boucher writes for The Los Angeles Times

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