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 protégé, Legend, earn a spot in the best new artist race after the success of his debut album, "Get Lifted."
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 all three of the marquee categories: best album, song and record of the year.
The melding of urban beats and the neo-soul movement has 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.
On Thursday, 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 said the good reviews didn't prepare him to hear his name called in numerous categories — and being nominated for song of the year made him swoon.
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"I didn't think there'd be so many," he said. "This was far beyond my expectations. I really care about songwriting a lot and to be recognized for that, it's really big. That was my dream nomination today."
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 this time he 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" off the same album.
Legend will contend for thetitle 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 a cluster of artists who heard their name called six times at the Thursday announcement ceremony in New York: 50 Cent, Beyoncé, 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.
In the song of the year category (which is the award for songwriting; record of the year acknowledges overall excellence of a single recording), two of rock's biggest names are nominated: Bruce Springsteen for "Devils & Dust," the grim exploration of a soldier's spirit, and U2 for the heartfelt "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own."
Carey, who has not won a Grammy since 1990, is nominated with J. Austin, Jermaine Dupri and Manuel Seal, her writing partners on "We Belong Together." Legend (under the name J. Stephens) and W. Adams are nominated for the Legend hit "Ordinary People," and the team of Bobby Boyd, Jeff Hanna and Marcus Hummon are nominated for "Bless the Broken Road," which was recorded by the country-pop outfit Rascal Flatts.
On the eve of the Grammys announcement, Carey said that despite all the recent trophy hardware she has collected for her comeback album, the idea of winning over Grammy voters "makes your heart beat a little faster." Those voters can sometimes be hard to predict; while they embraced the pop creations of Stefani and Carey, they gave no nominations in the elite categories to Coldplay, Eminem and 50 Cent, all acts that have secured critical and commercial success.
For the music business, commercial and critical success seem to be happening under one roof quite often: The album of the year category included four albums released under the banner of Universal Music Group — West and Carey are on its New York-based labels (Island and Roc-A-Fella, respectively), while Stefani and U2 record for Santa Monica-based Interscope.
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) and acknowledge achievements both artistic and technical (there's an award for best surround-sound album, for instance).
This year, 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 48th annual Grammy Awards will be staged at Staples Center on Feb. 8 and televised nationally by CBS.