Mariah Carey, known for racking up the Grammy awards in the past, was welcomed back with open arms, receiving eight nominations for her comeback LP, “The Emancipation of Mimi.” Beating out Kelly Clarkson and Gwen Stefani for the unofficial role of this year’s Grammy ingenue, Carey is nominated for album of the year as well as record of the year for the ballad “We Belong Together,” and best female pop vocal for “It’s Like That.”
However, former No Doubt front woman Stefani isn’t far behind. As expected, her 80s pastiche pop songs made it into several categories, including album of the year for “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” and record of the year for “Hollaback Girl.”
On the “American Idol” front, Kelly Clarkson, who spent the year clawing her way out of her TV game show image, was resigned to two lesser nominations, best female pop vocal for “Since U Been Gone” and best pop vocal album for “Breakaway.” Third-year “Idol” winner Fantasia scored several nominations in the R&B categories for her debut, “Free Yourself.”
Another songbird comeback was almost ignored completely. Fiona Apple, who released her first LP in six yeas, received only a best pop vocal album nomination for “Extraordinary Machine.”
Along with Carey, Grammy poster boy, Kanye West is another unsurprising favorite again this year. West, who took home several Grammys last time, is also up for eight awards, including best album for “Late Registration” and song of the year for “Gold Digger.”
The outspoken West made news on the eve of the nominations, once again announcing to the press how much he deserves little gold statues for his sophomore effort. Like a lot of things West says, he’s right. “Late Registration” is arguably an even tighter effort than his immaculate solo debut, “The College Dropout.” West’s intelligent raps are a welcome alternative to the inane hip-hop hits currently junking up Top 40 (i.e. 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” up for best rap song and Black Eyed Peas “My Humps,” thankfully not eligible this year).
There’s been a lot of hype this year about West’s protégé, John Legend, and it’s reflected in the eight nominations he received as well. Like West last year, the soul singer is front runner for best new artist, as well song of the year for the lush “Ordinary People.”
Along with the usual suspects, Grammy sprung two big shockers — the inclusion of cartoon pop-experimental outfit Gorillaz featuring De La Soul and the complete exclusion of Detroit rock revivers The White Stripes.
Maybe the Gorillaz iPod commercial burned its way into every brain on the Grammy panel. Not that the recognition isn’t deserved. “Feel Good Inc.,” up for album of the year, is the freshest thing to sneak its way on to Top 40 radio since, well, the White Stripes. And the kids really dig ‘em.
The Gorillaz nomination, straight out of left field, makes the White Stripes snub for “Get Behind Me Satan” that much more confounding. It’s as if Grammy is trying to mess with our heads. Perhaps the answer is the most obvious. “Get Behind Me Satan,” while a more complex and interesting LP than the previous Grammy-nominated “Elephant,” didn’t sell nearly as many units. Lest we lose are cynicism, we must remember that Grammy is primarily motivated by record sales.
Of course, every year Grammy manages to miss great LPs by outsider artists who will never be nominated, such as LeTigre or Xui Xui. And we can expect Stripes’ Jack White, and his sister/wife drummer Meg back at the Grammys. As White’s production of last year's Grammy winning Loretta Lynn LP, “Van Lear Rose” shows, this kid’s genius continues to grow.
Other nominations include many of the old Grammy favorites. Humanitarian rock act and iPod spokesband U2 received five nominations, including the album of the year for “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.”
Pop punk Green Day, who cleaned up at last year’s Grammys with “American Idiot,” is back again, and continues to get nods from that LP with its single, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” nominated for record of the year.
There’s also a couple of obligatory Grammy nominations for the sentimental. Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder all received nods in various categories — though none should be expected to make the clean sweep like Ray Charles did last year.
As for the new kids on the block, Legend is a sure thing for best new artist. Though Grammy made some interesting disparate choices, including Ciara, Fall Out Boy, Keane and Sugarland. It would have been nice if Grammy recognized less obvious choices such as folkrockers The Kills or an electronica outfit such as sensation LCD Soundsystem. But we can be thankful for one thing — no Lindsay Lohan.
Helen Popkin lives in New York and is a regular contributor to MSNBC.com.