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The Grammys have gone autobiographical.
Kanye West raps about religion, his fears and his own greatness. Usher steamed up the charts with songs about sex, affairs and breakups. Alicia Keys sang about aching for love, confiding secrets and imagining a different future for herself.
Their reward for the tell-all music — a collection of Grammy nominations Tuesday, 10 for West and eight each for Keys and Usher.
After last year’s glossy pop, rap and rock led by OutKast’s Grammy-winning “Hey Ya!,” all three of these artists energized the charts this year by exposing deeply personal emotions, ideas, desires, flaws and insecurities.
“I think we all put a piece of ourselves, if not all of ourselves — I know I put every single inch — into my music, my songs, my production and everything. I think that’s something that can be said for all three of us,” Keys told The Associated Press.
West ‘scared’ of his 10 nodsProducer-turned-rapper West led all Grammy nominees and scored a bid for album of the year for his debut “The College Dropout,” which stood out in the rap landscape because of its atypical prose. It avoided the usual plotlines about sex, money and violence and touched on everything from his faith to his fears of failure and other crises from his life.
He also had a nomination for best new artist and shared a songwriting bid for song of the year with his religious hit “Jesus Walks.”
The performer is known for bragging. In the press room at the recent American Music Awards, he claimed he was “definitely robbed” when he picked up no trophies.
Even his braggadocio style may mask his insecurities. “I’m scared of getting 10 nominations and losing. It’s happened before,” he said after helping announce the Grammy nominees at the Music Box Theatre in Hollywood.
West also was apologetic and regretful over the way he reacted at the AMAs last month. “I should have accepted that more gracefully. I’m really ashamed of the way I reacted to that situation.”
Half of West’s 10 nominations were in the rap field, including best rap album. He competes against himself in the best rap-sung collaboration with the songs “Slow Jamz,” performed along with Twista and actor-singer Jamie Foxx, and “All Falls Down,” which he performed with Syleena Johnson.
The eight respective nominations for Usher and Keys, who collaborated on the hit “My Boo,” included album of the year for Keys’ “The Diary of Alicia Keys” and Usher’s “Confessions.”
“I feel like: don’t celebrate too early, definitely take it one step at a time,” Usher said. “I recognize that this hard work did not go unnoticed. And if I do not win album of the year, which is the one I’m most interested in winning, then so be it.”
Keys, whose 2001 debut album, “Songs In A Minor,” won the R&B singer five Grammys, said this time through the awards process is even sweeter. “I’ve just been on a different level in terms of my experience. It’s like, I’ve been able to just take things in and be almost on top of it as opposed to being underneath it swimming,” she said.
Recognition for RayRay Charles, whose posthumous duets album, “Genius Loves Company,” became the biggest selling album of his long career, had seven nominations including album of the year and record of the year for “Here We Go Again,” sung with Norah Jones.
Green Day garnered six bids for its hard-driving rock-punk album “American Idiot,” which satirized culture, politics and apathy. The group was nominated for record of the year and best rock song for the title track and best rock album.
Other record of the year contenders were the mellow lament “Heaven” by Los Lonely Boys, the jumpy party song “Let’s Get It Started” by the Black Eyed Peas (which became a hit after changing to a more politically correct title than the original “Let’s Get Retarded” and becoming a National Basketball Association anthem) and Usher’s massive hit “Yeah!”
The best new artist class spanned soul, rap, country and pop, with nominees Gretchen Wilson, country’s self-proclaimed “Redneck Woman,” rapper West, young soul songstress Joss Stone, Los Lonely Boys and Maroon 5. Bids for song of the year — which goes to songwriters — went to “Daughters,” written and recorded by John Mayer, “If I Ain’t Got You,” written and recorded by Keys, “Jesus Walks,” recorded and co-written by West, “Live Like You Were Dying,” recorded by Tim McGraw, and “The Reason,” recorded by Hoobastank.
Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson’s long-gestating album “Smile,” which was released after years spent on the shelf following his emotional and mental problems, collected a bid for best pop vocal album. It competes with “Afterglow” by Sarah McLachlan, “Feels Like Home” by Jones, “Mind, Body & Soul” by Stone, and “Genius Loves Company” by Charles.
The Grammys will be given out Feb. 13 in Los Angeles during a broadcast on CBS.