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Mariah, Kanye lead Grammy buzz

Carey's comeback, West's sophomore effort are likely contenders
/ Source: The Associated Press

Mariah had a comeback year, 50 Cent dropped another multiplatinum album, Coldplay was hot and Kanye West beat the sophomore jinx. Gwen Stefani made us holla, Kelly Clarkson reveled in being free and the Black Eyed Peas celebrated those lovely lady lumps.

But while a lot of artists combined for some memorable music this year, few dominated the music scene like in years past. So it’s unlikely that one name will dominate the Grammy nominations on Thursday.

“I think Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani and Kanye West are going to be going at it for who has the most awards,” says Steve Stoute, a former music industry executive who remains tapped into the scene through his company Translations, which links music superstars with commercial products. “They have songs that have song-of-the-year potential on their albums.”

Although U2’s “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” came out late last year and the album wasn’t much of a presence on the charts this year, the perennial Grammy favorites are assured of multiple nominations, according to People magazine music critic Chuck Arnold. “Just the cache of U2 being U2, being around all year with the tour, is enough to get them at least five or six nominations,” he said.

Coldplay’s name is also likely to pop up a few times. The group, which won record of the year in 2003 for “Clocks,” arguably had the top rock album with “X&Y” this year, along with hits like “Fix Me.”

“Coldplay has a lot of buzz going for it,” said Arnold. “(Lead singer) Chris Martin has definitely emerged as a rock star, and it’s a great record and they’ve already proved to be favorites with the academy.”

Clarkson, who proved her artistic worth with songs like “Since U Been Gone” and “Because of You” may be one of the surprise multiple nominees, says Arnold. “She’s now a major star, a proven star, and now people don’t even associate her with ’American Idol’ too much.”

Still, Carey is likely to lead the pack. Her career had been languishing in recent years, and some insiders doubted whether the multi-octave singer could return to her multiplatinum ways after a series of debacles, including a breakdown and being bought out of her record contract with Virgin Records.

“The Emancipation of Mimi” proved the skeptics wrong. Not only did it sell more than 4 million copies, making it the No. 2 best-selling album of the year, it also spawned one of the year’s most popular songs, the torch ballad “We Belong Together.”

Carey is expected to be nominated in the top categories, including album of the year and perhaps song and record of the year for “We Belong Together.”

Kanye vs. FittyThe year’s top-selling disc belongs to rapper 50 Cent for “The Massacre.” But while he’s expected to get nods in the rap categories, it is unlikely the album will get any serious consideration elsewhere.

The rapper more likely to get an album of the year nod is West, who earned an album-of-the-year nomination at the last Grammys for his 2004 debut, “The College Dropout.” His follow-up, “Late Registration,” also garnered glowing reviews; in addition, he had one of the year’s biggest singles with the Ray Charles-inspired “Gold Digger.”

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Other likely nominees for album of the year include Stefani’s “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” The No Doubt frontwoman’s kitschy solo debut mined ’80s pop and soul and was a fan favorite thanks to her nonsensical but irresistible hit, “Hollaback Girl.”

Another top nonsensical hit was the Black Eyed Peas “My Humps,” a celebration of the female body. Though it’s unlikely that song will merit song or record of the year nods, the group’s “Monkey Business” was a top-seller and the group has twice before been nominated for record of the year and may get nominated in other categories this year.

While there are many favorites, there are likely to be surprise acts that surface from beneath the radar to garner key nominations.

“Every year, the Grammys make it their business to find an act that people are not potentially looking at or paying attention to, and it’s almost like ’Wow,”’ says Stoute. “It’s something truly artistic driven and not necessarily relying on sales.”

A possibility this year: Raul Midon, a soulful, blind, singer-songwriter who garnered plenty of acclaim for his debut, “A State of Mind.”

Though the Grammy nominations will be held in New York, the actual awards are scheduled for Los Angeles on Feb. 8. They will be broadcast on CBS.