Grammy Nominations Pit Mainstream vs. Edgy

Controversial rapper Eminem received four nominations for the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards today on the strength of The Marshall Mathers LP, a work that has enraged some listeners but won critical acclaim.

Eminem’s mentor, Dr. Dre, picked up five nominations, as did Beyonce Knowles, a member of the female R&B trio Destiny’s Child.

Critics have praised Eminem’s twisted rhymes and creative vulgarity for their artistry, if not for the message. But family-values and women’s rights activists have derided him for glorifying violence, rape and murder.

No Santana-like Dominance

Unlike previous years, where the field of nominees was dominated by a single artist, such as veteran rock guitarist Carlos Santana or R&B ingenue Lauryn Hill, no one act towered over the pack — a sign of the diversity of worthy offerings. Competing with Eminem for album of the year are Beck for Midnite Vultures, Radiohead for Kid A, Paul Simon for You’re The One, and Steely Dan for Two Against Nature.

Song of the year nominations went to the writers of U2’s “Beautiful Day,” Faith Hill’s “Breathe,” Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” Macy Gray’s “I Try” and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.”

The nominees for best new artist were Shelby Lynne, Brad Paisley, Papa Roach, Jill Scott and Sisqo.

Vince Gill Comes on Strong

Another big winner, Vince Gill also had four nominations, including best country album for Let’s Make Sure We Kiss Goodbye, and country song for “Feels Like Love.”

He was also nominated for country male vocalist for “Feels Like Love” and country collaboration with vocals, for a duet with his wife, Amy Grant, on the song “When I Look Into Your Heart.”

Despite the boy band’s record-setting chart success, Grammy voters apparently snubbed ’N Sync, denying the act a nomination for Album of the Year, although they did receive a nomination for their hit “Bye, Bye, Bye.”

“I don’t care if you don’t like them,” said Geoff Mayfield, director of charts at Billboard magazine. “I defy anyone to tell me that song is not catchy.”

Britney Spears, one of the year’s leading album sellers, was nominated for pop vocal album for Oops! … I Did It Again and female pop vocal performance for the song of the same name.

Slim Shady Shines

Despite winning two Grammys last year, Eminem’s growing infamy — not to mention assault charges in Michigan — could make him unattractive when the winners are announced Feb. 21 in Los Angeles.

Curiously, his smash hit “The Real Slim Shady” was bypassed in the record and song of the year categories by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

“I do think it’s a major snub,” said Tom O’Neil, author of the book The Grammys and a historian of the awards.

Comebacks and Oldtimers

Steely Dan’s three nominations for Album of the Year, Pop Performance by a Group and Pop Vocal Album capped a comeback year for the group, which reached the height of its popularity in the 1970s.

Newlywed Madonna has a chance for her first Grammy in a major category. U2’s album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind, received critical praise for combining the band’s rock style of the 1980s with more recent techno explorations.

Madonna has won three Grammys in the past. In 1999 she won for best pop album for her excursion into electronica, Ray of Light, as well as best dance recording and best short form music video.

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