Grammy Sounds Off for Newcomers

Song of the Year (Songwriting Award)

"Daughters" -- John Mayer
"If I Ain't Got You" -- Alicia Keys
"Jesus Walks" -- Kanye West, C. Smith and Miri Ben Ari
"Live Like You Were Dying" -- Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman (Tim McGraw)
"The Reason" -- Daniel Estrin and Douglas Robb (Hoobastank)

The dark-horse candidate in the songwriting award is 2004's No. 1 country single of the year, "Live Like You Were Dying," McGraw's career-defining single and a tribute to his late father. "If I Ain't Got You" by classically trained pianist Keys, 2001's Grammy princess, is also a favorite.

Nevertheless, art reflects society and traditional values took center stage in 2004. That's likely to spell victory for West. His rap song about Jesus Christ achieved both critical and commercial success, which is astounding considering the sort of booty, bling-bling, pimpin' and gang-bangin' hits that usually top the hip-hop charts. This award is Kanye's to lose.

Best New Artist

Los Lonely Boys
Maroon 5
Joss Stone
Kanye West
Gretchen Wilson

Several weeks ago West and Gretchen Wilson were nominated for best new artist at the American Music Awards. Gretchen won and Kanye threw a public tantrum about being "robbed" of the award. Two months of apologies and plenty of penitence might score West the award, but it will not be easy.

Wilson is part of the new generation of country acts who are responsible for the genre's roaring comeback in 2004. Country music sales were up 12 percent, and country music remains the nation's most popular radio format. Wilson's "Here For The Party" was one of three country albums among the top 10 sellers for 2004. The smash hit "Redneck Woman" is a shoo-in for best country song of the year.

Still, Maroon 5's debut CD, "Songs About Jane," is celebrating its 90th week on the charts, and this not-so-new band could walk away with the award.

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