Music World Gathers for Grammy Awards

The luck of the Irish may be omnipresent in Los Angeles. U2, with a leading eight nominations, seems like the band to beat at tonight's Grammy Awards.

Bono and company spent much of the year on tour, re-establishing the band's immense worldwide popularity and promoting All That You Can't Leave Behind, a heavy favorite for album of the year.

But nothing is ever certain with the Grammys, and several newcomers are poised to become big winners. India.Arie and Alicia Keys, battling for best new artist, were the second and third most nominated artists.

The only thing that can be guaranteed is performances from the likes of Bob Dylan, Mary J. Blige, Dave Matthews Band, U2 and Train.

Comedian Jon Stewart hosts the event, and the star-studded list of presenters includes Britney Spears, Gloria Estefan, Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, the Dixie Chicks and the Backstreet Boys. The stars gather at the Staples Center in Los Angeles at 8 p.m. Eastern Time. The show will be broadcast live on CBS.

Are the Grammys Really Grannies?

U2's "Walk On" is a strong contender for winning record of the year honors for the second year in a row. The band will perform the song with gospel great Kirk Franklin.

In wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Irish rockers' social and political consciousness might set the right tone for the time.

"Fate really took hold of our album and really changed those songs," Bono said.

But there might be pressure to shine the spotlight on another artist. The National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which organizes the event, has taken a lot of heat for repeatedly honoring the same aging group of aging rockers.

Last year, the semi-retired Steely Dan won for album of the year over such younger artists as Eminem and Radiohead, causing critics to quip that the Grammys should be renamed "the Grannies."

Furtado: ‘I Have to Look for a Good Outfit’

But U2 does face some fierce competition for best record from two young newcomers — Arie, 26, and Keys, just 21.

Keys says her bittersweet love song "Fallin'," which she'll perform tonight, has a message for young people. "What it is is just life stories, things that happen in everybody's life that in one way or another we've all been going through or gone through," she said.

Keys' Songs In A Minor was among the top albums of 2001, while Arie's album Acoustic Soul made it just beyond the platinum level. And while Arie's album is among the nominees for best album, Keys' project was shut out in that category.

Arie's seven nominations caught nearly everyone in the music world by surprise — even her.

"I would really like to win all of 'em," she said. "But on a personal level, it feels good to have the nomination for album of the year because my album is something that I had to work really hard for in a personal way.

"I went through a lot of crying and stomach pains and all that stuff during those two years." Still, Arie says awards are secondary to connecting with her audience. She may be playing it cool, but another contender for best new artist, Nelly Furtado, isn't afraid to let it all hang out.

"I'm super-excited," Furtado said a few weeks ago. "I have to look for a good outfit. I'll try to put my focus on that, rather than getting nervous."

Jackson Pulls Another Vanishing Act

Many big performances are on the bill. Tony Bennett and Billy Joel will sing their Grammy-nominated duet "New York State of Mind" as a tribute to the victims of Sept. 11. You'll also hear country superstar Alan Jackson perform his hit inspired by the attacks, "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."

There will also be tributes to stars who died in 2001, including Aaliyah and George Harrison.

Al Green, Brian McKnight and India.Arie will go a gospel melody, while country artists Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley and Gillian Welch will perform traditional bluegrass numbers from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

You'll also see the Lady Marmalade girls — Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Missy Elliott in a huge production number with Patti LaBelle.

One artist you won't see: Michael Jackson. After weeks of controversy, Jackson decided that he will not be performing.

In January, Michael backed out of performing on the American Music Awards, reportedly because he had been told if he did, he couldn't perform on the Grammys. That prompted AMA producer Dick Clark to sue Grammy boss Mike Greene for $10 million.

Jackson later agreed to provide a video of himself performing his classic hit "Man in the Mirror." But he later pulled the clip.

Jackson, who is nominated for best pop male vocal performance for "You Rock My World," is no longer slated to perform, and it's unclear whether he'll even show up.

ABCNEWS Radio and's Buck Wolf contributed to this report.