The Grammys: They Call the Name Mariah

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 9, 2005

Pop diva Mariah Carey, whose once flourishing career was left for dead after a series of artistic misfires and a public meltdown, has returned -- officially and emphatically. Her remarkable comeback reached a peak yesterday when nominations for the 48th Grammy Awards were announced and Carey sashayed away with eight, including one for the biggest award of all: album of the year.

"The Emancipation of Mimi," Carey's most successful release in years, will compete at the Feb. 8 ceremony with Kanye West's ambitious rap opus, "Late Registration," U2's soulful rock cycle, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb," and Gwen Stefani's delightfully dippy dance-pop collection, "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." Apparently reflecting the recording academy's longstanding affection for the old guard, Paul McCartney's "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" also received an album-of-the-year nod. It's Sir Paul's best work in a long time. But still.

Centered on Carey's titular alter ego, "The Emancipation of Mimi" is the sound of a struggling artist resurrecting her career. Carey ruled the charts in the 1990s, but in recent years, the singer had suffered through considerable personal and professional turbulence. She endured an emotional breakdown, her commercial appeal evaporated and her record label of the time sent her packing, with millions in get-lost money.

So much for that!

"When you have a voice, when you have incredible talent like Mariah Carey has, you can never really be counted out," said Mimi Valdes, editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine.

Carey's eight Grammy nominations put her atop the leader board, where she tied rapper Kanye West and R&B singer John Legend. Stevie Wonder, 50 Cent, Beyonce and of the Black Eyed Peas were two strokes off the pace with six nominations apiece, while Stefani, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott received five each.

Gretchen Wilson and Brad Paisley were the leading country artists, with four nominations each.

Carey's hit single, "We Belong Together," is up for record and song of the year -- the latter category recognizes the songwriter -- plus the more specialized R&B songwriting and female R&B vocal performance awards. "It's Like That," the other big track from "The Emancipation of Mimi," got a nod in the female pop vocal category, and a third "Mimi" entry -- "Mine Again" -- is up for best traditional R&B vocal performance.

"The Emancipation of Mimi" is also up for best contemporary R&B album. Not to be confused with, simply, best R&B album.

(R&B, according to Grammy: Wonder, Keys, Fantasia, Legend and Earth, Wind & Fire. Contemporary R&B: Mariah, Mario, Omarion, Destiny's Child and Washington's own Amerie.)

While Carey is the headline story in Grammyland, West is trying to ensure that he gets the subhead: The megalomaniacal artist has been doing some preemptive whining, telling MTV News that he's doing to be very, very, very disappointed if the admittedly excellent "Late Registration" doesn't win album of the year simply because West scratched his "politically incorrect" itch earlier this year.

You remember that whole "George Bush doesn't care about black people" thing? West is pretty sure that the 12,000 (or so) Grammy voters do -- and that they'll penalize him accordingly.

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