With Six Nods, Grammys Tell Winehouse Yes, Yes, Yes

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 7, 2007

Okay, okay; so Amy Winehouse won't go to rehab. ("I said, ' No, no, no,' " she sings on her defiant and defining single, "Rehab.") But will the increasingly troubled and erratic British soulstress go to the Grammys?

Winehouse, whose alcohol and drug problems have gone from source material to potential career-killers, received six nominations when the finalists for the 50th Grammy Awards were announced yesterday. They included album of the year (for "Back to Black"); record of the year (for her performance on "Rehab"); song of the year (for her writing on that autobiographical retro-soul single); and best new artist.

Rap star Kanye West received the most nominations with eight, including his third album-of-the-year nod in four years -- this time for "Graduation." And there were some serious surprises in the race for album of the year, the music industry's highest honor. ( Herbie Hancock covering Joni Mitchell?) But the big buzz clearly belonged to Winehouse, the 24-year-old singer with the whiskey-soaked oeuvre. "Can somebody wake her up around 6 tonight and tell her?" comedian George Lopez said at a Recording Academy news conference to announce the nominees. Lopez then referred to Winehouse as "a drunk" and marveled that she's made the similarly troubled actress Lindsay Lohan seem "normal."

The nominations arrived as Winehouse's life and career continued to spiral downward: Not long after slurring her way through a performance in England, and with her husband jailed on an assault charge, Winehouse canceled the remainder of her 2007 concerts last week. (She's also pulled the plug on several performances earlier this year.) And early Sunday morning, she was photographed wearing a bra and bluejeans outside her London home.

Still, she's among the most exciting new arrivals on the post-millennial R&B scene -- a compelling talent with a raw, deeply emotional voice and a knack for writing blunt confessionals filled with ache and humor. Whether she'll actually show up for the Feb. 10 ceremony in Los Angeles is anybody's guess.

The Foo Fighters, founded and fronted by Northern Virginia's Dave Grohl, received five nominations and were surprise finalists in both the album and record of the year categories, for "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace" and the album's rock-radio single, "The Pretender." (Though nobody actually calls singles "records" anymore, the Recording Academy steadfastly refuses to change the name of the award.) "The Pretender" is the only rock single vying for record of the year, a category dominated by R&B tracks -- including Rihanna's ubiquitous "Umbrella" and Beyonc¿'s even more ubiquitous "Irreplaceable." Collectively, the two singles spent 17 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.

"Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace" is also the only rock recording nominated for album of the year, amid a wide-ranging field that includes Vince Gill's four-disc genre-spanning boxed set, "These Days," and Hancock's jazz tribute, "River: The Joni Letters," along with the albums by Winehouse and West.

Among those denied by the Recording Academy: Bruce Springsteen, whose "Magic" apparently wasn't to the nominating committee, and the Boss's indie-rock disciples, Arcade Fire, whose "Neon Bible" reached No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200 and is certain to rate just as high on many a critic's best-of-2007 albums list.

Springsteen did, however, receive four nominations -- including best rock album, where he'll compete with John Fogerty, Wilco, the Foo Fighters and "American Idol" also-ran Chris Daughtry. Arcade Fire is up for best alternative music album, in a field that also includes the Shins, the White Stripes, Lily Allen and Bjork.

Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Timbaland and cameo king T-Pain were nominated for five awards each. And the Beatles are coming back (sort of), with eight nominations, in various forms: three for Paul McCartney; two for the Beatles remix album "Love"; two for John Lennon covers from "Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur"; and one for "Across the Universe," a soundtrack of bad Beatles covers.

Nine artists received four nominations each, including country star Tim McGraw, who has the rare distinction of being both a Grammy finalist (best country album, etc.) and a hit song: Teenage country sensation Taylor Swift, who was nominated for best new artist, scored her first hit with the song "Tim McGraw."

Swift is the only true newcomer up for best new artist: Winehouse made her U.K. debut in 2003 with "Frank"; jazz vocalist Ledisi released multiple independent albums before being signed to the legendary Verve label; the punkish pop band Paramore is on its second album (but first MTV hit); and indie torch singer Feist has been making music since the 1990s. This year, though, Feist's insinuating single "1234" was featured in an iTunes commercial -- and now that same song is up for best female pop vocal performance.

Feist also finds herself in the best pop vocal album category (for "The Reminder"), alongside Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi, Maroon 5 and Winehouse. Two words: Long. Shot.

Also, one name: Delilah.

The plaintive, polarizing and undeniably catchy Plain White T's song "Hey There Delilah" was nominated for best pop performance by duo or group as well as one of the biggies: song of the year, which honors the writer. The latter category includes the country smash "Before He Cheats" and Corinne Bailey Rae's "Like a Star," as well as "Rehab" and "Umbrella."

Nominees with Washington area ties include Cathy Fink (best traditional folk album, "Banjo Talkin' "); Raheem DeVaughn (best R&B male vocal performance, "Woman"); the Seldom Scene (best bluegrass album, "Scenechronized"); and Sweet Honey in the Rock (best musical album for children, "Experience . . . 101"). National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Leonard Slatkin received two nominations (including best classical album) for "Tower: Made in America," featuring the Nashville Symphony.

Oh, and get this: There's a Clinton-Obama showdown, too. Barack Obama's audiobook version of "The Audacity of Hope" is up for best spoken-word album -- as is Bill Clinton's "Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World." The polls are now open.

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