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Grammys stumble with new TV special for nominees

This year’s transformation of the annual Grammy Awards nominations announcement into a full-blown prime-time TV special could help provide a badly needed boost in sales at a difficult time for the music industry.

But the December 3 “Grammy Nominations Concert Live!” telecast on CBS fell short of being a ratings winner. The one-hour show finished fourth in its 9 p.m. time slot, averaging 7 million viewers, behind NBC’s “Life” with 8.1 million, Fox’s “Secret Millionaire” with 8.1 million and ABC’s “Private Practice” with 7.8 million, according to Nielsen Media Research

The audience for the nominations special was also less than half the disappointing average viewership of 17.2 million for the 50th annual Grammy Awards in February.

And even though it featured live performances by Taylor Swift Christina Aguilera Mariah Carey Foo Fighters and John Mayer the show also failed to resonate strongly with younger viewers, finishing third among those ages 18-34.

Still, the extra exposure could yet provide additional strength to the sales boost that Grammy nominees, especially those with multiple nods, usually enjoy leading up to the awards show two months later.

Recording Academy chairman Neil Portnow said he was not disappointed by the poor ratings, calling the untested concept of a televised nominations show “the Wild Wild West”

Already on track to have the best-selling album of 2008, Lil Wayne led the field with eight nominations, including nods for album of the year and best rap album for ” Tha Carter III” best rap song for “Lollipop” and best rap/Other leading nominees were Coldplay with seven nominations, and Jay-Z Ne-Yo and Kanye West with six each. Ne-Yo’s “Year of the Gentleman” scored an album of the year nomination, while his single “Closer” was honored with a nod for best male pop vocal performance signaling the R&B vocalist’s emergence as a mainstream star.

The Recording Academy has often been criticized for its middle-of-the-road inclinations, such as when it awarded album of the year honors to Steely Dan ‘s ” Two Against Nature ” in 2001 over Eminem ‘s ” The Marshall Mathers LP” But in recent years, Grammy honorees have appeared more in synch with critical tastes, and that’s certainly the case this year. Well-received favorites dominate album of the year nominees, including Radiohead ‘s ” In Rainbows ” and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ‘ ” Raising Sand” while tastemaking Brits M.I.A. and Adele were recognized for record of the year. The latter category was a near-sweep for the United Kingdom, with Coldplay, Leona Lewis and Plant (with Krauss) also receiving nods.

The nominations had their share of surprises. Multiple Grammy-winner Carey’s album “E=MC2” failed to garner any nominations. Then there was the return of ’90s hip-hop hitmaker Heavy D who received a best reggae album nod for “Vibes,” his first new release in nearly a decade.

And Paul McCartney was nominated for best male pop vocal performance and best solo rock vocal performance for two tracks from “Amoeba’s Secret,” a vinyl-only four-track live EP of a June 27, 2007, in-store appearance at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. Total sales: 6,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

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