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India.Arie a Major Grammy Surprise

Before the Grammy nominations were announced, pundits had already determined what the big story would be – a certain soulful female singer with a critically acclaimed debut would score multiple nominations, including record, song and album of the year.

That scenario played out Friday – just not quite the way many expected.

India.Arie, whose “Acoustic Soul,” received glowing reviews but achieved moderate commercial success, scored seven nominations, while the year’s most celebrated new artist, Alicia Keys, got six.

Veteran Grammy winners U2 led all nominees with eight, including an album of the year nomination for “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.”

India.Arie’s debut sold a little more than 1 million copies. Meanwhile, Keys’ “Songs in A Minor” was among the year’s 10 top-selling discs, with 4.1 million albums sold. It was shut out of the album of the year category, but her No. 1 smash “Fallin”‘ was nominated for record and song of the year.

Rick Krim, an executive vice president at VH1, said even though India.Arie’s debut “wasn’t a massive, massive commercial success, in the industry it was clearly an album that people loved.”

“I think everybody was surprised, but happy about it,” he said. “This is one that maybe renewed faith in the system.”

Even India.Arie was surprised.

“I got a lot of critical acclaim…. But I wasn’t invited to a lot of award shows and I didn’t get nominated for anything this year,” she told The Associated Press.

Besides India.Arie, U2 and Keys, other multiple nominees included classical conductor Pierre Boulez with six and country singer Alison Krauss, R&B vocalist Brian McKnight and funk rappers OutKast with five each.

T Bone Burnett, Nelly Furtado, Train, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and Lucinda Williams each had four nominations.

Among Furtado’s four was a prestigious song of the year nomination for her breezy breakout hit, “I’m Like A Bird.” She was also nominated for best new artist, along with Keys, India.Arie, alternative singer David Gray and rockers Linkin Park.

Furtado said she felt her nomination for songwriting meant that she would have a long career in music.

“After sitting in the studio for 12 months just trying to get my album right… I really feel like my work paid off,” said the Canadian singer.

“I’m Like a Bird” will compete in the song of the year category against Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” Keys’ “Fallin’,” U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” and India.Arie’s “Video.”

“Video” is also nominated for record of the year, along with “Fallin’,” “Drops of Jupiter,” U2’s “Walk On” and OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson.”

Diversity reigned in the album of the year category. Nominees included Bob Dylan for “Love and Theft,” India.Arie’s “Acoustic Soul,” OutKast’s eclectic “Stankonia,” U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” and the bluegrass compilation soundtrack to the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

This is the second time a rap album has been nominated for album of the year; the first time was last year’s “The Marshall Mathers LP” by Eminem. That nomination garnered heavy criticism from some gay rights, conservative and women’s groups because of its profane, violent and homophobic lyrics.

There should be no such protests with this year’s nominees, especially India.Arie – her song “Video” celebrates the self-worth and beauty of women.

“I think the Grammys this year, they weren’t necessarily looking at sales and sex and glitziness,” said Emil Wilbekin, editor in chief at Vibe magazine. “They were looking at artists who made an impact with their music and really touched people’s hearts.”

Keys may have made the biggest impact musically this year; virtually unknown this time last year, her disc debuted at the top of the charts and was hailed just about everywhere, from The New York Times to Teen People.

Keys said the nominations were gratifying because “for people to feel that your work is something that they enjoy is special.”

Even though most critics had her pegged to win multiple nominations, Keys said her six were still a surprise, especially for song and record of the year.

“People told me that ‘Fallin’ ‘ would never be on the radio period,” she told the AP.

Krim said it was a surprise, however, that Keys was not nominated for album of the year.

“It was certainly deserved, and it was expected. But the good news is, it was nominated in other categories,” he said. “It’s not like she was slighted.”

There were a few notable snubs, perhaps most notably Enya’s “A Day Without Rain.” The disc became a sensation after the Sept. 11 attacks, fueled by the success of her soothing ode “Only Time,” but was only nominated for best new age album. The album sold more copies than Alicia Keys’ disc, 4.4 million.

Krim said she may not have received more nominations because “Enya is kind of an enigma to people…. There’s not a personality attached to it, like some of these other artists.”

The 44th annual Grammy Awards ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 27 in Los Angeles.

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