Irish rock band U2, which enjoyed a triumphant 2001 playing to sold-out crowds in support of its acclaimed new album, led the list of nominees Friday for the Grammy Awards, the music industry’s top prizes.
U2 picked up eight nominations, including the key album, song and record of the year categories, organizers announced at a news conference in Beverly Hills.
The group’s four members were “thrilled and really excited, and not at all blase,” U2 manager Paul McGuinness told Reuters from the band’s Dublin base after he tracked them down across Europe to break the good news. “There’s a lot of very distinguished records on this list.”
In a field largely devoid of the controversy that dogged the 2001 Grammys when badboy rapper Eminem grabbed all the attention, soulful newcomers India Arie, 26, and Alicia Keys, 20, received seven and six nods each, respectively.
Classical conductor and composer Pierre Boulez, who already has 23 Grammys, also picked up six nominations. Among the acts with five nominations were bluegrass musician Alison Krauss, R&B singer Brian McKnight and R&B duo Outkast.
Five artists received four nominations each: producer T-Bone Burnett, Canadian pop singer Nelly Furtado, rock band Train, Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler and country-rocker Lucinda Williams.
Tireless troubadour Bob Dylan was among the many acts to score three nominations, including album of the year for his acclaimed “Love and Theft,” the 43rd release of his career.
Arie and Keys will compete against each other in six races, including best new artist, a closely watched category that also includes pop singers David Gray and Furtado and rock band Linkin Park. Grammy winners will be announced during ceremonies on Feb. 27 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
SONGWRITING BACK IN STYLE
The awards, which honor artists in 101 categories, ranging from pop, rock and soul to classical, spoken word and polka, appeared to favor acclaimed singer/songwriters over disposable acts whose songs are written for them by producers. All the contenders for the song of the year category, which honors the songwriter, performed their own tunes.
“If we can get back to the great singer/songwriters, music will just improve overnight,” said Stevie Nicks, a Grammy nominee in the female rock vocal category.
U2’s mournful “Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” a tribute to Australian rocker Michael Hutchence who killed himself in 1997, will compete for song of the year against Arie’s “Video,” Keys’ “Fallin’,” Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird” and Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.”
U2 – singer Bono, guitarist the Edge, bass player Adam Clayton and drummer Larry Mullen Jr. – already has 10 Grammys, including album of the year for its 1987 opus “The Joshua Tree,” which has sold about 17 million copies worldwide.
Its contender for the 2002 race, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind,” has sold just over 10 million copies worldwide since its October 2000 release, McGuinness said, and is on track to surpass “The Joshua Tree.”
Other album of the year nominees this year, besides U2 and Dylan, were Arie’s “Acoustic Soul,” Outkast’s “Stankonia” and the soundtrack to the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
U2 won the record and song of the year races last year for “Beautiful Day,” a track released before the Grammys’ Sept. 30 cutoff date.
Its record of the year candidate this year is “Walk On,” which is dedicated to Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi. Also competing were Arie’s “Video,” Keys’ “Fallin’,” OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson” and Train’s “Drops of Jupiter.”
U2 WILL PERFORM AT GRAMMYS
U2 will perform at the Grammys, McGuinness confirmed, and is considering touring Europe in the summer. The group played 115 shows across North America and Europe in 2001.
U2 was also nominated for rock album, and the pop (“Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of”) and rock (“Elevation”) vocal performance categories. “Elevation” and “Walk On” are competing against each other for rock song.
Arie and Keys will also compete against each other for female R&B vocal performance, R&B song and R&B album. The only category where they are not head to head is album of the year, where Keys’ “Songs In A Minor” was a surprise omission. The acclaimed work was the best selling debut album of 2001 in the United States, selling 4.1 million units since June.
Arie brushed off talk of a battle of the divas.
“I’m just gonna pray that I will get whatever I deserve,” she said. “Anything’s possible (on the night). Nothing’s ever going to stop me from making music, so it’s not that serious. As long as I’m always inspired, that’s the most important thing.”
The Dylan album was important but a “a little inaccessible” to some Grammy voters, said Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, which may have accounted for its relative paucity of nods.
Dylan’s groundbreaking albums of the 1960s and 1970s were famously overlooked by Grammy voters, fueling complaints that the awards are hopelessly out of touch. Overdue recognition finally came in 1998 when his previous release “Time Out of Mind” won three Grammys, including album of the year.