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Grammy Drama Ahead With Kanye, Winehouse

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NEKESA MUMBI MOODY | December 6, 2007 09:45 PM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — Grammy night was shaping up as high drama after Kanye West and Amy Winehouse _ two of music's most gifted and volatile performers _ were nominated for a leading eight and six trophies respectively.

Other top nominees at the Los Angeles announcement included the Foo Fighters, whose five nominations included mentions for album and record of the year; Justin Timberlake, who also got five, including record of the year for "What Goes Around Comes Around"; Rihanna, who received four nominations, including record of the year for her ubiquitous "Umbrella" anthem; and jazz legend Herbie Hancock, who surprisingly made it into the album of the year category for his Joni Mitchell tribute album.

"It's not a category you normally find a jazz artist," said a shocked Hancock.

Jay-Z, rapper-producer Timbaland and singer-songwriter Ne-Yo also received five nominations each. Bruce Springsteen, whose absence from the best album category was noteworthy, received four nominations, along with Akon, Chris Daughtry, Feist, Tim McGraw, Akon, Dierks Bentley and John Newton.

But the king and queen of the day were West and Winehouse, who both experienced tremendous highs and crushing lows in 2007.

West's "Graduation" album, which was nominated for album of the year, marked a coronation for the rapper-producer when it was released in September, selling almost one million copies in its first week and crushing 50 Cent in a much hyped sales battle. West also had two big hits this year, "Stronger" and "Good Life."

West, well known for his angry outbursts when snubbed at awards shows, most recently lashed out at the MTV Video Music Awards. But his year turned tragic last month when his mother and manager, Donda West, died at 58 after undergoing plastic surgery.

This is the third time West has dominated Grammy nominations: in 2004, he received 10 for his debut album, "The College Dropout," and a year later got eight for "Late Registration." But he lost each time in the major categories, including best album.

Winehouse also had a tumultuous 2007, for different reasons. The British singer was already known for her pot-smoking, hard-drinking ways when she released her stunning soul album "Back to Black" earlier this year. The album's top hit, "Rehab," a defiant anti-treatment anthem, earned her nods for record and single of the year.

Her hard-living past seemed behind her _ until reports of even harder partying became more frequent and she canceled tour dates because of "health concerns." Just this week, Winehouse was photographed outside her London home walking barefoot, clad in only a red bra and jeans, looking distressed.

Comedian George Lopez joked about her reputation when he announced one of her nominations at the announcement ceremony: "Could somebody wake her up this afternoon around six (o'clock) and tell her?"

Still, the Recording Academy looked past all her drama to nominate her in key categories, including best new artist. In a statement, Winehouse said: "I'm grateful to have my music recognized with these nominations _ this is a true validation from people I respect and admire."

Besides West and Winehouse, the other nominees for best album included the Foo Fighters, for "Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace," Vince Gill's four-disc set "These Days," _ and Hancock's tribute to Mitchell, "River: The Joni Letters."

"It's amazing, we had no idea. When you get acknowledged for what you do, it feels pretty good," said Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters.

Record of the year candidates were "Rehab"; Beyonce's "Irreplaceable," the Foo Fighters' "The Pretender," Rihanna's "Umbrella" and "What Goes Around Comes Around" by Justin Timberlake.

For song of the year, given to the songwriter, the nominees once again included "Rehab," Corrine Bailey Rae's sweet-sounding "Like A Star," Carrie Underwood's revenge anthem "Before He Cheats," The Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah" and "Umbrella."

In the best new artist category, Winehouse was competing against Feist, perhaps best known these days for her iPod commercial; the rock group Paramore; country singer Taylor Swift; and soul singer Ledesi.

"This is the best day ever. I'm freaking out," said Swift, who turns 18 in less than a week. "I really didn't think it was going to happen. I was about to cry."

The Grammys will celebrate their 50th year when the awards are announced on Feb. 10. The broadcast is to be carried live on CBS.


Entertainment Writer Sandy M. Cohen and Associated Press Writer Solvej Schou in Los Angeles contributed to this report.


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(This version CORRECTS to show Swift turning 18 in a few days.)