LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rap star Kanye West dominated the Grammy nominations for the third time in four years on Wednesday, while troubled British pop singer Amy Winehouse led a strong field of female contenders for the music industry’s top honors.
West, 30, received eight nominations in six categories, including the coveted album of the year for “Graduation,” one of the biggest sellers of 2007.
He already has six Grammys, after leading the races for awards presented in 2005 and 2006 with a total of 18 nominations. But in both those instances, he failed to win the contest for best album, much to his frustration.
His latest nominations were mostly in the rap categories, including best rap album and two entries for best rap song (“Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Good Life”).
Winehouse was a surprisingly strong contender with six nominations, including album, song and record of the year, as well as best new artist. The 24-year-old London native won commercial and critical acclaim for her second album, “Back to Black,” a deeply personal release that mixed autobiographical lyrics with melodies harking back to the golden age of soul.
But her promising career has been overshadowed by drug and alcohol problems, and a chaotic life with her new husband, Blake Fielder-Civil, who is in a British jail awaiting trial on charges of assaulting a pub owner last year.
With the U.S. government cracking down on work visas for musicians with legal problems, Winehouse may have trouble performing at the Grammys. She was forced to cancel a U.S. visit last month because of visa issues.
Grammy organizers will work to aid Winehouse’s entry, said Neil Portnow, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences. “I’d hate to see technicalities prevent creativity from happening on the stage.”
Winehouse is one of four women vying for the title of best new artist, alongside Canadian singer-songwriter Feist, country singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, and R&B singer Ledisi. Also nominated were the female-fronted rock band Paramore.
It was the first nomination for 17-year-old Swift, whose self-titled debut album recently peaked at No. 8 on the U.S. pop charts.
“It freaks me out,” she said of her nomination. “I’m absolutely blown away by that.”
Five acts received five nominations each — rock band Foo Fighters, rapper Jay-Z, hip-hop producer Timbaland, pop singer Justin Timberlake, and R&B singer T-Pain.
The Foo Fighters will compete for album of the year with their latest release “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.” The other nominees were country singer Vince Gill’s “These Days,” and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters.”
Foo Fighters singer-guitarist Dave Grohl, who already has five Grammys, said the latest nominations were “a big deal ... If you get jaded and unexcited about actually getting to do any of this kind of thing, then we have a problem.”
Gill, 50, already has 18 Grammys, but this is first nomination for album of the year. Asked about his chances of winning that prize, he was not overly confident.
“What? Are you nuts? Of course not!” said Gill, who was also nominated for best country album. “I’d love to, but that’s a handy bunch.”
Hancock, a 10-time Grammy winner, received three nominations for his album, which reinterprets the catalog of veteran singer Joni Mitchell. Jazz artists are rarely nominated for album of the year.
Winehouse’s autobiographical single “Rehab” will vie for record of the year with Foo Fighters’ “The Pretender,” Timberlake’s “What Goes Around ... Comes Around,” and tracks from two R&B singers — Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” and Rihanna’s Umbrella,” featuring Jay-Z.
“Rehab” and “Umbrella” were nominated for song of the year — a songwriter’s award — along with country star Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” pop band Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah,” and singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Like a Star.”
Winners will be announced during ceremonies in Los Angeles on February 10.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; editing by Steve Gorman and Jackie Frank