LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rapper Kanye West ruled the Grammy Award nominations for the third time in four years on Wednesday, reaffirming his status as the dominant hip-hop star of his generation.
Meanwhile troubled British pop singer Amy Winehouse headed a strong field of female contenders, picking up nominations in the top four categories. Rock, jazz and country artists also received high-profile bids, giving an unusually diverse look to the latest race for the music industry’s highest honors.
West, 30, received eight nominations, followed by six for Winehouse. Six acts received five nominations each, including rock band the Foo Fighters, rapper Jay-Z and pop singer Justin Timberlake.
West’s tally was highlighted by an album of the year nomination for his third release, “Graduation,” one of the biggest sellers of 2007. The other nods were all in the rap categories.
The Chicago native already has six Grammys, after leading the races for the 2005 and 2006 ceremonies with a total of 18 nominations. But in both those instances, he failed to win the contest for best album.
At past awards shows, West has expressed his displeasure at losing. But the 2008 Grammys, set for February 10 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, will likely find West in a more reflective mood, following the sudden death of his mother after undergoing plastic surgery last month.
‘TABLOID TRAIN WRECK’
Winehouse faces West in the contest for album of the year for her second release, “Back to Black,” while claiming a spot as a contender for best new artist. Her autobiographical tune “Rehab” was cited for record and song of the year (the latter award goes to the songwriter, in this case Winehouse).
The 24-year-old London native won commercial and critical acclaim for “Back to Black,” which mixed personal lyrics with melodies harking back to the golden age of soul. But her promising career has been overshadowed by drug and alcohol problems.
Blender magazine editor in chief Craig Marks said the beehive-coiffed singer would be a clear favorite to dominate the Grammys if not for the fact that she is “a tabloid train wreck,” which could repel some of the 12,000 music industry professionals who vote on the Grammys.
With the U.S. government cracking down on work visas for musicians with legal problems, Winehouse may have trouble performing at the Grammys. She had to cancel a U.S. visit last month because of visa issues. Grammy organizers said they will enlist immigration lawyers to help Winehouse if necessary.
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.
The other five-time nominees were hip-hop producer Timbaland, R&B singer T-Pain, and rapper Ne Yo. Organizers initially miscounted Ne Yo’s tally.
Bruce Springsteen was among the acts with four nominations, but his latest release, “Magic,” was a surprise omission from the album of the year race, which he has never won.
Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney earned recognition in three categories, including a nomination for “Memory Almost Full” as best pop vocal album.
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.”
Gill, 50, already has 18 Grammys, but this is his first nomination for album of the year. Asked about his chances of winning that prize, the double-nominee was not overly confident.
“What? Are you nuts? Of course not!” Gill told Reuters. “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. The most recent contender was Norah Jones, who won in 2003.
Blender’s Marks said the Gill and Hancock picks were “admirable,” but that if Winehouse or West do not win album of the year, “it would be real egg on the Grammys’ faces.”
Winehouse’s 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” also were nominated for song of the year, 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.”