LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. government might not care for Amy Winehouse, but the troubled British pop singer will likely receive plenty of long-distance love from the music industry when the Grammy Awards are handed out on Sunday.
Winehouse, whose promising career has been derailed by a litany of legal and drug woes, will compete for six of the music industry’s top prizes. But U.S. authorities refused her a visa to attend the ceremony in Los Angeles.
The beehive-coiffed tabloid target will instead take a break from the London rehab clinic she entered last month to perform live via satellite from a recording studio. It’s a prospect that makes some music industry observers nervous.
“Rehab is a very focused regimen and you’re not supposed to be distracted. There’s big potential for something negative,” said Spin magazine editor Doug Brod, mindful of Britney Spears’ disastrous showing at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.
On the other hand, Winehouse’s recovery could be helped by a knockout performance and a handful of honors, he added.
“There is some sympathy out there for her right now,” Brod said. “People understand she’s in rehab, and she’s trying to get through this.”
A&M/Octone Records president James Diener, whose label handles nominated band Maroon 5, said the 13,000 industry professionals who vote for the Grammys will be keen to reward her across the board. He noted that it was fortunate polls closed just before photos were published of Winehouse appearing to be smoking crack at a party three weeks ago.
Winehouse will compete for the coveted album of the year Grammy with her second release, “Back to Black,” and for best new artist. Her appropriately titled single “Rehab” is up for song of the year, which is given to the songwriter, and record of the year, awarded to artist.
“Back to Black” was also nominated for pop vocal album, and “Rehab” for female pop vocal performance.
Grammy-nominated producer Howard Benson expects Winehouse will win at least three of the big awards — song, record and best new artist. This trifecta has never been accomplished in the Grammys’ 49-year history.
“There are so many people who have been in rehab. They just relate to that so well, that lyric,” said Benson, describing himself as a “lyric freak.”
“Rehab” recounts Winehouse’s reluctance to get help, with the refrain: “I said, ‘No, No, No.”‘
Benson, who will compete for the producer Grammy for his work with such acts as “American Idol” finalist Chris Daughtry, predicted leading nominee Kanye West could take album of the year with “Graduation,” his third release.
“Artistically, Kanye is always breaking new ground and I think this is his year to win,” Benson said. “It’s interesting to hear an artist mature and then keep maturing even past where you think he can go. It’s the mark of greatness.”
West has eight nominations in all, more than any other artist. His other bids are in the rap field, and he is competing against himself in two categories.
Of course, the Grammys are often hard to predict. The best new artist race is notoriously quirky. While Winehouse is the clear front-runner, Octone’s Diener said 18-year-old Taylor Swift could become the second consecutive country artist to win the race, after Carrie Underwood.
Spin’s Brod said Canadian singer/songwriter Leslie Feist, who records under her last name, might sneak in because her song “1234” received huge exposure in iPod commercials.
The 50th annual Grammy Awards telecast will begin at 5 p.m. PST. Most of the 110 categories will be announced beforehand during a non-televised ceremony.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Eric Walsh