LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Train wreck or triumph?
Amy Winehouse, the British soul singer whose messy personal life has ravaged her promising career, will emerge from a London rehab clinic later on Sunday to perform live via satellite at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
It is perhaps one of the most keenly anticipated appearances in the 50-year history of the music industry’s top awards show -- and not just because she will likely sing her big hit, “Rehab.”
“I‘m going to be glued to it,” said Howard Benson, a nominee for producer of the year. “She’s a real, true talent. Her personal stuff notwithstanding, her music definitely speaks from the heart.”
Winehouse’s personal stuff is pretty public. Just three weeks ago, she was filmed while appearing to be smoking crack cocaine at a party in London. Her misadventures last year included an arrest in Norway for marijuana possession, bloody self-mutilation, hospitalization for “severe exhaustion,” canceled concerts, and at least one late-night stroll dressed only in jeans and bra.
Now, the brassy singer with the beehive bouffant and heavy eyeliner must try to remind fans why she scored six Grammy nominations -- a tally surpassed this year only by hip-hop star Kanye West.
Winehouse, 24, is nominated in the key categories of album, song and record of the year, as well as best new artist. Only one other person has won all four: Christopher Cross in 1981.
“Back to Black,” her second album, won immediate commercial and critical acclaim upon its release. The songs, delivered in Winehouse’s jazz-influenced style with vintage soul arrangements, were inspired by a break-up. She reconnected with her lover, Blake Fielder-Civil, and they married last May. But now he is languishing in a London prison facing serious charges related to a pub brawl.
Industry observers expect Winehouse will win most of her categories, but surprises always abound at the Grammys, which are determined by 13,000 music industry professionals.
Album of the year, for example, could go to West’s “Graduation,” some predict. The outspoken rapper, who suffered his own difficult year when his mother died in November after undergoing plastic surgery, was unpleasantly surprised to lose this category on his two previous attempts.
West received eight nominations this year. Apart from album of the year, all his other mentions were in the rap field. In two of his categories, he is competing against himself.
One of Winehouse’s producers, Mark Ronson, said he was braced for “Rehab” to lose record of the year to the ubiquitous single “Umbrella,” which was performed by R&B singer Rihanna and rapper Jay-Z.
“I met Rihanna (on Thursday) and told her I wouldn’t be mad if she won record of the year, because ‘Umbrella’ was a monolithic, giant hit of the year,” Ronson said.
Other leading nominees include rock band the Foo Fighters, Jay-Z, pop singer Justin Timberlake, all with five nominations each.
In all, winners will be announced in 110 categories, covering such genres as country, jazz, R&B, folk, Latin and classical, not to mention polka and spoken word. All but a dozen or so statuettes will be handed out in rapid-fire succession during a two-hour non-televised ceremony beginning at 1:30 p.m. The main event kicks off at the Staples Center at 5 p.m.
Editing by Eric Beech