LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Reformed pill-popper Eminem has written the prescription for Grammys success on Sunday.
The 38-year-old rapper, riding a natural high after a successful comeback album recounted his near-fatal struggle with addiction, leads the field of contenders at the music industry’s top awards with 10 nominations.
He will vie for honors in the key races of album, record and song of the year — none of which he has ever won before.
If tradition is anything to go by, Eminem will add plenty of statuettes to a shelf already groaning under the weight of 11 Grammys, all but one for victories in the rap field.
The 12,000 music industry insiders who vote for the Grammys love to reward artists making career comebacks, especially if they have overcome personal setbacks along the way, and Eminem fulfills those criteria.
The rapper, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, went almost five years between studio albums. He spent much of his time holed up in his Detroit home battling an addiction to prescription medication, and nearly died of a methadone overdose in 2007.
Eminem returned to the limelight in 2009 with “Relapse,” which yielded two Grammys, and followed up last June with “Recovery,” in which he detailed his descent into madness, loss of self-esteem, and struggles with writers’ block.
Critics loved his brutal honesty. Fans made “Recovery” the biggest selling album of the year in the United States.
Eminem was the favorite to take the album of the year Grammy in 2001, but he lost to an obscure release by Steely Dan in one of the biggest upsets in Grammy history.
“It’s overdue and it’s his time,” said Claude Kelly, a pop and R&B songwriter nominated for a tune performed by former “American Idol” champion Fantasia.
Eminem’s rivals this time are country group Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster,” Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” and “The Suburbs” from Arcade Fire, the only rock act in the big three categories.
Lady Gaga is perhaps his biggest challenger, according to one of Eminem’s collaborators, Alex “Da Kid” Grant.
“She definitely made a huge impact when she came out, and she moved popular culture,” said Grant, who would share the album prize with Eminem in his capacity as a producer.
Eminem’s hit single “Love the Way You Lie,” a domestic-abuse ballad featuring R&B singer Rihanna, arguably faces a tougher race in the record and song categories; the former goes to the artist, and the latter to the songwriter.
Cee Lo Green’s expletive-laden, gospel-influenced “F—- You” is a strong contender in both fields, said songwriter Bonnie McKee, citing the soulful singer’s elegant phrasing.
“It feels throwback, but it still has a very modern lyric, in much the same way that ‘Rehab’ did with Amy Winehouse,” said McKee, who co-wrote No. 1 songs for Perry and Britney Spears.
Kelly said a surprise song of the year winner could be “The House That Built Me,” a country song performed by Miranda Lambert that Kelly described as the best song of any genre.
Canadian idols Justin Bieber and Drake, two of the hottest commodities in the music world, lead a strong international field for best new artist. They will compete for the award alongside two British bands, Florence & The Machine and Mumford & Sons; and American jazz singer Esperanza Spalding.
This is always a tough race to call. Past winners have included the Beatles and Mariah Carey, and where-are-they-now? acts like Debby Boone and Starland Vocal Band.
“As much as we all wanna hate Justin Bieber,” McKee said of the 16-year-old moptop beloved by young girls everywhere, “he’s really talented...He’s got a great voice and he’s a great performer and he’s really made an impact on pop culture.”
Kelly has his money on Bieber’s pal Drake, a hip-hop singer who started out as an actor in a teen soap. “He had big records, he has a strong presence, he has a personality, and a point of view and a sound,” said Kelly.
Winners in all 108 categories will be announced during back-to-back ceremonies in Los Angeles. The latter, three-hour presentation will be broadcast worldwide.
Editing by Jill Serjeant