West is up for album of the year and best rap album for his third disc “Graduation.” The 30-year-old artist — who recently made headlines for mourning the loss of his mother, Chicago educator Donda West — was also honored with nods for best rap solo performance (“Stronger”), best rap song (“Can’t Tell Me Nothin’ ” and “Good Life”), best rap collaboration (“Good Life”) and best rap performance by a duo or group (“Better Than I’ve Ever Been” with Nas, Rakim and KRS-One and “Southside” with fellow Chicagoan Common).
Known for throwing unbecoming tantrums when he fails to win an award he feels he deserves, West garnered a total of 18 Grammy nominations for his first two albums, “The College Dropout” (2004) and “Late Registration” (2005). But he has only won top honors in six relatively minor categories to date, and he has yet to claim the most sought-after prize for album of the year.
Common, another rapper who grew up around 87th Street and who recently scored the bestselling album of his career with the West-produced “Finding Forever,” earned a total of three Grammy nods today, with best rap solo performance (“The People”) and best rap album joining the nomination for his collaboration with West on the aptly named “Southside.”
The other big local music story was the recognition of “Hey There Delilah,” a song from the fourth album by Chicago shopping-mall punks and Fall Out Boy proteges the Plain White T’s. A No. 1 hit last July, the tune — which band member Tom Higgenson wrote about an unrequited crush on Delilah DiCrescenzo, a Chicago athlete and runner training for the 2008 Olympics — is a contender for the major honor of song of the year as well as best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals.
As the music industry’s best-known awards prepare to celebrate their first half century, the 2007 nominations reflect the same problems that have beset the Grammys since their origins as a reaction by the old-school music industry against the then-new juvenile-delinquent scourge of rock ’n’ roll: While a number of credible and well-deserving artists are always nominated, just as many nods go to well-funded major-label hypes, and the honorees in the major categories rarely represent truly groundbreaking or cutting-edge performers.
In addition to the hometown heroes already cited, this year’s list of multiple nominees includes the troubled retro chanteuse Amy Winehouse with six Grammy nods; increasingly lame alternative rockers the Foo Fighters, past-their-prime rap legends Jay-Z and Timbaland, dance-pop superstar Justin Timberlake and hip-hop favorite T-Pain with five nominations each and one-dimensional rapper Akon, country hat acts Dierks Bentley and Tim McGraw, former American Idol contestant Chris Daughtry, annoying indie-pop crooner Feist, R&B singers and fashion models Ne-Yo and Rihanna and long-running rock icon Bruce Springsteen with four Grammy nods apiece.
In the prestigious album of the year category, West’s “Graduation” will be competing with “Back to Black” by Winehouse, “Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace” by the Foo Fighters, “These Days” by Vince Gill and “River: The Joni Letters,” jazz man Herbie Hancock’s tribute to Joni Mitchell.
Contenders for record the year (which honors the recording artist) are “Irreplaceable” by Beyonce, “The Pretender” by the Foo Fighters, “Umbrella” by Rihanna and Jay-Z, “What Goes Around ... Comes Around” by Timberlake and “Rehab” by Winehouse. And in addition to the Plain White T’s, the nominees for song of the year (which is awarded to the songwriters) are “Before He Cheats” performed by Carrie Underwood, “Like A Star” by Corinne Bailey Rae, “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse and “Umbrella,” the hugely popular if somewhat soggy single by Rihanna.
In the last of Grammy’s “big four” categories, the nominations for best new artist are Feist, the genteel crooner who’s become ubiquitous on television commercials for the iPod; New Orleans R&B singer Ledisi Anibade; the Tennessee-based, emo-influenced pop-rock band Paramore; country singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and Winehouse, the beehive-sporting English soul singer who broke through in the U.S. with the hit “Rehab” — a sad irony, given that she has since become as well known for her failed attempts to battle drug and alcohol abuse as she is for her music.
Other Chicago artists who scored Grammy nominations include controversial R&B superstar R. Kelly (best R&B performance by a duo or group for “Same Girl” with Usher and best long form music video for “Trapped in the Closet Chapters 13-22”); Chaka Khan (best R&B album for “Funk This” and best R&B performance by a duo or group for “Disrespectful” with Mary J. Blige); Donald Lawrence and the Tri-City Singers (best gospel song for “Encourage Yourself” and best gospel album for “The Grand Finale: Encourage Yourself”) and alternative country/art-rock favorites Wilco (best rock album for “Sky Blue Sky”).
Also: Eighth Blackbird, a chamber music combo in residence at the University of Chicago (best chamber music performance, “Strange Imaginary Animals”); Otis Clay (best traditional R&B vocal performance, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”); Lupe Fiasco (best urban/alternative performance, “Daydreamin’” with Jill Scott); Kurt Elling (best jazz vocal album, “Nightmoves”); Freddy Cole (best jazz vocal album, “Music Maestro Please”); Otis Rush (best traditional blues album, “Live... and in Concert from San Francisco”); Koko Taylor (best traditional blues album, “Old School”); Sones de Mexico Ensemble (best Mexican-American album, “Esta Tierra Es Tuya”) and Illinois Senator and presidential contender Barack Obama (best spoken word album, “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream”).
Sadly, for the first time in this reporter’s 15 years on the pop music beat, Chicago was not represented in Grammy’s much-coveted Category 76, best polka album.
The Grammys will be handed out at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 10 during a ceremony that will be telecast live on WBBM-Channel 2 starting at 7 p.m.