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Grammys 2009 - Coldplay, Mariah Carey et al


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This is not a true mid-year Top 10 list. The Grammy Awards, as noted last week, are ending the year a little early, with the eligibility period for next year's awards coming to a close Sept. 30.


What follows is a look at some of the more notable releases of late 2007 and the first half of 2008, and how they may fare come Grammy time. Some are major efforts from established artists and others, while Grammy long shots, are simply albums deserving of more recognition.


Ten albums are discussed in this post, and five were mentioned last week. Any favorites you want to highlight? Please share in the comments below.


And click here for a look at some of the notable new artists of 2008 ... thus far. It should be noted that some of the newcomers, such as Duffy, may also figure into the album of the year discussion, but in the interest of spreading the wealth, repeats from last week will not be discussed here.


Mariah Carey, "E=MC2." The pop diva's follow-up to the Grammy-adored "Emancipation of Mimi."


Grammy possibilities: Carey's "Mimi" marked a huge comeback for the artist, a much-needed return to form after the commercial/critical disappointments that were "Glitter" and "Charmbracelet." Recording Academy voters were apparently delighted that the megastar rebounded, and responded by awarding Carey 8 Grammy nominations, including album of the year. "E=MC2" closely follows the "Mimi" template, and at times feels like a track-by-track response (substitute "It's Like That" for "Migrate"), but audiences don't seem to mind. The album is still in the top 25 on U.S. pop charts two months after its release, and the album has already spawned two hit singles in "Touch My Body" and "Bye Bye." Carey will undoubtedly be awarded with a bevy of Grammy nominations, but don't bet on "E=MC2" scoring as many as "Mimi," and it likely won't be a favorite for an album of the year nod. It too closely sticks to the "Mimi" template.


Grammy deserving: Does it really matter? One of the best-selling artists of all time, Carey is more than critic-proof, and "E=MC2" likely didn't do anything to change anyone's mind about the singer. It's finely-produced dance-pop crafted by an assortment of the industry's highest-paid producers, and the strongest tracks are worthy representations of mainstream trends. But as a whole, "E=MC2" is responding to pop fashions rather than defining them.


Coldplay, "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends." The latest from the British rockers debuted at No. 1, and will surely end up as one of the top-selling rock albums of the year.


Grammy possibilities: Look for Coldplay to rack up the nominations. The band already has four Grammy trophies on its mantle, including two best alternative album wins, but has not yet scored an album of the year nod. If that's going to change for the band, "Viva La Vida" is the album that will do it. Turning to U2 producer Brian Eno, the album offers a tweak of the Coldplay sound, resulting in a vibrant, more energetic album, and one that will still sound momentous when blasted in baseball stadiums. It's not exactly an artsy record, but one that offers enough production flourishes that Recording Academy voters will believe they're voting for one.


Grammy deserving: If not completely daring, it's the type of album Grammy is made to recognize. The world is surely exhausted with critical takes of "Viva La Vida," but Coldplay was able to take chances without sacrificing its knack for shining choruses. Indeed, songs such as "Lost!" and the title cut are designed to be enjoyed en masse, but come packed with an attention to detail lacking in most mainstream fare.


Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, "Raising Sand." Released too late to snare an album of the year nod at the 2008 ceremony, it still earned Krauss and Plant a best pop collaboration with vocals Grammy for the swift, rootsy rocker "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)."


Grammy possibilities: Yep. Krauss already has 21 of the things, and "Raising Sand" should give her a few more, certainly in the country fields. As for Plant? He's overdue for some Grammys, and there's few things Grammy voters love more than awarding legendary artists. With "Raising Sand" being universally hailed as a pretty terrific album, it should be expected to snare some major nominations. It will be interesting to see if "Raising Sand," and its haunting country undertones, is Nashville's representative in the album of the year field.


Grammy deserving: Certainly, as "Raising Sand" landed on a bevy of year-end lists in 2007, and the melding of two distinct voices resulted in a rather transfixing work. It's an elegant, almost spooked exploration of Americana, and an admirable showcase for both artists.


Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "Dig!!! Lazurus Dig!!!" More than a dozen albums into his career, the cult hero delivers with one of his most aggressive, focused albums.


Grammy possibilities: Probably not going to happen -- and definitely not in any major fields. OK, so it isn't going to happen, but one can dream, right? And it's worth noting that the album came out on Epitaph's imprint Anti-, a label that has done a solid job of snaring nominations for its artists (Bettye LaVette, Solomon Burke). Yet depending on how -- or even if -- the album is submitted, a rock nomination or alternative nomination wouldn't be totally out of the question. Last year's alternative album field, for instance (Arcade Fire, Bjork, the Shins), was as adventurous as the Grammy voters have gotten, and Cave would fit in well in the category.


Grammy deserving: No need to write in and point out the ridiculousness of putting Nick Cave in a blog post that's more or less about the Grammys (I'm aware). But it's a wonderfully smoldering, sarcastic record, and shows that a veteran artist can still pack quite a bit of fire.


Al Green, "Lay It Down." R&B legend + a duet or two = Grammy-nominated album.


Grammy possibilities: Absolutely. See above. But even though Green receives a helping hand from a pair of former best new artist nominees -- John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae -- this is Green's show, and "Lay It Down" was one of his best-reviewed albums in years. Additionally, there's no doubt some CBS producers caught the recent BET Awards, where a lengthy tribute to Green turned out to be a rather vigorous segment. An appearance at the 2009 Grammy Awards should be expected. Green has certainly received a fair share of Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award in 2002, but the industry's goodwill to Green, coupled with a rather consistent offering, should set him up for a wealth of nominations.


Grammy deserving: While "Lay It Down" doesn't rival Green's masterworks, it's a safe and respectable addition to his catalog. And it's one that should be nominated in the R&B fields but not the pop categories.


And five others:


Erykah Badu, "New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)": A fascinatingly weird and complex R&B album from a veteran artist. Badu has four Grammys in her collection, but none for anything as funky and other-worldly as the music on this album.


Beck, "Modern Guilt": The eccentric Los Angeles artist has scored two album of the year nominations in the past. Advance word on "Modern Guilt" has been positive, and while I haven't yet had a chance to hear the whole album, commenter Rob is putting it up there with "In Rainbows."


Portishead, "Third": Returning from a 10-year absence, Portishead's "Third" will likely find itself atop of bevy of year-end lists, and has a shot at Grammy alt music category, as the band took a creative leap -- and risk -- by drastically moving away from the murky electronic/hip-hop of its past. The album, which debuted at No. 7 on the U.S. pop charts, is wildly ambitious, but the grace in Beth Gibbons' vocals keeps the album from ever being abrasive.


Rhmyefest, "Man in the Mirror": Never mind Lil Wayne, this is best hip-hop album released in 2008 thus far, and it doesn't cost a dime. A tribute to a hero, but one that makes Jackson's larger-than-life persona relatable to the working man. No shot for any sort of Grammy, as it's unlicensed work, but Rhymefest and his producer, Mark Ronson, come with the Grammy voter seal of approval.


Lil Wayne, "The Carter III": What will likely end up as the year's top-selling album, "The Carter III" could be expected a given for an album of the year nod. There's no denying Wayne's power as a singles artist, the strength of his mixtapes and his firm understanding of how to nurture his fan base -- traits that make it easier to look over the inconsistency of "The Carter III."


Photos: Mariah Carey courtesy Getty Images; Coldplay courtesy AP; Lil Wayne courtesy Stefano Paltera, For the Times



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