NEW YORK — The past 12 months have been particularly good for one Canadian rock band, three Nashville upstarts, a once-imprisoned southern rapper and an R&B diva in the throes of a major comeback. Now, Nickelback, Rascal Flatts, T.I. and Mary J. Blige are being recognized for their achievements as finalists in a leading five categories each for the 2006 Billboard Music Awards.
The 17th annual honors will be handed out Dec. 4 live on Fox from Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena. The show will boast performances by Janet Jackson, the Killers, Gwen Stefani, the Fray, Mary J. Blige and Ludacris featuring Pharrell and Young Jeezy. Bowling For Soup, Carrie Underwood, Carmen Electra, Dave Navarro, Flavor Flav, Three 6 Mafia, the cast of ‘‘High School Musical,’’ Celine Dion, Rihanna, Chris Brown and ‘‘American Idol’’ alums Katharine McPhee and Chris Daughtry will make appearances.
The hard-touring Nickelback is up for artist of the year and rock artist of the year, as well as duo/group of the year. Its 2005 Roadrunner release ‘‘All the Right Reasons’’ will vie for album of the year and rock album of the year. The set has sold 4 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Rascal Flatts, which owns the second-highest selling album of 2006 with the Lyric Street/Hollywood set ‘‘Me and My Gang,’’ is a finalist for artist of the year, duo/group of the year and country artist of the year. ‘‘Gang’’ is also up for country album of the year.
Thanks to his Grand Hustle/Atlantic set ‘‘King,’’ rapper T.I. is up for R&B/hip-hop artist of the year, male R&B/hip-hop artist of the year, rap artist of the year, R&B/hip-hop album of the year and rap album of the year.
Blige, meanwhile, earned finalist nods in the female artist, R&B/hip-hop artist, female R&B/hip-hop artist, R&B/hip-hop album and R&B/hip-hop single categories. Her 2005 album ‘‘The Breakthrough’’ has been one of this year’s most consistent sellers, having shifted 2.6 million copies to date.
The diversity of the top awards finalists will be matched by the performers on the MGM Grand Garden stage. ‘‘We’ve got everything from Janet, Fergie and Gwen and their very stylized, theatrical performances, to the Fray, which will be a full on rock’n’roll moment without all the props and colors,’’ says the show’s talent producer, Bruce Gillmer.
In addition, Dion will present Tony Bennett with the Century Award, Billboard’s highest honor for creative achievement.
Among the other multiple award finalists are Brown, Ne-Yo, Jamie Foxx, Kenny Chesney, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sean Paul, Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland, ‘‘High School Musical,’’ Beyonce, Yung Joc, Dem Franchize Boyz, Shinedown and Three Days Grace. BMA winners are determined by performance on Billboard’s weekly charts.