By JONATHAN COHEN and GAIL MITCHELL
On Grammy night, U.K. newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae hopes to waltz through the door her soulful pop colleague Norah Jones kicked open in 2003, when she won for best new artist, album of the year and three other awards. Rae, whose self-titled debut was released by EMI internationally in February and via Capitol in June stateside, is nominated this year for best new artist, as well as for record and song of the year for the irresistible ‘‘Put Your Records On.’’ Although the track stalled at No. 64 on The Billboard Hot 100, it reached the top 15 at triple-A, adult top 40 and adult contemporary radio. ...
The laid-back craftmanship of Jones is a definite touchstone of Rae’s sound, but the artist also dabbles in neo-soul and jazzy arrangements on her debut, which has shifted 599,00 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Sales have increased during six of the past seven weeks.
And like Jones, Rae has appealed to a wide range of consumers right out of the gate, a fact she attributes to a shift in listening tastes.
‘‘I think music is going in two directions,’’ she says. ‘‘People like a lot of popular music where songs don’t mean much, but it’s about hooks, production and little catchy things. Then there are people who also like listening to someone strumming a guitar and playing a song. I really admire both styles — the Carole Kings of ‘How does a song work?’ and more like inventing a new style of production, like on ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot.’
‘‘I really tried to stay away from what’s happening in contemporary music and just listened a lot to the music I love, like Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Stevie Wonder, and thought of that as a benchmark,’’ she explains.
Although some radio formats have been receptive to Rae, she has built her audience with extensive North American touring and numerous TV appearances,beginning with visits to ‘‘The Tonight Show With Jay Leno’’ and ‘‘Good Morning America’’ in June and continuing through with mid-December performances on TNT’s ‘‘Christmas in Washington’’ and CBS’ ‘‘The Early Show.’’ And, in a booking that proves Rae’s own idols are embracing her music, she was chosen to perform alongside Wonder at his Dec. 16 House Full of Toys benefit in Los Angeles. Rae also recently taped an episode of ‘‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’’ with Mary J. Blige that will air Jan. 16.
‘‘I haven’t had a chance to really think about ÆhowØ anyone could get to hear’’ the album, she says. ‘‘Once you’ve made it and it’s out there, it works for you, but it has its own life and legs and you never know who’s going to get to hear it. That’s been the amazing thing.’’
Rae will return to the road in North America in late winter or early spring, according to Capitol, which is still weighing options for the next single from her album.