By NEKESA MUMBI MOODY
LOS ANGELES — Mary J. Blige, the self-described Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, has a chance to become the Queen of the Grammys tonight with a leading eight nominations for her best-selling, critically acclaimed album, ‘‘The Breakthrough.’’ ...
While Blige isn’t nominated for album of the year, she is up for the coveted record and song of the year trophies for her ballad ‘‘Be Without You.’’ Her other nominations include R&B album of the year.
While Blige is the overall Grammy leader, there are several contenders for a Grammy sweep. The Dixie Chicks are also comeback darlings and are nominated for a total of five awards for their album, ‘‘Taking the Long Way,’’ their first disc since the country backlash over lead singer Natalie Maines’ criticism of President Bush in 2003. The trio is nominated for album of the year, and also for record and song of the year for their defiant anthem, ‘‘Not Ready to Make Nice.’’
Other contenders for album of the year include Justin Timberlake, for his futuristic sounding club disc ‘‘FutureSex/LoveSounds’’; John Mayer’s ‘‘Continuum’’; the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s ‘‘Stadium Arcadium’’; and ‘‘St. Elsewhere’’ from the duo Gnarls Barkley.
Gnarls Barkley had one of the year’s most infectious tunes with the psychedelic soul of ‘‘Crazy,’’ and the group was rewarded with four Grammy nominations, including a record and song of the year nomination for the tune. Besides Blige and the Dixie Chicks, the other record of the year nominees are British newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae for her sweet and soulful ‘‘Put Your Records On,’’ and another Brit, James Blunt, for his aching ballad ‘‘You’re Beautiful.’’
Both Rae and Blunt are nominated for best new artist, along with another British singer-songwriter, Imogen Heap, and teenage R&B singer Chris Brown. But former ‘‘American Idol’’ champ Carrie Underwood, who had an amazing year with her multiplatinum debut album, ‘‘Some Hearts,’’ is seen by many as the favorite to win.
Of course, being the favorite and actually winning are two different things, and finding out who will take a Grammy home was part of the evening’s drama. But the Recording Academy, now in its 49th year, is hoping to inject more excitement into the show with its contest, ‘‘My Grammy Moment,’’ in which three women were contending for the chance to sing onstage with Timberlake during his performance; the winner is to be determined by viewers and revealed during the show.
Another performance is also primed to be the most-talked about of the night: the reunion of The Police. The band split in 1984, and last performed together in 2003 when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They are set to go on a comeback tour this year.