Jazmine Sullivan's first song was a No. 1 hit on the R&B and hip-hop charts, and her raspy voice has drawn her comparisons to Lauryn Hill. Still, the singer-songwriter was struggling for name recognition in a crowded field of music newcomers.
The Recording Academy just made it easier for her. On Wednesday, it nominated her for five Grammys, including best new artist. Her nominations match veterans like John Mayer and Alison Krauss.
And she's only 21.
"It's surreal," she said after the nominations ceremony at the Nokia Theatre. "I can't believe they actually liked the project and liked me as an artist."
Besides the best new artist nomination -- which pits her against the Jonas Brothers, U.K. songstresses Adele and Duffy and country act Lady Antebellum -- Sullivan's CD, "Fearless," was nominated for best contemporary R&B album. She was also nominated for best female R&B vocal for "Need U Bad," best traditional R&B vocal for "In Love With Another Man," and best R&B song for "Bust Your Windows."
Pretty good for a singer who was dropped by her first record label.
As a teenager, Sullivan was signed to Jive Records, she said. But after two years, the label scrapped her album and cut her loose.
"My story is one of perseverance -- keeping yourself up and learning from your mistakes," she said. "I did all these things and I started really focusing on my writing. I did the album and now I'm nominated for five Grammys."
"Fearless" was released by J Records in September. She also co-wrote a song on Jennifer Hudson's debut CD.
The Philadelphia native said she plans to bring her parents to the Grammy ceremony on Feb. 8. Her excitement about the future has already begun.
"This will just open people up more to who I am as an artist," she said. "Hopefully on the next album, more people will be into it."