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West, Legend, Carey Among Top Grammy Contenders in Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop Category

The U.S. music industry gathers in Los Angeles February 8, to honor outstanding achievements in all musical fields. VOA's Ray McDonald takes a look at some of the more intriguing races in this year's 48th annual Grammy Awards.

Five years ago, Mariah Carey's career was hanging by a thread. Public breakdowns and the failure of her much-hyped Glitter project threatened to eclipse the legacy of the biggest-selling female artist of the 1990s.

Last year, in a turnaround worthy of Hollywood, Mariah enjoyed the Number One album of 2005 with The Emancipation of Mimi. Mariah received her two previous Grammy Awards in 1990, taking Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal. This year, she's in line for eight awards. You just heard "We Belong Together," competing for Record and Song Of The Year honors; The Emancipation Of Mimi fights for the Album Of The Year title.

Only two other acts received eight nominations: Kanye West and singer John Legend. Born John Stephens, this native of Ohio began singing and playing piano at age five. At 16, he performed on Lauryn Hill's hit single "Everything Is Everything." From there, John worked with a wide array of acts, including Janet Jackson and Alicia Keys. His debut album, Get Lifted, appeared in 2004. John's eight nominations include Best New Artist. Running against him are rock acts Keane and Fall Out Boy; R & B vocalist Ciara; and country pop trio Sugarland, whose vocalist Kristen Hall last week announced her departure. She wants to concentrate on songwriting.

If Gorillaz takes the trophy for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, it will be difficult for the members to take the stage … they don't exist. These four cartoon characters are the creation of Damon Albarn, leader of the British pop act Blur, and illustrator Jamie Hewlett. Altogether, they're up for five Grammy nominations.

It could be argued Fantasia is also artificially created, yet there's nothing false about this single mother from North Carolina. The winner of the 2004 American Idol competition competes in three categories, including Best R & B Album for Free Yourself.

The Grammy Awards' importance stems from their source - only members of the Recording Academy may vote. This organization draws its membership from the ranks of musicians, producers, engineers, and other recording professionals. This year, the Academy members selected seven acts to receive their prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award: Rock performers Cream and David Bowie; country singer Merle Haggard; the late comedian Richard Pryor; blues legend Robert Johnson; opera vocalist Jessye Norman; and folk group The Weavers.

The 48th annual Grammy Awards ceremony takes place February 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and will broadcast to a global audience.