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Lil Wayne, Coldplay rake in Grammy nominations*

December 3, 2008 |  8:25 pm

Lil Wayne

New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne, defying the trend of an industry in retreat by selling 1 million copies of his third album, “Tha Carter III,” in a single week last July, was rewarded with a field-leading eight Grammy Award nominations tonight, including album of the year.

Lil Wayne galvanized rap fans in the months leading up to the album’s release with a seemingly never-ending series of mix tapes distributed over the Internet, pointing the way toward new methods of generating excitement at a time when consumers’ overall enthusiasm toward the record industry’s offerings continues to erode.

Recording Academy voters who decide on nominated artists and recordings, while taking the position that Grammy recognition does not hinge on sales or chart position, nonetheless heaped the most nominations on acts that continued to sell solidly and chart high during 2008. They include Coldplay, which collected seven nods, and Jay-Z, Kanye West and Ne-Yo, tied with six apiece. The rappers benefited from their many collaborations in categories dominated by recordings featuring guest performers.

Coldplay, however, was the only act to complete the hat trick of nominations in the three top categories of record, album and song of the year from its hit album “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends.” Lil Wayne’s other nominations came primarily in rap categories.

Adele, the 20-year-old British singer and songwriter sometimes tagged as “the next Amy Winehouse,” also snagged nominations in three of the Grammys’ four marquee fields. She received a best new artist nod (along with Duffy, the Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum and Jazmine Sullivan) as well as record and song nominations for “Chasing Pavements,” a track from her album “19.”

One of the biggest surprise hits of recent years, “Raising Sand,” the collaboration between Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and bluegrass darling Alison Krauss, generated five nominations.

The track “Please Read the Letter” from “Raising Sand” is nominated for record of the year, along with “Chasing Pavements,” Coldplay’s "Viva La Vida," M.I.A’s "Paper Planes" and Leona Lewis’ "Bleeding Love." The nomination of Lewis’ single brought “American Idol” sourpuss Simon Cowell his own nomination as one of the producers of the recording.

Along with the Wayne, Coldplay and Plant-Krauss efforts, the other album of the year nominees are Ne-Yo’s “Year of the Gentleman” and Radiohead’s “In Rainbows,” which set the industry abuzz last fall when the band issued it initially only as a digital download and allowed fans to pay whatever they thought it was worth, even if that was nothing.

Jazmine Sullivan, a 21-year-old R&B singer from Philadelphia, marveled backstage at her five nominations. "I was signed when I was 16,” she said, adding that nothing materialized and she was dropped. “My story is one of perseverance, picking yourself up.”

Coldplay

Attempting to stir interest any way it can, the Recording Academy unveiled nominees for the 51st Grammy Awards in a new prime-time televised ceremony with live performances by a handful of the industry’s heaviest hitters.

Academy officials lined up Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, the Foo Fighters, B.B. King, John Mayer and Taylor Swift, each of whom was given a song from the Grammy Hall of Fame to sing during the inaugural nomination announcement telecast from the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.

The nomination announcement typically results in sales hikes for the artists and recordings selected, especially multiple nominees, a result that might help bolster dour predictions for possibly the worst fourth-quarter sales period for music in recent memory, according to the firm Pali Research.

Sales of recorded music have been steadily declining since peaking in 1999, with a total of 1.16 billion units valued at $14.6 billion by the Recording Industry Assn. of America. At the end of last year, even with increasing digital sales pushing the number of units sold up to 1.77 billion, revenue had dropped to $10.4 billion.

The story’s looking no better this year. Billboard reported that music sales were off between 10% and 30% at specialty stores and major retailers over the recent Black Friday weekend. Pali’s data indicate that the decline in total album sales for the final months of 2008 might exceed last year's record fourth-quarter drop of 21%, the worst CD sales quarter decline ever.

As the leader of one of the top-selling alternative-rock bands of the 1990s, Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan said while his band was in Southern California this week for two shows, “I think our generation has shown that they are really not interested in buying music.”

For the prime-time telecast, tape-delayed until 9 p.m. for West Coast viewers, Carey was given Darlene Love’s Phil Spector-produced 1963 hit “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” during which it appeared her knee-high white go-go boots had been epoxied to the Nokia stage after she climbed into them.
Dion was uncharacteristically restrained in a sensitive rendition of Janis Ian’s aching portrait of teen heartache and alienation from 1975, “At Seventeen.”

The Foo Fighters gave a ragged and nominally in-tune performance of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” (1972), Swift was awkwardly matched to Brenda Lee’s 1960 country-pop hit “I’m Sorry” (1960), Aguilera applied her all-over-the-map vocals to  “I Love You Porgy” from George Gershwin’s 1935 classic “Porgy and Bess” and King and Mayer jammed happily on Louis Jordan’s 1947 rave-up “Let the Good Times Roll.”

King, 83, reveled less in his latest Grammy nomination — his “One Kind Favor” is vying in the traditional blues album category -- than in the recent election of Barack Obama to the presidency.

“I never thought I'd live long enough to see a black president elected in my lifetime,” King said backstage. “But I believed all of my life that one day it would be something like Dr. King once said, [that] people would be thought of and loved and appreciated for what they did and not their color. I'm so proud of this country. I'm proud to be an American. People have done so much to make people feel like people."

Members of the public had access to tickets costing $100, proceeds from which will benefit the new Grammy Museum, opening Saturday as another component of the expanding L.A. Live entertainment-residential-commercial complex.

The Recording Academy consists of more than 18,000 members, about 12,000 of those having Grammy voting privileges. The eligibility period for nominated recordings is Oct. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2008. Winners will be announced Feb. 8 in a ceremony that will be held at Staples Center and telecast on CBS-TV.

--Randy Lewis

Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.

Top: Lil Wayne performs at West Hollywood's House of Blues in June. Photo: Stefano Paltera / For The Times.

Bottom: Coldplay at the Forum in July. Photo: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times.

*UPDATED

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