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Digging Kanye West's singing? Rate the 'SNL' performance

December 14, 2008 |  7:33 pm


While artists such as Alicia Keys and John Mayer get talked-up as Grammy darlings, since 2005, perhaps, the biggest Grammy mainstay has been rapper Kanye West. Album of the year nods came his way in 2005, 2006 and 2008.

He was a force at the recently announced nominations for 2009 as well. There was Kanye's name atop the Grammy press release, boasting of his six nominations. But those six noms come with an asterisk. None are for music released under his own name, as Kanye was recognized this year only for his collaborations with other artists. 

Yes, his "808s & Heartbreak" was released after the Sept. 30 deadline, but his single, "Love Lockdown," was eligible. It was indeed submitted, and then promptly ignored, by Grammy voters.

And it's not that voters didn't have time to get to know the tune. Kanye, after all, unveiled the song on the MTV Video Music Awards in early September. But it heralded Kanye's move from rapper to singer, and it will be curious to see if that hurts his Grammy appeal.

It's easy for voters to shower accolades upon Kanye in the rap categories, where Kanye has dominated, but "808s & Heartbreak" is essentially a pop record, where Kanye will face stiffer competition. 

And making matters tougher for the artist, his singing is still getting mixed reviews. Less than 24 hours after appearing on "Saturday Night Live," Kanye was getting attacked for singing like "bad karaoke."

Please --  the man isn't a great singer, but that's not the point of "808s & Heartbreak," as Kanye artfully uses auto-tune vocal effects to soften the edges on his voice, turning emotional, heartbroken rants into something a bit more nuanced, a bit more lost.

And anyway, Kanye, rightfully, doesn't seem too concerned. He posted the "Saturday Night Live" clips on his blog. Watch "Heartless" for yourself, while the clip is still available:

So what's the verdict?

--Todd Martens

Photo: Kanye West at the MTV VMAs. Credit: Associated Press