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Jazmine Sullivan's big night: 5 Grammy nominations

December 4, 2008 |  4:59 pm

When Jazmine Sullivan got her invitation to the Grammy Awards nominations telecast, she was hoping she wouldn't leave without being mentioned in at least one category. "I thought, 'I hope they don't invite me and I'm not even nominated,' " she said backstage at the Nokia Theatre on Wednesday.

She didn't need to worry: The R&B singer, 21, scored five nominations, one in the best new artist category -- pitting her against teen sensations the Jonas Brothers, country act Lady Antebellum and British songstresses Adele and Duffy.

"It's surreal, I can't believe they actually like the project and liked me as an artist," she said. "For it finally to be paying off. . . . It makes me happy."

Sullivan's debut single, "Need U Bad" -- evocative of '70s soul music against a tropical backbeat -- climbed to No. 1 on the R&B and hip-hop charts. Still, her journey wasn't without struggle.

As a teenager, Sullivan was signed to Jive Records, she said. But after two years, the label scrapped her album and dropped her from its roster.

"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."

Sullivan penned most of the songs on her debut, "Fearless," released by J Records in September and nominated for best contemporary R&B album. It's a fusion of reggae, pop, doo-wop, jazz and classical music; critics have compared Sullivan's voice to that of an earlier Grammy darling, Lauryn Hill.

Sullivan also co-wrote one song that appears on Grammy rival Jennifer Hudson's self-titled debut, also released in September. She's competing with the Oscar winner for best female R&B vocal performance and best R&B song.

Sullivan said she hadn't even begun to think about what she might wear to the Grammy ceremony Feb. 8. "Hopefully designers will show me a bunch of designer clothes . . . I like to keep things simple."

But the Philadelphia native does know whom she'll ask to escort her down the red carpet. "I'll probably bring my parents," she said.

--Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Jazmine Sullivan arrives for the Grammy nominations announcement Wednesday, Dec. 4. Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times