Paul McCartney's three nominations, and Mariah's eight, are among the surprises on the list of 2006 nominees
Credit: Paul McCartney: Steve Granitz/

Grammy’s smart (and odd) choices

The Grammy nominations are not unlike that annual holiday fruitcake — you pretty much know what you’re in for, but every once in a while you bite into something a little bit…odd. Below, the good, the bad, and the inexplicable:

Mariah, on Fire
Mimi’s Emancipation proclamation has certainly paid off; the multi-octave singer has finally forsaken all that Glittered for real gold in the form of eight nods, including Album, Record and Song of the year. Few could argue that this hasn’t been her time; the singles ”We Belong Together” and ”Don’t Forget About Us” owned radio and MTV for the latter half of 2005. The odds of her going home emptyhanded are about as likely as her hitting the red carpet in demure Amish dress and bonnet.

Go West
Tying Mariah is Kanye West, he of the consciousness-raising and George-Bush-baiting; his Katrina-related political outburst apparently didn’t hurt his chances with the traditionally conservative RIAA — thanks to the massive success of ”Gold Digger” (up for Record of the Year), and the currently on-the-rise single ”Heard ‘Em Say,” he’s got a good chance of snagging at least as many as he did last year (2004 garnered West three statues for his 10 nominations). And he can take at least partial credit for the eight noms earned by critically praised R&B crooner John Legend, his protégé (up for Newcomer and Song of the Year, among others); together with Mimi, they each tie as the leaders of the nominee pack.

Not Too Shabby
Tying for second place are 50 Cent, The Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am and Stevie Wonder, all with six nods apiece. The bronze medalists? Missy Elliott, Gwen Stefani, Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, and U2. Waiting on four possible statuettes: Common, Foo Fighters, Destiny’s Child, engineer Phil Tan, Neptunes, Gretchen Wilson, Brad Paisley, and Gorillaz.

‘Chaos’ Theory
Paul McCartney’ nods for Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, nd Best Pop Vocal Album are as out of left field as a superstar’ can be; his album, Chaos and Creation In the Backyard, was hardly a commercial smash, and McCartney himself hasn’t won a solo Grammy (as opposed to a Beatles one) since 1979, when he snagged a statue with Wings.

And You Are…?
McCartney aside, Mariah, Gwen, U2, and Kanye are all likely candidates for Album of the Year, but absent from that race are usual Academy pets Eminem, Coldplay, and Bruce Springsteen. The Boss gets a nod instead for Song of the Year; Coldplay can comfort itself with Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Album; Marshall Mathers maxes out on Best Rap Solo Performance (for ”Mockingbird”), Duo or Group Performance (with Dre. Dre, on ”Encore”), and Rap Album, where he goes up against Kanye, Common, Missy, and 50 Cent.

Yay for Tight Pants!
Fashion-friendly art-rockers the Killers (for ”All These Things I’ve Done”) and Franz Ferdinand (”Do You Want To”), considered young upstarts in 2004, are up against big guns this year: Coldplay, U2, and the Foo Fighters for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group. Franz raises its head again in the Best Alternative Music Album category, alongside blog-phenom favorites The Arcade Fire, recently-gone-the-majors Death Cab for Cutie, old-standby Beck, and the White Stripes, whose ”My Doorbell” also landed a spot in the Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group.

My Country ‘Tis of Thee
The only Nashville act to sneak into the Best New Artist category (alongside Keane, Ciara, John Legend, and Fallout Boy) was singer-songwriter trio SugarLand, but the rest of the country categories are no big shock: Lots of Rascall Flatts, Brad Paisley, Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn, Big & Rich and, of course, Miss Gretchen Wilson, though Paisley’s the lone male up for Best Country Album, alongside Faith, Gretchen, Trisha Yearwood, and Alison Krauss.

‘Idol’ Worship
Kelly Clarkson’s ”Since U Been Gone” lands her in both the Best Female Pop Vocal and Best Pop Vocal Album (the latter against Stefani, Sheryl Crow, Fiona Apple, and Paul McCartney); Fantasia’s Free Yourself earned the Season Three winner three noms in R&B categories. Maybe next year when you’re eligible, Bo Bice…

What do you think readers — hits and misses? Post your reaction here.