It's good to be the queen. Just ask the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige, who was on cloud nine Thursday morning (December 7) after racking up eight Grammy nominations related to her album, The Breakthrough.
"I feel so good about the eight nominations," a humble-sounding Blige said after helping to announce some of the other artists up for Grammys this year (see "Mary J. Blige, Chili Peppers Top Grammy Nominations List"). "Man, The Breakthrough has truly been an album that has helped so many people. 'Be Without You' connected with people because it's about how hard relationships can be. But at the end of the day, if you love someone you want to work it as long as they're respecting you. And that's real."
Obviously Grammy voters agreed, giving "Be Without You" four nominations, including the coveted Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Blige was trailed by a large entourage and horde of reporters on Grammy morning, graciously answering questions and repeatedly expressing her surprise at the bounty of nominations for the album, which has sold almost 4 million copies in the U.S. alone.
But not even Blige's enthusiasm could match that of British-Army-captain-turned-sensitive-balladeer James Blunt, who was so jazzed about his five nominations — which include Song of the Year and Record of the Year for his inescapable hit "You're Beautiful," and Best New Artist and Best Male Pop Vocal for his debut, Back to Bedlam — that he was jokingly contemplating quitting while he's ahead.
"I'm in a state of shock," said a grinning and clearly excited Blunt. "It's a surprise to me, but a great surprise and a huge honor. I'm gonna retire." Trying to explain the allure of his international chart-topping hit, Blunt said, "I guess it's a song most people can relate to. We've all looked at some stranger along the way and caught eyes and wondered, if time and place would have been different, what might have been." Though the diminutive, unassuming Blunt was sometimes overlooked by the mob rushing to interview Blige, Ludacris and Justin Timberlake — although the latter split early after taking offense to a question about his ex Britney Spears — he took solace by bonding with some fellow British citizens.
Fellow U.K. newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae was equally surprised, describing as "surreal" the feeling of hearing her name called three times, though she seemed almost as impressed at meeting some of the marquee nominees. "I just didn't expect it," she said of her nods for Record of the Year and Song of the Year (both for "Put Your Records On") and Best New Artist. "I've had a great morning. I've met Mary J. Blige for the first time in my life. I met Justin Timberlake and they know my album, which is crazy."
By now, Ludacris must be getting used to seeing his name on these lists, whether it's for his film work in "Crash" or his 12 previous Grammy nominations. "Come on man, you know it feels damn good to be recognized by the Academy!" Luda said. "We up early this morning for a reason, 'cause I'm not much of a morning person, but it feels good." Energized by the competition in the Best Rap Album category — where he'll face off against Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell, the Roots and fellow Atlantan T.I. — Luda had his game face on when he said, "There's some good competition, but that's what it's all about."
While talking to MTV News, the rapper was handed a cell phone so he could take a call from label boss L.A. Reid, who congratulated him on his four nominations. "I had to bring it for the home team!" he told Reid.
Slightly less confident about her prospects was Scottish newcomer KT Tunstall, who lamented her fierce competition in the Best Female Pop Vocal Performance category. "I was slightly disappointed with [how tough the competition is]," she said. "I was like, 'Sheryl Crow, Christina Aguilera ... great!' But we'll see, we'll see ... "