LOS ANGELES – In less than a year's time, Mariah Carey managed to escape pop's most dreaded fate — faded superstar — to become its reigning queen, ruling the record charts with the year's most popular single and its best-selling album.
Fast Facts: Grammy Nominees
Carey could also become queen of the Grammys if her momentum carries into Wednesday night. The diva, who won her only two Grammys 16 years ago as a multiplatinum newcomer, has the opportunity to win a record-setting eight trophies, including in the coveted categories of record, song, and album of the year. No woman has won more than five Grammys in one evening.
A big win would be especially sweet for Carey, one of the best-selling artists of all time, who fell into a slump a few years ago after dealing with an emotional breakdown, a flop movie with "Glitter" and its poorly received soundtrack.
In 2005, she was redeemed — "The Emancipation of Mimi" sold more than 5 million copies and her torch ballad "We Belong Together" was the year's most popular song.
"I think Mariah is going to have a great night," said Carey fan Alicia Keys, who shares the most-Grammys-in-one-haul record with Beyonce and Lauryn Hill. "It's very nice to see people not give up."
"I'm just so happy for her," said Mary J. Blige. "I watched them count her out; I watched them not believe her; I watched them say she was done. And she's back! So I'm going there just to see that, clap for her, and just be happy for her, and yes — I want her to get all of them. I want her to clean up."
Ten years ago, Carey was also in a position to sweep the Grammy awards, up for six of them, including record of the year for the tear-jerker ballad "One Sweet Day" with Boyz II Men. But she went home empty-handed as edgy newcomer Alanis Morissette became the belle of the ball, winning four for "Jagged Little Pill."
This time, Carey again has tough competition in many of the categories in which she's nominated.
"The nominees are as strong as they've been in a long time," said Rick Krim, executive vice president of music and talent programming at VH1. With a diverse field of nominees that includes U2, Paul McCartney, Green Day and Gwen Stefani, he said, it's possible no artist — even Carey — will dominate the Grammys this year.
"I just think the nominees are so strong in the big categories and so deserving, it would somewhat be surprising," he said of a single-artist sweep.
Carey is not the only artists with eight nominations Wednesday night. Maverick rapperKanye West and his R&B protege, newcomer John Legend, join her at the head of the pack. Carey and West are competing for record and album of the year — Carey for "We Belong Together and "The Emancipation of Mimi," and West for "Gold Digger" and "Late Registration."
This is the second year in a row that West finds himself nominated for a possible avalanche of Grammys — and it's only his second album. Last year, he was the leading nominee with 10 for his groundbreaking debut rap album, "The College Dropout" and his songwriting and production skills for other artists.
West is also considered a strong favorite Wednesday — "Gold Digger," featuring Jamie Foxx reprising his Ray Charles bit, was one of the most popular songs of the year, and "Late Registration" sold more than two million copies.
But Carey and West face tough competition in the record of the year and album of the year categories. Other nominees for record of the year include Green Day's poignant "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Gwen Stefani's crowd-pleaser "Hollaback Girl," and "Feel Good Inc." from the cartoon-fronted band, The Gorillaz.
For album of the year, the field is just as fierce. U2, who seems to win a Grammy every time it puts out an album, is nominated for "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb"; Stefani is up for her kitschy solo debut, "Love. Angel. Music. Baby."; and rock god Paul McCartney, who released his most acclaimed work in years with "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard," is also nominated.
Though the former Beatle's album hardly had the commercial appeal of the rest of the nominees, the 63-year-old has never won a Grammy for best album — and he might be able to pull off an upset.
"People are always sentimental for a Beatle," Krim said, though he added that a McCartney win "would be the one that would be a bit of a shocker to people."
Compared to McCartney and many other nominees, Legend is a far less familiar name. The silky soulful balladeer made his debut in late 2004 with the album "Get Lifted," and was nominated for a stunning eight Grammys, including song of the year for his simple yet elegant ballad, "Ordinary People." He is a heavy favorite to win the best new artist category, in which he is competing with R&B dance queen Ciara, emo rockers Fall Out Boy, the rock group Keane and the country trio SugarLand.
"I think he's a classic Grammy type of artist, who's made a great record, critically acclaimed," says Krim. "Sort of like the Grammys adopted Alicia Keys, and she's sort of a Grammy mainstay, I think he'll be the same. There's no glitz or glamor around it, it's very true."
The Grammys will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. EST.