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Ken Ehrlich and Neil Portnow faced an unusual obstacle as they attempted to pull together enough star power to reverse the ratings declines of recent years.

I.B BAD TALKS GRAMMYS

This Is and Has Always Been a Brutal Business, but There’s No Crying in Grammy Noms
No Grammy field is without its share of controversy, and this year is no exception. Among those artists who are the victims of perceived snubs are breakthrough newcomers Katy Perry and Leona Lewis, neither of whom was among the nominees for Best New Artist; Duffy, whose “Mercy” failed to get a Record of the Year nod; Alicia Keys, who was overlooked in the Album of the Year category; and Vampire Weekend, shut out of the Alternative Album competition. Also noteworthy for their absence are Taylor Swift, who co-hosted the nominations show, and Mariah Carey, who performed on it.

Speaking of snubs, the entire music business is puzzling over Oscar turning a deaf ear to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” in the Best Original Song category, which incomprehensibly has only three nominees this year, two of them for A.R. Rahman contributions to Slumdog Millionaire. ABC's loss is NBC's gain, as the network is using the new single “Working on a Dream” in its Super Bowl promos, complete with a Chyron credit.

Longtime Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich and Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow faced an unusual obstacle as they attempted to pull together enough star power to reverse the ratings declines of recent years. Many in the shrinking galaxy of legitimate stars were too preoccupied with the inauguration of Barack Obama, whose campaign had galvanized the artistic community, to think about the Grammys, but Ehrlich is said to be making up for lost time this week as he races to put together his trademark star pairings.

U2 will perform on the Grammy telecast, and rumor has it that the band will open the show, which takes care of Ehrlich’s need for a boffo lead-in. With this primetime network showcase on the heels of Bono and company’s widely seen and much-buzzed-about performance at the pre-inaugural concert, aired live and repeatedly rerun by HBO, the setup for the band’s March 3 album No Line on the Horizon (Interscope) now rivals that for Springsteen’s Working on a Dream.

Meanwhile, the majors have dramatically scaled down the big bashes that have become a Grammy-night fixture, realizing it would be in bad taste to break out the Dom and caviar at a time when they’re letting people go. The exception is the Grammy-eve shindig of Clive Davis. In partnering on the event, Davis and Portnow are renewing ties that date back the early ’80s, when the Academy chief ran Arista’s West Coast offices.

Also going full swing is the annual MusiCares benefit concert, this year honoring Neil Diamond, with a star-studded lineup that includes Coldplay, Adele, Foo Fighters and Josh Groban, reflecting the many connections of board members Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke and chair John Branca.

GRUBMAN & BRANCA
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