Much of Blige: 8 Grammy noms 'Breakthrough' just that; Chili Peppers' 6 lead runners-up

Mary J. Blige's "The Breakthrough" took on added meaning when nominations were announced Thursday for the 49th annual Grammy Awards. The R&B singer leads the pack with eight noms (HR 12/8).

Other key multiple Grammy nominees include Red Hot Chili Peppers (six nominations) and James Blunt, Dixie Chicks, John Mayer, Danger Mouse, Prince, Rick Rubin, Will.i.am and composer John Williams (five each).

Not surprisingly, Blige dominates the R&B categories, where five of her noms originate. But it is the nominations in two marquee categories — song of the year and record of the year for "Be Without You" — that signal the crossover commercial and critical appeal Blige achieved with her Geffen album.

For all the accolades "Breakthrough" accumulated, however, it was shut out of the album of the year category.

Overall, this year's nominations display genre diversity in the major categories and a willingness to embrace new artists. That is evidenced by the multiple noms garnered not only by Blunt but also by alternative duo Gnarls Barkley and U.K. artist Corinne Bailey Rae. All three will compete in the record of the year category with Blige and Dixie Chicks.

Vying for best new artist are singer-songwriter Blunt (also recognized in the pop album and male pop vocal performance categories), Rae, R&B newcomer Chris Brown, "American Idol" graduate Carrie Underwood and a dark-horse nod for U.K. singer-songwriter Imogen Heap.

First-time nominee Brown also picked up a second nomination for contemporary R&B album, a category he shares with Janet Jackson, Ne-Yo, Beyonce and Kelis. Surrounded by flashing cameras and microphones, the excited 17-year-old said that rather than partying he would probably "relax and rest my voice." Brown was set to fly out Friday to perform in the holiday special "Christmas in Washington."

Gnarls Barkley will compete against rock and pop veterans in the album of the year category. Those nominees include Justin Timberlake ("FutureSex/LoveSounds"), the Chili Peppers ("Stadium Arcadium"), Mayer ("Continuum") and Dixie Chicks ("Taking the Long Way").

Timberlake earned three other nominations as well, including best pop album. Also coming in at four noms each were Beyonce, Gnarls Barkley and rapper T.I.

Producer of the year nominees include veterans T-Bone Burnett and Rick Rubin. They are joined by rock producer Howard Benson, Gnarls Barkley member Danger Mouse and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.i.am.

The awards will be held Feb. 11 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

A complete list of nominees is at www.hollywoodreporter.com.