The British are coming – this time to the Grammys

But broadcasters fear US audiences may be put off by foreign domination of prestigious music awards
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The Independent Culture

It's not exactly what the organisers of America's most prestigious music awards had in mind when they decided to revamp their ailing 51-year-old event. But tonight's Grammy Awards in Los Angeles appears to be a peculiarly British affair.

Musicians from the UK have been shortlisted in every major category, led by Coldplay, who boast seven nominations, and the Led Zeppelin veteran Robert Plant, who celebrated an extraordinary career renaissance when he notched up five.

In one of the most prestigious categories, record of the year, all five of the shortlisted acts have a British pedigree, with Plant and Coldplay joined by Leona Lewis, Adele and MIA, the Hounslow-born female hip-hop artist.

Other home-grown talents crossing their fingers at the Staples Center will include the Welsh singer-songwriter Duffy, who is up for three gongs, most notably best new artist for her debut album, Rockferry.

Radiohead have been shortlisted for two awards, including best album. Paul McCartney has a brace of nominations, including best male pop vocal performance, as does Estelle, the R&B singer from Hammersmith, who hopes to win song of the year.

Though the potential haul represents a coup for the British music industry, the transatlantic invasion comes at an unfortunate time for producers of the Grammy Awards trying to reverse years of underwhelming TV ratings. The awards had their third lowest audience in history last year, and their worst ever in 2006.

Organisers are concerned that a dearth of winning American talent will further alienate US audiences. As a result, this year's event on CBS will feature a record-breaking 24 musical numbers, with performances from pop acts Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake and the Jonas Brothers, hip-hop stars Lil Wayne and Jay-Z, and country musicians Kenny Chesney and Carrie Underwood.

Other sub-plots have also jollified the run-up to the show. Lawyers for Coldplay were forced to swing into action last week after the guitarist Joe Satriani threatened to serve them with a lawsuit on the red carpet. Satriani claims the melody from the group's hit song "Viva la Vida" is suspiciously similar to his 2004 song "If I Could Fly."

Kid Rock very nearly had to withdraw from the ceremony because of a court date in Georgia related to a messy assault case, while MIA has agreed to travel to the event despite being due to give birth on the day.

Jack Sussman, the CBS executive in charge of the event, admitted yesterday that the parlous state of the record industry presented a challenge to broadcasters hoping to make the Grammys relevant to the viewing public. Last year, Herbie Hancock won album of the year for River: The Joni Letters, which has sold fewer than 40,000 copies in the US.

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