Picks and Pans Review: The College Dropout

UPDATED 02/14/2005 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 02/14/2005 at 01:00 AM EST

Kanye West

With excellent 2004 discs by U2 and Eminem being released too late to make the Sept. 30 Grammy cutoff, and eligible standouts like Jay-Z's The Black Album and George Michael's sorely overlooked Patience not getting nods, this top category is weaker than it should be. Indeed, nothing here screams "Hey Grammy!" like OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below did last year. This year's hip-hop contender, West's overrated debut, The College Dropout, benefits from a bit of freshman luck—and a lot of hype. Usher's solid but unspectacular Confessions, 2004's biggest-selling CD, makes the cut because of its commercial clout. And the sentimental vote nabs a nomination (and quite possibly a trophy) for Charles's not-quite-genius final album. Only Green Day's politically charged punk-rock opera and Keys's classic soul opus truly belong in this category. It's a close call, but we'll give it to Keys, who should have been nominated here for her 2001 debut, Songs in A Minor, and one-upped herself with Diary by turning the page back to the golden age of Aretha, Stevie and Marvin.

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