Best Female Pop Vocal

updated 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/09/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Christina Aguilera
"Beautiful" *

Kelly Clarkson
"Miss Independent"

"White Flag"

Avril Lavigne
"I'm With You"

Sarah McLachlan

First, what were the voters thinking when they tapped Lavigne for "I'm With You"? It's a bit easier to understand how Clarkson, riding the wave of American Idol mania, got nominated for the Aguilera hand-me-down "Miss Independent," but her over-the-top vocals sink her chances with us. Dido's "White Flag," on the other hand, is an exercise in cool British restraint. McLachlan, after six years away from the studio, returned in typically sublime voice on "Fallen." But Aguilera may have a career song in the stunning self-love ballad "Beautiful," which finds the singer toning down her usual theatrics until the tune's emotional climax. It's somewhat of a surprise that the song didn't get nominated for Record of the Year, but Aguilera, deservedly, won't be brought down here.

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