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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 14:24 GMT
Madonna mauls Eminem's critics
Eminem at Manchester Arena
Eminem's Grammy nominations have caused an outcry
Madonna has defended controversial rapper Eminem in a letter to a US newspaper - saying she finds the language of George W Bush "much more offensive".

The singer joined Sir Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Randy Newman in praising the rapper, who is nominated for four Grammys at Wednesday's ceremony.

The Los Angeles Times asked more than a dozen former Grammy winners for their views of Eminem's music in response to criticism by songwriter Jimmy Webb, who said the rapper could devalue the ceremony's "moral credibility".

George W Bush
George W Bush's language is more offensive, according to Madonna
But of the four who replied, all backed the hip-hop star.

"Since when is offensive language a reason for being unpopular? I find the language of George W much more offensive," Madonna wrote.

"I like the fact that Eminem is brash and angry and politically incorrect. At least he has an opinion. He's stirring things up, he's making people's blood boil, he's reflecting on what's going on in society right now. This is what art's supposed to do.

Past Grammy winner Madonna: "He's just a boy"
"And after all, he's just a boy," she said of the 28-year-old.

Sir Elton John - who is performing with Eminem on Wednesday - called The Marshall Mathers LP "the album of the year" and said: "There is far more humour on the album than people think. It appeals to my English black sense of humour."

He added that he "was in hysterics from laughing" the first time he heard the album.

"We live in an age of political correctness where you can't say this or that. I honestly don't think people will go out and start beating and killing people because of this album."

Sir Elton John
Sir Elton: Black humour
Stevie Wonder said: "For someone to say, this is a disgrace to the Grammys, come on. There was a time when blues was called a disgrace."

Randy Newman doubted Eminem would receive a Grammy for best album as "the voters are too conservative" but said: "I don't know from his work that he genuinely hates women or his mother, but I know that he's funny.

"I just hope that he doesn't think he has to live the lifestyle," he added.

Stevie Wonder
Backing Eminem: Stevie Wonder
Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III, has three Grammy nominations for The Marshall Mathers LP, including album of the year, best rap album, and best rap solo performance.

He was also nominated for best rap performance and best rap performance by a duo or group for the track Forget About Dre on Dr Dre's album Dr Dre - 2001.

Gay campaign

Grammy seating plan
Seating plan: George Michael is behind Eminem
Last week, gay campaigners urged Sir Elton John to ditch his planned duet with Eminem as a "beacon of courage".

Gay and Lesbian Alliance director Joan Garry also sent Sir Elton a "collection of hate e-mails" she received from Eminem fans and asked him to think "how literally" they take the rapper's "violent" words.

Dr Dre, who produced Eminem's debut album The Slim Shady LP, is nominated for five Grammys.

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