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The 52nd edition of the Grammy Awards decided to put a ring on it and embraced its feminine side, making history in the process.
With several major awards going to female artists and show-stopping performances by a strutting Beyonce, a fiery Lady Gaga and a high-flying Pink, girl power was in full force Sunday at Staples Center.
By the time it was over, the night had to be shared by two: Beyonce, who made history as the first woman to walk away with six statuettes in one evening, and Taylor Swift, whose “Fearless” was named album of the year.
The tone was set early when Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Swift collected multiple awards during the rapid-fire pre-telecast presentation. Later, after a typically over-the-top performance of “Poker Face” opened the star-studded main event, the eccentric Ms. Gaga would miss out on taking home the night’s first honor when Beyonce landed song of the year honors for her catchy ode to matrimonial angst, “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Already a winner of four statuettes earlier for her latest release, “I Am … Sasha Fierce,” the former Destiny’s Child singer finally landed multiple wins in the major categories after being shut out in previous years.
When the second award of the evening — for country album — went to fellow multi-nominee Swift’s “Fearless,” the 20-year-old singer-songwriter collected her third award of the day after already landing female country vocal and country song honors earlier for “White Horse.” Somehow, she was able to get through her acceptance speeches without the help of close personal friend Kanye West.
“I just won my first Grammy you guys!” she said after taking the stage during the afternoon’s pre-broadcast show. She was one of the few stars on hand to accept an award during the decidedly less glamorous midday event.
The evening’s first surprise arrived when Nashville rockers Kings of Leon landed record of the year honors for their anthemic hit “Use Somebody,” quite an accomplishment considering the category was rounded out by such heavy hitters as Beyonce’s “Halo,” the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Got a Feeling,” Swift’s “You Belong to Me” and Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.” The unassuming foursome appeared as surprised as anyone, with lead singer Caleb Followill admitting that they were all a little drunk. “But we’re happy drunks,” he added.
New artist honors went to Atlanta-based country group the Zac Brown Band, which beat out newcomers Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups and Ting Tings. “We really didn’t expect this,” said Brown, who later joined Leon Russell onstage for a rousing, bluegrass-tinged medley.
The show’s much-hyped Michael Jackson tribute featured Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson in a virtual sing-along with Jackson on “Earth Song,” complete with a 3D short film about threats to the environment.
No 3D effects were needed when Haiti’s Wyclef Jean made an impassioned plea for more aid in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that continues to cripple his country. He then introduced Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli, who performed a soaring rendition of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Elsewhere, best male pop vocal performance went to Jason Mraz for “Make It Mine”; pop performance by a duo or group went to the Black Eyed Peas for “I Gotta Feeling”; rock album went to Green Day for its “21st Century Breakdown” release; France’s Phoenix beat out veterans including David Byrne, Brian Eno and Depeche Mode to win alternative music album for “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”; rap/sung collaboration went to Jay Z, Rihanna & Kanye West for “Run This Town.” Without West on hand, Swift was denied the opportunity to assist him with his speech.
Keith Urban, on hand with wife Nicole Kidman, was awarded the male country vocal performance for “Sweet Thing.” Backstage, he was shocked to hear that fellow Aussies AC/DC had picked up its first Grammy earlier in the day for hard rock performance (for “War Machine,” from its latest release, “Black Ice”). “It’s about time,” he said, smiling.
Comedian Stephen Colbert had to take a break from hosting the event to accept the comedy album statuette for “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All.” He drew laughs when he thanked Jesus Christ, given the holiday theme of the album. Backstage, he revealed a special, oversized pocked that had been sewn into his tuxedo to hold an iPad, which he used as a prop during his opening monologue.
Finally, though it might not make headlines, Neil Young won his first Grammy, albeit not exactly for his music: The veteran songwriter was awarded the best boxed or special limited-edition package for his “Archives Vol. I (1963-1972).”
West could not be reached for comment.
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