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The Grammy Awards spread its gold around much more liberally than in years past, but New York rock band fun. won two of the traditional Big Four categories — best new artist and song of the year for “We Are Young” — Sunday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Mumford & Sons won the night’s big prize, album of the year for Babel, spoiling what potentially was shaping up as The Black Keys’ big night. The Ohio duo of Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney won best rock song and best rock performance for “Lonely Boy” and best rock album for El Camino, respectively. And Auerbach also won the last award handed out in the afternoon during the pre-telecast portion of the 55th Grammys, producer of the year (non-classical); he was the only person to win four Grammys on Sunday.
For the first time since 2001, there were four rock acts up for album of the year. Interestingly, two of them — including Mumford’s Babel — were not up for best rock album. In fact, Mumford won only one other award on the night, for best longform video (Big Easy Express), a trophy they collected nearly seven hours earlier across the street at the Nokia Theatre.
Katy Perry presented the best new artist Grammy. At the podium, she told the nominees: “If you don’t win tonight, don’t worry: I was never even nominated in this category — and I have my own eyelash line.” When 30-year-old fun. frontman Nate Reuss accepted the nod, he noted a bit of irony in that “the show is in high-definition, and as you can see, we are old — we’ve been doing this for 12 years.”
Fun. also scored with its performance, which was particularly poised considering the fact that the band played “Carry On” in an indoor downpour onstage, which drew big cheers from the crowd. They were buoyed by a chuckle-inducing intro by Neil Patrick Harris, who said, “As legendary gangsta rap icon Katharine Hepburn once said, ‘If you obey all the rules, you don’t have any fun.’ ”
Another big winner Sunday was Gotye, whose “Somebody That I Used to Know” won record of the year. The award was presented by Prince — resplendent in dark shades and sparkly walking stick. “Listening to this man growing up, I was inspired to make music,” Gotye said of Prince during his speech.
The Belgian-Australian singer-songwriter also won a pair of Grammys during the pre-tel portion. He had a good line while accepting the award for best alternative music album. “Thanks to everyone for making, quote, ‘non-alternative’ albums so this category can exist.” He also won for pop/duo group performance for “Somebody,” which features Kimbra.
Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull presented the first award, best pop performance. Lopez, who caused such a ruckus with her barely there 2000 Grammy dress, was draped this time in a black number that showed lots of shoulder and lots of leg. “As you can see, I read the memo,” she said, drawing laughs in reference to the now-notorious missive sent out by CBS this week warning red carpeters not to wear outfits that bare too much T and/or A. “You inspired the memo,” Pitbull replied.
Adele won the pop performance award for her live version of “Set Fire to the Rain.” That last word could be transformed to “reign” — the Grammy was Adele’s ninth, including last year’s half-dozen. Backstage later, she was asked how far along she is with her next album. “I’m not very far along at all; I’ve been having lots of meetings,” said the British singer, who had her first child in October. “I’ve been reading my baby nursery rhymes.”
Another fun moment at the podium: While introducing a performance by Justin Timberlake, the normally unflappable Beyonce seemed a mite thrown when her intro partner Ellen DeGeneres stared at her throughout.
As Timberlake sang his current single “Suit & Tie,” the telecast was shown in living black-and-white. He then was joined by Jay-Z for a rap interlude before Timberlake launched into the also-new “Pusher Love Girl,” amid repeated shrieks from the crowd. The performance drew a standing-O.
Of course, one of the Grammys’ signature moves is to pair performers for what the announcer repeatedly referred to during bumpers as “Grammy Moments.” Indeed, there were several that were noteworthy.
One of the highlight performances was a tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley. Bruno Mars and Sting sang “Locked Out of Heaven,” following by Sting playing his Police record “Walking on the Moon” and Rihanna and Marley sons Ziggy, Stephen and Damian, who did Dad proud with “Could You Be Loved.”
Current Hollywood Reporter cover boy Jack White was backed by his all-female backing group The Peacocks on “Love Interrupted” — during which he dropped a very audible F-bomb — then switched to his all-male band The Buzzards, adding a blistering guitar solo to “Freedom at 21.”
Kelly Rowland, fresh off her Super Bowl halftime appearance, and Nas presented the inaugural best urban contemporary album to Frank Ocean. “I hear the way you disarm the audience is to imagine you all naked — but I don’t want to do that,” Ocean said. “I want to picture you all as kids in tuxedos and dresses.” OK.
There was something of an upset in the best pop vocal album category, as Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger won over fun., Maroon 5, Pink and Florence + The Machine. Her brief-ish acceptance speech was among the most entertaining. After mentioning alcohol — then quickly adding, “Just kidding, kids!” — and giving shout-outs to some of her fellow nominees, she said, “Miguel, I don’t know who the hell you are, but we need to sing together!”
Clarkson’s win made it three for American Idol winners, following a pair by Carrie Underwood for “Blown Away, including best country solo performance during primetime.
A fter the annual In Memoriam section, Elton John said, “As we remember these great musicians and great music teachers and students, we remember the teachers and students of Sandy Hook Elementary School, whose songs ended way too soon.” John was then joined by Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons and T Bone Burnett for “The Weight,” a tribute to the Band’s Levon Helm, who died in April.
A total of 754 individuals were nominated for the 81 total Grammys, only 11 of which were handed out during the primetime show, which was hosted by LL Cool J and delayed in the West.
This year’s Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipients were Ravi Shankar, The Temptations, Carole King, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Patti Page, Glenn Gould and Charlie Haden. Clarkson drilled a medley of Page’s “Tennessee Waltz” and King’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”
The year’s other Special Merit Award recipients were Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Leonard and Phil Chess, and Alan Livingston (Trustees Award) and Ikutaro Kakehashi, Dave Smith and Royer Labs are (Technical Grammy Award).
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