Youth had hoped to be served at the 47th annual Grammy Awards — with artists like Kanye West, Usher, Alicia Keys and Green Day racking up more than 30 nominations between them — but in the end, no one could escape the shadow of a legend.
Grammy voters smiled on Ray Charles, showering him with eight awards — including Record of the Year and Album of the Year — and musicians paid tribute to the late R&B artist’s songs throughout the night. But Kanye West, who entered the night with 10 noms (more than any other artist), still managed to make a lasting impression with a fiery performance and impassioned speech that brought the crowd to its feet.
West had just lost the Best New Artist award to Maroon 5 when he let out any pent-up Grammy frustrations with a fierce performance of “Jesus Walks,” which included a full gospel choir, an elaborate church backdrop, West’s apparent death and his subsequent resurrection.
That was followed by Ludacris and Kevin Bacon presenting the Best Rap Album award to West for The College Dropout. Clad in a white suit, the rapping producer gave a moving acceptance speech, telling audience members to appreciate every moment in life, and giving shout-outs to Jay-Z, his mother and God. He paused, wiped the sweat from his brow, and proclaimed, “I’m going to celebrate and scream and pop champagne, because I’m at the Grammys, baby!
“A lot of people were wondering what I was going to do if I didn’t win any [awards],” West laughed. “I guess we’ll never know.”
His bravado may have earned him a standing ovation from the crowd, but he couldn’t overtake Charles for the overall lead in golden gramophones. The R&B legend won five Grammys, including Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals and Record of the Year for “Here We Go Again,” his duet with Norah Jones. His posthumously released album of duets, Genius Loves Company, also scored three technical awards for engineering and arrangement, bringing the LP’s total wins to eight.
Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx also piled on the praise, covering one of Charles’ most famous songs, “Georgia on My Mind,” for an emotional tribute.
Keys took home four Grammys, including Best R&B Album for The Diary of Alicia Keys, Best R&B Song for “You Don’t Know My Name” and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “If I Ain’t Got You.”
In addition to Best Rap Album, West also won the Grammy for Best Rap Song for “Jesus Walks” and got a songwriting win for his work on Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name.”
Usher and U2 also each won three awards. John Mayer won Song of the Year for his tune “Daughters”. In his acceptance speech Mayer gave a shout-out to his grandma “for having an awesome daughter named ‘my mom.’ ”
The show began with five bands performing on four stages, the Black Eyed Peas kicking things off with their ubiquitous hit “Let’s Get It Started” before segueing to Gwen Stefani and Eve for a pirates-and-bling production of Stefani’s “Rich Girl.” They were followed by black-clad rockers Los Lonely Boys; Maroon 5 appeared next, frontman Adam Levine rocking what looked like one of his dad’s suits from 1977. And finally, Franz Ferdinand ripped through a muscled-up version of their song “Take Me Out.”
All five acts then sped through a sort of live “mash-up,” trading licks and choruses of each other’s hits.
John Travolta, Christina Milian and Steven Tyler then presented the first award of the live broadcast — for Best Pop Performance With Vocals — which went to Los Lonely Boys. Nelly and Adam Sandler — the stars of the upcoming film “The Longest Yard” — presented the award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, which went to Prince, for his song “Call My Name.”
U2 took the stage clad in black and bathed in white light. Before beginning, a somber (and cowboy-hatted) Bono dedicated the song “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” to his late father, Bob Hewson.
The award for Best Rock Album went to Green Day for American Idiot, their first win of the evening. As they walked to the stage to accept their award, they received congratulatory handshakes from Aerosmith’s Tyler. While wrapping up their acceptance speech, frontman Billie Joe Armstrong held his golden gramophone aloft and announced that “rock and roll can be dangerous and fun at the same time.”
Up next were a couple of big-time performances, one of them featuring an actual couple. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony duetted in Spanish in an elaborate number that featured moody lighting, a gilded bedroom and at least two wardrobe changes from J. Lo. That was followed by a tribute to Southern rock, highlighted by nominee Gretchen Wilson and Lynyrd Skynyrd frontman Johnny Van Zant duetting on the band’s classic tune “Free Bird.”
A gangsta-fied Quentin Tarantino — wearing a stocking cap and parka — introduced Green Day, who blasted through a pyro-and-American-flag-backed performance of “American Idiot,” Armstrong chicken-walking his way across the stage and thrusting his guitar triumphantly in the air. Keys then picked up her fourth award of the night, for Best R&B Album.
British soul diva Joss Stone and Melissa Etheridge ran through throaty covers of the Janis Joplin standards “Cry Baby” and “Piece of My Heart,” paying tribute to the woman who had just been honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. That was followed by Tim McGraw, who performed “Live Like You Were Dying,” the tune that won him the Best Country Song award earlier in the ceremony.
But McGraw was edged out in the Best Country Album category by Loretta Lynn and her Jack White-produced Van Lear Rose. It was the second Grammy Lynn took home for the LP, having already won earlier in the night for the track “Portland Oregon,” her duet with the White Stripes frontman.
The award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals went to U2 for “Vertigo,” and a somewhat stunned Bono thanked the crowd before turning the mic over to Larry Mullen Jr., who apologized to U2′s fans for their Internet ticket presale snafu.
Bono, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Keys, Velvet Revolver, Armstrong and Brian Wilson all took the stage for a cover of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe.” Viewers can go to CBS.com to download the live performance of the song for 99 cents. All proceeds will go to tsunami-relief efforts benefiting survivors and their families.
Earlier on, during the pre-televised ceremony, the first batch of Grammy Award winners were announced. And for some Grammy favorites, the ceremony got off to a golden start right then.
Jay-Z won the award for Best Rap Solo Performance for his Rick Rubin-produced track “99 Problems.” And show starters the Black Eyed Peas nabbed the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy for their song “Let’s Get It Started.”
In the pop music category, Charles took top honors, winning for Best Vocal Album. Norah Jones won Best Female Performance for “Sunrise,” while John Mayer won the Best Male Performance for his song “Daughters.”
U2′s “Vertigo” walked off with the award for Best Rock Song, and it was also tops in Best Short Form Music Video category. The clip, directed by the tandem of Alex & Martin, bested videos from Green Day (for “American Idiot”) and Franz Ferdinand (“Take Me Out”), among others.