The 48th annual Grammy Award ceremony had something for everyone, including a performance by an imaginary rock band and the mysterious re-appearance of a musical legend.
The rock band Gorillaz exists only in the mind of its creator, Blur leader Damon Albarn. That did not, however, stop the cartoon quartet from winning a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. Gorillaz also got the 48th annual Award ceremony off to a rousing start, performing with an extremely fit-looking Madonna.
This was one of a series of odd pairings during the three and one-half hour telecast, beamed worldwide from Los Angeles. Rapper Jay-Z and rockers Linkin Park teamed with Sir Paul McCartney, who seemed rather befuddled while performing his Beatles classic "Yesterday."
The evening, however, belonged to another quartet, U2. The Irish rock band trumped the competition by taking home five Grammies, including Best Rock Song, Song Of The Year, Best Rock Album, and Album Of The Year, for How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. Bandleader Paul "Bono" Hewson explained the album title.
"How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb is an odd title for an album," he said. "We accept that … and people have asked 'What are you talking about?' Actually, I was talking about my father, Bob. He was the 'atomic bomb' in question. And, when he died, set off a kind of chain reaction in me. I've been shouting about him, and giving off about him, and complaining about him, and screaming about him for the last few years. And maybe, maybe tonight is the time to stop. It's really a great, great moment for me personally. I want to thank my father, Bob, for giving me the voice and a bit of attitude to use it. "
Other acts who came up big included two-time winner Kelly Clarkson, who four years ago launched her career by winning the inaugural season of American Idol. The 23-year-old Texas native made no mention of that show, although her two trips to the stage included profuse thanks to just about everyone else.
"Yeah, I'm terrible at speaking when I cry. So, sorry. Thank you so much," she said. "Thank you to everybody that has supported me this year, including my record label and my management. I love you! Thank you to my date, Ashley Donovan, my first producer in my closet back home when I was a kid. Thank you to my mom. Thank you so much, Mom. I'm sorry I'm crying again on national television. Thank you to the fans. Thank you for everyone who worked on my record. Yikes! And just thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me. So thank you so much!"
Also trekking to the podium was Alison Krauss, who, with her band, Union Station, took home three trophies, including Best Country Album for Lonely Runs Both Ways. This brings her career Grammy total to 20 - more than any other female performer.
While Wednesday's ceremony was short on controversy, it did provide some surprises. Mariah Carey, Kanye West, and newcomer John Legend led the field of nominees with eight apiece, but none dominated the proceedings. Kanye lost his bids for Record and Album Of The Year, but still managed to win three statuettes. Mariah Carey, who enjoyed the best-selling U.S. album of 2005 with The Emancipation Of Mimi, collected three trophies, while John Legend - real name John Stephens - also took home three Grammies, including Best New Artist. He won largely on the strength of his throwback hit single, "Ordinary People."
The evening's musical highlights were anything but ordinary: Bruce Springsteen delivered a chilling solo performance of his Grammy-winning song "Devils And Dust"; an all-star lineup paid tribute to hurricane-damaged New Orleans; and in the telecast's strangest moment, Sly Stone tottered onstage to perform "I Wanna Take You Higher." Stooped and sporting a white Mohawk hairstyle, the reclusive funk-rock star waved at the crowd and left the stage before the all-star tribute band finished performing. It was his first major public appearance since 1993.
While rap and R&B currently dominate the U.S. charts, rock music ruled the major Grammy categories. Green Day took the Record Of The Year trophy with "Boulevard Of Broken Dreams," while U2's Bono was gracious in his Album Of The Year victory speech.
"This is our second Album of the Year, but we've lost two, Achtung, Baby and All That You Can't Leave Behind, so I know how it feels," he said. "Kanye, you're next. He's a great artist. He's been on the road with us. He's extraordinary! Listen … to be in the company of Paul McCartney, who discovered the country that we're all living in, is a true honor indeed. Yes, sir! Mariah, you sing like an angel. You're really something else. And what about Gwen [Stefani]? This is the heart of Hollywood. She's like [1940s actress] Carole Lombard. She's this extraordinary girl. I don't know what to say. This is really a big, big night for our band."
More than 1,000 individuals were nominated in 108 categories, but only 11 awards were actually handed out during the televised ceremony. The other winners were announced at the Los Angeles Convention Center - far from the glitz and glamour of the awards show.