Canadian indie-rock group Arcade Fire, country trio Lady Antebellum, and jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding all pulled off major upsets at the 53d annual Grammy Awards Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Arcade Fire took home album of the year honors for The Suburbs, topping favorite Eminem, who led all contenders with 10 nominations but walked away with only two trophies, and who was shut out of the major categories. "Thank you," Arcade Fire's beaming singer Win Butler said, closing the show. "We're going to play another song now, because we love music."
Lady Antebellum was the biggest winner, with five trophies, including record and song of the year, best country song, and best country performance by a duo or group with vocals, all for "Need You Now." The album of the same title won best country album.
"We are so thankful for this," singer Hillary Scott said, sounding slightly shocked as she took the stage with bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood to collect the record-of-the-year award. "I can't believe it."
In the new-artist category, Spalding topped pint-size superstar Justin Bieber as well as Drake, Mumford & Sons, and Florence and the Machine. Spalding, who has performed at the White House and at President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, said, "I take this honor to heart so sincerely, and I will do my damnedest to make some great music for all of you."
Soul singer John Legend and Philadelphia hip-hop band the Roots were also big winners, though their awards were given off-camera before the prime-time telecast on CBS3 began.
Legend and the Roots won three awards for Wake Up!, their album of covers of socially conscious and protest songs from the 1960s and '70s. They took home trophies for best R&B album; R&B song for "Shine," penned by Legend, a University of Pennsylvania grad; and traditional R&B performance, for "Hang on in There."
"Man to win one . . . but 3?" Roots drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson tweeted minutes later. "This is nothing to [multi-Grammy winner] @johnlegend, but everything to me. Wow."
Eminem won for rap solo performance for "Not Afraid" and took home best rap album for the fifth time, topping the Roots' How I Got Over, among others, and accepting the award from rapper Nicki Minaj, who sported a Bride of Frankenstein hairdo.
Other Philadelphia-connected winners included Pink, the native Doylestown singer born Alecia Moore, who won pop collaboration with vocals for joining Herbie Hancock on John Lennon's "Imagine."
Folk icon Pete Seeger won for best children's album for Tomorrow's Children, released on the West Chester label Appleseed Recordings.
Neil Young won his first-ever Grammy as a performer for best rock song for "Angry World" from Le Noise.
One of the standout performances of the evening was soul singer Cee Lo Green's much-discussed infectious ditty - which was announced as "the song otherwise known as 'Forget You.' " Seated at a piano, the colorfully feathered Green resembled a psychedelic Mummer. He was accompanied by both a troupe of Jim Henson's Muppets and bad girl Gwyneth Paltrow, who fully enunciated one of the song's dirty words - twice.
A segment devoted to music stars who died in 2010 peaked with a tribute to Philadelphia-born soul giant Solomon Burke, with Mick Jagger performing for his first time ever on the Grammys, bringing down the house with a version of Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love," backed by nouveau-retro R&B singer Raphael Saadiq and his band.
One of the telecast's most-hyped performances came early, when Lady Gaga emerged from a transparent egg in a yellow two-piece outfit to sing her new single, "Born This Way," which was released Friday and which is a huge gay-pride anthem-in-the-making.
After being introduced by Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin, who called "Born This Way" a song "about loving who you love and being who you are," Gaga mixed up chorus-line dance moves with a gothic interlude at the organ worthy of The Phantom of the Opera. Gaga won female pop vocal performance and short-form music video for "Bad Romance" and pop vocal album for The Fame Monster. Wearing a black rubberized outfit shaped to mimic her derriere, she thanked Whitney Houston. Gaga said she pictured Houston singing "Born This Way" when she wrote it, "because I wasn't secure enough to imagine I was a superstar when I wrote it."
Performance highlights included the trio of Jackie Wilsonesque matinee idol Bruno Mars, the similarly pompadoured soul iconoclast Janelle Monáe, and rapper B.o.B. in a highly energetic pop-R&B-funk medley. A similarly successful mashup brought together British folkies Mumford & Sons, Americana sibling act the Avett Brothers, and Bob Dylan, who sang a very raspy, spirited "Maggie's Farm" without a guitar but with the help of his ardent acolytes.
The telecast began with a tribute to Aretha Franklin, the beloved Queen of Soul, who was hospitalized last year with an illness that has been widely reported to be pancreatic cancer. A formidable lineup of female singers - gospel's Yolanda Adams, country's Martina McBride, pop diva Christina Aguilera (this time, not flubbing her lyrics, a week after her Super Bowl national anthem mishap), a slimmed-down Jennifer Hudson (who also stared in prominently featured Weight Watchers commercials), and Florence Welch of British rockers Florence and the Machine.
That was followed by a surprise appearance by Franklin herself, shown on TV from her home in Detroit. The 18-time Grammy winner - who surprisingly lost out in the R&B performance by a duo or group category to Sade, with "Soldier of Love" - thanked her fans for well wishes during her hospitalization, without mentioning specifics about her illness, and promised to be back on stage live at the Grammys next year.
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