At the Grammys: Drama onstage and off*
For an awards ceremony that is supposed to honor music, the 51st annual Grammy Awards were slim on televised awards, thick on performances and heavy in drama.
Before the night’s festivities came to a close, the mediasphere was buzzing over reports that the Los Angeles Police Department booked Chris Brown on suspicion of making felony criminal threats involving his girlfriend, singer Rihanna. Both Brown, 19, and Rihanna, 20, canceled their scheduled performances.
Only 10 awards were sprinkled into the three-hour telecast, but more than 20 performances were crammed in. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Lil’ Wayne and Coldplay were the big winners of the night.
Plant and Krauss received five trophies — album of the year, record of the year, pop collaboration with vocals, country collaboration with vocals, and contemporary folk/Americana album — for their collaboration “Raising Sand.” Many Grammy prognosticators considered them to be the favorites to win.
“I’d like to say I’m bewildered,” Plant said after their acceptance of album of the year. “In the old days we would have called this selling out, but I think it’s a good way to spend a Sunday.”
Coldplay took home a total of three awards. After a medley performance, which included an appearance by rapper Jay-Z and a snippet of Coldplay’s No. 1 single “Viva la Vida,” Chris Martin found himself in a sweat. It wasn’t clear if the perspiration was a byproduct of the intense stage lights that shined overhead or his relief that he wouldn’t be served a subpoena at any moment. Joe Satriani has accused the band of plagiarism after claiming their recent single “Viva La Vida” was based on his song “If I Could Fly.”
But the plagiarism claim didn’t seem to be a factor for voters; the group, dressed in Sgt. Pepper-inspired outfits, walked away with a Grammy for song of the year, and a reunited Blink-182 presented them an award for best rock album. Before the show got underway, Coldplay won in the best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals category.
They weren’t the only ones starting the year on a bright note. Jennifer Hudson can now add Grammy Award winner to her repertoire that already includes a Golden Globe and Academy Award. She took home the award in the best R&B album category for her debut self-titled album.
After the slaying of her mother, brother and nephew in October, the former "Dreamgirl" and "American Idol" contestant was triumphant and raised the statue in the air.
“I first would like to thank God,” she added. “I’d like to thank those who have got me through — my family in heaven and those who got me through today.”
Other winners at the half-point included Adele for best new artist and Sugarland’s “Stay” for best country performance by a duo or group with vocals. But they might have been hard to miss, sandwiched in between all those performances.
U2 kicked off the show with a performance of “Get on Your Boots,” the lead single off its upcoming album “No Line on the Horizon.” Al Green, Justin Timberlake and Boyz II Men looked to be gearing up to launch a new boy band with their performance of Green’s soulful hit “Let’s Stay Together.” Katy Perry looked as if she had ransacked the produce section of a grocery store, appearing onstage in an outfit bedazzled in fruit shapes as she performed “I Kissed a Girl.” Tween favorites Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift -- who know a thing or two about dating a Jonas brother -- shared the stage for a performance of “Fifteen” off Swift’s album.
The star-studded concert-disguised-as-an-award-show didn’t end there.
Kanye West pulled double duty, appearing onstage in a shimmering silver suit jacket alongside Estelle, who also donned a silver outfit, to perform the chart-topping single “American Boy.” Before he could catch his breath, he joined rappers T.I., Lil’ Wayne and Jay-Z -- or as Queen Latifah called them, the Rap Pack -- as they performed with mother-to-be M.I.A. Paul McCartney commissioned the help of Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl as he wiped the dust off the Beatles’ 1964 hit “I Saw Her Standing There.”
In a haze yet? Wait, there’s more.
Gwyneth Paltrow, looking like an award in her own right in a gleaming gold mini-tube dress, introduced the “utterly brilliant” Radiohead, who performed “15 Step” off their seventh album, “In Rainbows,” with the help of the USC Trojan Marching Band. Soul brothers Jamie Foxx, Ne-Yo, Smokey Robinson and Abdul “Duke” Fakir appeared onstage for a Four Tops tribute, which included “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” and “I Can’t Help Myself.” The Motown group received a lifetime achievement award.
Oh, and a few more trophies were awarded.
John Mayer walked away with a Grammy for best male pop vocal. But the outspoken rocker was less than controversial with his acceptance speech, simply saying: “It’s always an honor to be a musician.... I love making music and hope you all do too. It’s the best thing in the world.”
Before announcing the winner for best rap album, will.i.am took a moment to congratulate President Barack Obama. But T-Pain -- without the assistance of AutoTune -- and the Black Eyed Peas member quickly got back on track and announced eight-time Grammy nominee Lil’ Wayne as the winner, his fourth award of the night.
But the rapper who can manage to fill a three-minute song with flurry of words had surprisingly little to say in his acceptance speech.
“I just want to say thank God, thank New Orleans, and thank these people you see right here, and thank you.”
A short and simple end to an otherwise long ceremony.
-- Yvonne Villarreal
Top: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, by Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times. Middle: Coldplay arrives at the Grammys, by Chris Pizzello/Associated Press. Bottom: Jennifer Hudson sings, by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.