Grammys 2012: Live coverage!
Although the sudden passing of Whitney Houston has cast a pall over the mainstream music industry's annual pat on the back that is the Grammy Awards, it's all systems go at this point, with the Grammy eve parties lasting into the early morning hours. Jennifer Hudson will sing a tribute to the fallen pop icon, and that will be just one of many moments to watch this evening. Adele will return to the stage for the first time in nearly five months, and the likes of Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and a reunited Beach Boys will perform.
The televised festivities start at 5 p.m. and will be broadcast live, except for those of us on the West Coast, on CBS. Only 10 awards are slated to be given out on the air, with the bulk of the Grammys' 78 trophies -- down from last year's 109 -- handed out in pre-show ceremonies broadcast online.
This post will be updated live once the festivities start at 1 p.m. The pre-broadcast is scheduled to run till about 3:30 p.m., so keep your browsers tuned here, and we'll try to keep the typos to a minimum. But go easy on us, as this is written live.
1:18 p.m.: If it's around 1 p.m. on a Sunday and we're watching smooth jazz with Dave Koz being live-streamed, it can mean only one thing: It's time for the Grammy Awards! In addition to playing, Koz is hosting the pre-show with MC Lyte. The latter just performed her "Cold Rock a Party," and in true Grammy fashion, it was given an odd live mash-up. Let's just say that hip-hop and saxophones don't always mix well. After the song, Koz made a brief statement about Houston, saying: "She is in our hearts and our minds -- every music maker tonight."
Roadblocks (after every 3 paragraphs):
And the first awards: "Boardwalk Empire" won best compilation soundtrack and composer Alexandre Desplat whop best score soundtrack for his work on "The King's Speech." Desplat wasn't on hand to receive the trophy, but "The King's Speech" bested the likes of "Tron Legacy" and "Black Swan," and was notable for the way in which it small orchestra to illustrate the film's many moments of silence. Using just a few notes, the score has a suspended-animation feel, as sounds just kind of hover.
The third award given out in the film/TV category was for best song written for visual media, which went to "I See the Light" from Disney's "Tangled." It bested songs from "Winnie the Pooh," "Footloose," "Family Guy" and "Never Say Never."
1:20 p.m.: Last year's album of the year winner, the Arcade Fire, is recognized again. The band's expanded edition of "The Suburbs," dubbed "Scenes From the Suburbs," wins for its recording package. The award goes to Caroline Robert, art director.
1:25 p.m.: Grammy Rule No. 234: Don't bet against a Beatle. Paul McCartney's "Band on the Run" wins best historical album. The legend wasn't on hand to snare the award in the pre-show, but, as noted above, will be performing later. Also, Grammy Rule No. 172: Don't bet against Alison Krauss, who has more than 20 Grammy wins to her name -- her "Paper Airplane" won best engineered, non-classical.
1:32 p.m.: BIG NEWS HERE. LOOK HERE! Best new artist nominee Skrillex won for best remixed recording, non-classical for his take on Benny Benassi's "Cinema." While many were caught by surprise that an electronic artist was up for one of the big four categories, this writer considers Skrillex the favorite for the award, as his sound and attitude is more rock 'n' roll than dance. His best new artist nom certainly helped him here, as he instantly was one of the more recognizable names in the remix field.
Skrillex (real name: Sonny Moore) gave a lengthy acceptance speech. "This is really crazy for me, man. Just a year and a half ago, I was making that song in my bedroom," Skrillex said, adding that he was living in an illegal space in downtown L.A. when he cut the remix. "I made that song with a blown speaker."
Skrillex acknowledged that others have come before him, but said he hoped his recognition this year would help other electronic artists score mainstream success. He said he believed Justice and Daft Punk should have garnered more Grammy acceptance than he has. "Everyone in the [electronic dance music] community, this means a lot to us ... There's a lot of people who have been here before us."
1:42 p.m: Statement from the Houston family has just arrived: "We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Whitney. This is an unimaginable tragedy and we will miss her terribly. We appreciate the outpouring of love and support from her fans and friends."
1:53 p.m.: Last year's best new artist, Esperanza Spalding, is on hand as a presenter now for the classical and opera categories. Odd, however, is that she's allowed to read only the winners’ names. The nominee names are all pre-recorded. Gustavo Dudamel just won the orchestral performance award for his "Brahms: Symphony No. 4." Mr. Dudamel was not on hand to give a speech.
2:06 p.m.: "There's a war on in our country against the arts right now ... We need more Whitney Houstons," said Joyce DiDonato, who won a classical vocal solo Grammy for her "Diva Divo." She was one of the few artists to use her moment on the podium to do more than just give a list of thank-yous, and instead preached for more arts education in schools.
2:11 p.m.: Power-pop band OK Go, best known for its videos, is the next presenter, handling the New Age, comedy and dance fields. The fact that most Grammy voters know the group more for its YouTube clips than its songs wasn't lost on singer Damian Kulash.
"We're here mostly because we've done all this crazy stuff on the Internet," he said.
Discussing the changes in the music biz over the last 10 to 15 years, Kulash said that everyone in the Grammy room was once "the whole music universe.”
“Everybody who got a chance got a chance because of somebody in this room,” he added. “Now, the whole universe is the music industry."
2:15 p.m. Local label Anti- picks up a Grammy, as African act Tinariwen wins the world music album award for "Tassili." It's a work that has broad appeal, featuring TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone and Wilco's Nels Cline.
2:18 p.m.: The never-ending coronation of Betty White sadly continues, as she wins a Grammy for spoken word album for "If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't." More bad news: Louis CK, who won the comedy album award, was not on hand to give a speech, which would have livened up this pre-telecast.
2:21 p.m. The musical theater album Grammy went rightly to "The Book of Mormon." Trey Parker, alluding to some Mormon presidential hopeful, said: "Mormons are having a great year, huh?" He also gave a shout-out to Steve Martin, who is at the Grammys for his banjo work.
2:25 p.m.: This is shaping up to be Skrillex's night. The new artist trophy is now his to lose, as far as this Pop & Hiss writer is concerned. His "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" won the dance/electonica album prize, besting the likes of David Guetta, Cut Copy and Deadmau5. He now has a total of three awards.
"STOP! I can't take this any more!" Skrillex screamed when picking up his electronic/dance album trophy. "I don't know what else to say more. This is the most surreal day of my life." He offered to do a juggling routine, and asked the host jazz band to do a jazz version of the album's title track, which also won for dance recording.
2:30 p.m. Tony Bennett wins the traditional pop vocal album trophy for his "Duets II," which sees the veteran crooner collaborating with a number of younger artists, including Norah Jones, Lady Gaga and the late Amy Winehouse. "This is my 16th Grammy. Isn't that wonderful?" Bennett said from the podium.
He added, "It's an amazing album. It's the first album I've ever had that went to No. 1 on Billboard. It's selling all over the world, in every single country. It's an amazing, wonderful experience. My son came up with the premise of 'Duets I' and 'Duets II.’"
2:32 p.m.: Adele is off and running! The video for "Rolling in the Deep," directed by Sam Brown, takes home the trophy for short form music video. In the long-form video category, the prize goes to the Foo Fighters, the alt-rock survivors who have turned one song into an entire career. Since the band’s members don’t miss any Grammy activity ever, they were on hand, with leader Dave Grohl goofily holding the Grammy for the Internet cameras while director James Moll gave his speech.
2:46 p.m.: American album, which was somewhat of a controversial category this year, was awarded to Levon Helm's "Ramble at the Ryman." The category drew attention when unknown Linda Chorney suddenly appeared with her "Emotional Jukebox." The borderline-novelty singer/songwriter used Grammys' social networking tools to reach out directly to voters. Next up was the bluegrass album prize, which went to "Paper Airplane" from Alison Krauss & Union Station.
2:52 p.m. The last award before the major categories -- the prize for regional roots music album, which goes to the Rebirth Brass Band for "Rebirth of New Orleans." The band compared its Grammy win to the New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl.
2:53 p.m.: Time for Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow. He said the MusiCares charity event, which honored Paul McCartney, raised $6.5 million. "It's the biggest night we've ever had."
2:57 p.m.: Kanye West, who led all nominees with seven, won the prize for rap/sung collaboration for his "All of the Lights." West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" was a major slight in this year's album of the year field, but Grammy voters were still happy to honor the superstar in the genre fields. His "All of the Lights" also won the rap song trophy.
While the album didn't get its deserved album of the year nod, it did win the rap album Grammy. West was competing against himself in the field, as his "Watch the Throne" collaboration with Jay-Z was also nominated. The right West album won, as "Watch the Throne" is largely an ode to being rich and wasting money.
3:01 p.m. Melanie Fiona jogged to the stage to pick up her traditional R&B performance Grammy for "Fool for You," a collaboration with Cee Lo Green. "It took me a while to run in a gown," she said. "I attended these Grammys three years ago as just an observer. To be standing up here winning an award is the highest honor." Fiona shed a few tears before finishing her speech.
The R&B song prize also went to "Fool for You." Fiona had less ground to cover this time. "Hey guys, thank you so much again," she said, while giving a shout-out to nieces.
3:06 p.m.: Bennett and the late Winehouse win the trophy for pop duo/group performance for "Body and Soul.” Bennett walked onstage and said, "This is a wonderful moment." He then brought up Winehouse's parents. "We shouldn't be here," said her father, Mitch. "Our darling daughter should be here. But these are the cards we're dealt."
3:11 p.m.: Adele's "21" wins the trophy for pop vocal album, her first major win of the night. The album is the favorite to win album of the year.
3:16 p.m.: Country-flavored pop star Taylor Swift doesn't need to be on national TV to act shocked – SHOCKED! -- to win an award. She won the country solo performance Grammy for her "Mean."
Said Swift, "This one really means a lot to me ... There's really no feeling quite like writing a song about someone who's really mean to you and makes your life miserable and then winning a Grammy for it."
3:21 p.m. Swift again. "This is another Grammy!" Her "Mean" wins the country song prize, a songwriter's award. She added, "When we put this out as a single, a few people were like, 'Really? You're gonna do that?’ ” Expect Swift to perform the song tonight. Excited? Neither am I.
3:22 p.m.: The Civil Wars win again, besting the likes of Eddie Vedder and the Fleet Foxes for the folk album prize.
3:24 p.m.: The Grammys won't stay unpredictable for long, folks.
The Foo Fighters win the Grammy for hard rock/metal performance for "White Limo." Said leader Dave Grohl: "This album was probably the most fun we ever had making a record. Rather than doing it in a nice studio with a bunch of gear, I asked my wife if it was OK to use my garage." Despite the stripped-down setting, however, the album sounds nearly identical to the last few Foo Fighters records.
As the rock fields continue, the Foo Fighters continue to win. The band's “Walk" took the rock song prize. Far superior was the folksy-rocker "Down by the Water" from the Decemberists.
And proving Grammy voters have the most boring rock album collection of all time, the Foo Fighters win the rock album prize for "Wasting Light." The award should have gone to Wilco's "The Whole Love," a far more adventurous collection.
3:31 p.m. The alternative music album prize goes to Bon Iver for its folk-inspired soft rock on "Bon Iver, Bon Iver." The Midwestern group bested locals Foster the People, which was in the running for its debut, "Torches," as well as past alternative album winners Radiohead (the group's "In Rainbows" won in 2009). It was a big win for the Bloomington, Ind., label Jagjaguwar, which released "Bon Iver, Bon Iver." The group's mastermind, Justin Vernon, said: "Thanks to all the nominees, non-nominees for this category. This feels pretty special." Bon Iver is up for new artist, but competing against multiple pre-telecast winner Skrillex.
3:37 p.m.: And that's a wrap for the pre-show. Paul Epworth won producer of the year, non-classical, beating out Danger Mouse, the Smeezingtons, Ryan Tedder and Butch Vig. Among Epworth's credits were Foster the People's "Call It What You Want," Cee Lo Green's "No One's Gonna Love You" and, most important, "Rolling in the Deep" from Adele.
Look for a newsy summary of the wins so far here (What you need to know: multiple awards for Skrillex, the Foo Fighters and Adele) as well as live updates on Pop & Hiss of tonight's performances.
-- Todd Martens
Images: Poster boards with photos designate the seating assignments for Grammy celebs at Staples Center. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times; Skrillex. Credit: Getty Images