The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards as a television show weren't really much about the awards themselves, but rather the performances, which I suppose is how it should be. Unlike the Oscars and Emmys, the ceberation of the best in music can actually SHOW everyone the best in music without having to rely on brief clips and a hope that the audience has already seen the movies and shows.
Sure, Beyoncé won a female-record 6 Grammys this year, and Taylor Swift won 4 of her own (including the "big one": Album of the Year). And there were a host of other multiple winners on the night, including Kings of Leon, The Black Eyed Peas, Eminem, Lady Gaga, Jason Mraz, and the great Béla Fleck (a personal favourite). All wonderful news. But since most of those awards were handed out off-camera and not on the televised show itself, it was the performances that made this year's Grammys worth watching (for any pop music fan, anyway).
Starting the night of song and spectacle was Lady Gaga, who partway through her performance was joined by Elton John for a medley of her "Speechless" and his "Your Song". Beyoncé Knowles performed a medley of her own "If I Were a Boy" with a cover of Alanis Morisette's "You Oughta Know", while Pink brought out her inner Cirque du Soleil acrobat for a haunting performance of "Glitter in the Air" that saw her singing while moving and spinning above the crowd. Green Day, whose album American Idiot is apparently hitting Broadway in March in musical theatre form (how punk rock of them!), were joined by members of that cast for a version of "21 Guns", and the Black Eyed Peas sang a futuristic medley of "Imma Be" and "I Gotta Feeling".
You'd think that would be enough, but you'd be wrong. That was just the first hour! Robert Downey, Jr. (hilariously introduced as "the most self-important actor of his generation") tried to class up the joint with some opera, which was just a clever way to get Jamie Foxx out there to sing a couple of his hits, joined partway through by T-Pain, Doug E. Fresh, and Slash pulling out a bit of the "November Rain" solo. And the collaborations didn't end there. Zac Brown Band were joined by the legendary Leon Russell for a medley; the Dave Matthews Band were joined by a choir and strings/horns for "You and Me"; Maxwell was joined by Roberta Flack for "Where is the Love"; and Taylor Swift was joined by Stevie Nicks for Swift's "You Belong With Me" and Nicks' "Rhiannon".
In a tribute to the late Les Paul, guitar legend Jeff Beck accompanied singer Imelda May for a jazzy rendition of "How High the Moon", and in a tribute to the recently-ravaged country of Haiti, Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli performed a duet of the Simon and Garfunkle classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (which can be downloaded via iTunes to support Haiti relief).
The biggest production of the night was a virtual collaboration on "Earth Song" between the late Michael Jaskson and Jennifer Hudson, Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Smokey Robinson, and Usher. It featured a special 3-D background (glad I had those Nightmare on Elm Street 3-D glasses on hand) and was followed by comments from Jackson's children Prince and Paris. Bon Jovi also hit the stage for a trio of tunes: "We Weren't Born to Follow", "Who Says You Can't Go Home", and the fan-selected "Livin' on a Prayer".
Capping off the night was a big performance (backed by Travis Barker on drums) from Lil' Wayne, Drake, and Eminem, which was actually pretty sweet to see. Who'd have thought little Aubrey Graham from Degrassi: The Next Generation would grow up to headline the Grammys with two hip-hop powerhouses? (Too bad half the performance was blanked out by censors.)
What's that? You wanted to get back to the actual hardware itself? I suppose if that sort of thing is important to you, you can take at the list below, which includes a good chunk of the winners (the full list is available at the Grammy website). While many of the winners were newer acts (Taylor Swift, Kings of Leon), the Grammy winners aren't quite as cutting-edge as OUR nominees and winners for the best music of 2009. So be sure to check out this year's Melodic Monkey Alternative Music Awards as well!
Album of the Year: Fearless - Taylor Swift
Record of the Year: "Use Somebody" - Kings of Leon
New Artist: Zac Brown Band
Song of the Year: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - Beyoncé
Pop Vocal Album: The E.N.D. - The Black Eyed Peas
Female Pop Vocal Performance: "Halo" - Beyoncé
Male Pop Vocal Performance: "Make it Mine" - Jason Mraz
Pop Performance by a Duo or Group: "I Gotta Feeling" - The Black Eyed Peas
Pop Collaboration: "Lucky" - Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat
Electronic/Dance Album: The Fame - Lady Gaga
Dance Recording: "Poker Face" - Lady Gaga
Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: "When Love Takes Over" - David Guetta ft. Kelly Rowl&
Pop Instrumental Album: Potato Hole - Booker T. Jones
Pop Instrumental Performance: "Throw Down Your Heart" - Béla Fleck
Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Michael Bublé Meets Madison Square Garden - Michael Bublé
Rock Album: 21st Century Breakdown - Green Day
Rock Song: "Use Somebody" - Kings of Leon
Solo Rock Vocal Performance: "Working on a Dream" - Bruce Springsteen
Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: "Use Somebody" - Kings of Leon
Hard Rock Performance: "War Machine" - AC/DC
Metal Performance: "Dissident Aggressor" - Judas Priest
Rock Instrumental Performance: "A Day in the Life" - Jeff Beck
Alternative Music Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix
R&B Album: BLACKsummers' Night - Maxwell
Contemporary R&B Album: I Am... Sasha Fierce - Beyoncé
Female R&B Vocal Performance: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - Beyoncé
Male R&B Vocal Performance: "Pretty Wings" - Maxwell
R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: "Blame It" - Jamie Foxx & T-Pain
Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: "At Last" - Beyoncé
Urban/Alternative Performance: "Pearls" - India.Arie & Dobet Gnahore
R&B Song: "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - Beyoncé
Rap Album: Relapse - Eminem
Rap Solo Performance: "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)" - Jay-Z
Rap Performance by a Duo or Group: "Crack a Bottle" - Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent
Rap Song: "Run This Town" - Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West
Rap/Sung Collaboration: "Run This Town" - Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West
Country Album: Fearless - Taylor Swift
Female Country Vocal Performance: "White Horse" - Taylor Swift
Male Country Vocal Performance: "Sweet Thing" - Keith Urban
Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: "I Run to You" - Lady Antebellum
Country Song: "White Horse" - Taylor Swift
Country Collaboration with Vocals: "I Told You So" - Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis
Bluegrass Album: The Crow/New Songs For The Five-String Banjo - Steve Martin
Americana Album: Electric Dirt - Levon Helm
Traditional Folk Album: High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project - Loudon Wainwright III
Contemporary Folk Album: Townes - Steve Earle
Jazz Vocal Album: Dedicated to You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman - Kurt Elling
Jazz Instrumental Album: Five Peace Band - Live - Chick Corea & John McLaughlin Five Peace Band
Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Book One - New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
Traditional Blues Album: A Stranger Here - Ramblin' Jack Elliott
Contemporary Blues Album: Already Free - The Derek Trucks Band
Comedy Album: A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! - Stephen Colbert
Movie/TV Score Soundtrack: Up
Movie/TV Compilation Soundtrack Album: Slumdog Millionaire
Movie/TV Song: "Jai Ho" - Slumdog Millionaire
Best Musical Show Album: West Side Story
Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: Neil Young Archives Vol. I (1963-1972) - Gary Burden, Jenice Heo & Neil Young
Short-Form Music Video: "Boom Boom Pow" - The Black Eyed Peas
Long-Form Music Video: "The Beatles Love -- All Together Now"
Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)
Hey, Phoenix won a real one too!