Even with the Sturm und Drang of Grammy winners and losers, surprises and snubs dictating the awards' central narrative every year, the gala ceremony has come to be defined by its rivalries, diva turns and small-scale dramas that inevitably come to light over the course of the show's broadcast.
Presenting the Grammy for best new artist, Katy Perry made sure to acknowledge the category's positive influence on a performer's fledgling career while acknowledging that being passed over for that honor hasn't exactly proved to be a liability for her.
"I was not even nominated in this category and I have my own eyelash line," Perry remarked. "Take that, Bon Iver!"
Support for Ocean
Shut out in the nominations, Justin Bieber attempted to live-stream footage of himself performing new material online — "im super upset," he tweeted when his effort to steal some of the awards' 18- to 49-year-old demographic thunder Sunday hit technical snags — another pop-cultural contretemps was playing out in the urban contemporary album category.
Last month R&B superstars Chris Brown and Frank Ocean, both nominated for urban contemporary album, were involved in a parking-lot brawl outside a West Hollywood recording studio, during which a homophobic epithet allegedly was hurled at Ocean, who has acknowledged a same-sex relationship.
When Brown's name was announced as a nominee at Staples Center, a tomb-like silence enveloped the auditorium save for a smattering of cheering from the front rows. Then when Ocean was proclaimed the winner, rapturous applause exploded across the auditorium — a palpable, implicit rebuke of Brown as well as a valediction for Ocean. That goodwill toward the singer continued through the broadcast when Ocean later shared a victory with Jay-Z, Kanye West and producer The-Dream for rap-sung collaboration "No Church in the Wild"; the audience offered a standing ovation.
Wearing a fashion-forward black dress that crept up nearly to her bikini line on one thigh, Jennifer Lopez — presenting the evening's first award for pop solo performance — paid lip service to the standards and practices wardrobe advisory that CBS sent to nominees and presenters last week. The network effectively banned "thong-type costumes" and dresses exposing "female breast nipples" in a bid to preempt the kind of high-profile wardrobe malfunction that derailed Janet Jackson's 2006 Super Bowl performance.
"So, as you can see, I read the memo," Lopez joked, as monitors projected a photograph of the star in the plunging Versace cutaway dress she wore to the 2000 Grammys.
Ogling his co-presenter with wolfish delight, multiplatinum-selling rapper Pitbull remarked to Lopez: "You inspired the memo."
Age is just a number
Indie band Fun. performed its alternative chart hit "Carry On" amid torrents of artificial precipitation that rained on the stage, soaking the performers. Afterward, members of the pop-rock outfit quickly changed out of their sodden capri pants and damp short-sleeve button-downs into natty suit-and-tie combos to collect the award for song of the year for their ode to youthful indiscretion, "We Are Young."
"I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote the chorus of this song," Fun. lead singer Nate Ruess, 30, mused from the awards podium. "If this is in HD, everyone can see our faces, and we are not very young."
Lack of fervor
Johnny Depp appeared before cameras absent any kind of introduction, seeming to befuddle some in the audience, and mustered fewer than 20 half-mumbled words to usher in a performance by last year's Grammys breakout Mumford & Sons. Chalk it up to uncertainty or apathy: The actor's Hollywood star wattage prompted but a ripple of tepid excitement from the music industry-heavy crowd.
In another stage-managed exchange that played out while the broadcast cut to a commercial break — and didn't necessarily pan out quite as planned — a production assistant entreated audience members to join the group in a sing-along with Denver folk-rockers the Lumineers' inescapable top 10 hit, "Hey Ho." And again, apathy trumped enthusiasm in the crowd.
"Now, just in case you don't know this one, let's practice the chorus," the production assistant was heard to say. "We want you all singing along."
Still clearly chuffed by her Golden Globe win for original song last month, and fresh from a surprise Grammy score for pop solo performance for "Set Fire to the Rain [Live]" on Sunday, British chanteuse Adele appeared backstage and admitted to have not made much headway generating new material for the follow-up to her smash-selling second album, "21." Instead, the singer said she has been focusing her musical output on her baby son, Angelo. "I've been out of the loop, really," Adele said, "just singing my baby nursery rhymes."
Times staff writer Gerrick Kennedy contributed to this report.