Back in the good old days, a bare navel was the must-have accessory at the Grammy Awards. Nearly everyone -- from Sinéad O'Connor in a sports bra and jeans in 1989 to Sheryl Crow's yellow gown with a yard or two of missing fabric in 2005 -- has exposed enough midriff to scare censors. It was often tacky. It was always terrific. And we, as viewers, rejoiced.
But for musicians, a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a brand -- one that might lead to a beauty endorsement deal or a shot at designing denim. They stopped dressing like rock stars, and the Grammys became glutted with tasteful gowns. Sunday night, many of the female nominees could have been en route to a premiere of "Aida." There was a lot of black and plenty of dresses that wouldn't make a pastor flinch.
Miley Cyrus, 16, and Taylor Swift, 19, looked more like thirtysomething Park Avenue socialites than teen pop divas in sophisticated black gowns on the red carpet. During the pre-show, Welsh breakout chanteuse Duffy revealed that she had opted for a subdued black velvet Alberta Ferretti cocktail dress over her initial, more risqué choice: "I got in the car, and you could see way more than you would want to see." ( Cher would be disappointed.) Carrie Underwood, in a lovely gold, beaded slip gown by Zuhair Murad on the red carpet, later performed in a much flirtier chiffon minidress. Alas, Leona Lewis' Randi Rahm gold crisscross gown wasn't fun or flattering.
Thankfully, Katy Perry -- known for her 1940s pinup style -- didn't disappoint in a cotton-candy-hued satin gown with a giant corsage at the waist by Lebanese designer Basil Soda and a matching lipstick she called "porn pink." (Too bad the faux tan was more bacon-hued.) And kudos to Estelle, whose architectural silver lamé sheath and matching booties seemed like a nod to David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust days. Costume-y is A-OK for musicians.
On to the boys. Clearly, the Jonas Brothers aren't taking any chances with their Purell-clean image. The two older siblings went with James Bond-worthy traditional tuxedos, while the youngest Jonas opted for a Johnny Cash look in all black. Would it have killed one of them to don a boa? How fun was it to see Paul McCartney, almost a half-century older than the Jonas clan, in a Beatles T-shirt? ( John Lennon wore a velvet suit, an Elvis button and a beret to the Grammys in 1975.) Coldplay stuck with their touring uniforms of Sgt. Pepper-inspired military get-ups, which must make getting ready a snap. Style standouts included Ne-Yo and Jay-Z, who both went retro-dapper.
Then, there was M.I.A. The very pregnant British rapper was due to give birth Sunday night, and obviously, she chose a dress -- a vivid, blue pup tent with lots of frills -- that would allow for a delivery in the back of a limo. Oh, and matching royal-blue high-top sneakers. She looked like a rock 'n' roll mother-to-be instead of a mother-of-the-bride. And we rejoiced.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times