Before the Grammy telecast kicked off Sunday at Staples Center, the show's producer, Ken Ehrlich, referenced opening act AC/DC. For the night's losers, he said, the show will be "the highway to hell for four out of five of you in every category. For [the winner], tonight will be heaven."
Pop music comes and goes, but there will always be Weird Al Yankovic. That said, even the prince of parodies acknowledged that his tactics might have to change with the times.
FULL COVERAGE: Grammy Awards 2015
Just hours after winning for comedy album, Yankovic said, "I'm probably not going to release traditional albums anymore. Digital is the fastest way to get my ideas out."
But even in a social media climate that rewards quick-response viral video flurries, he'd rather take his time and get his nerdy ripostes exactly right. "Ninety-nine percent of my ideas are bad," he said.
What Madonna wasn't wearing proved one of the high points of an otherwise slow and sedate Grammy show. As she made her way across the red carpet, her exposed back end generated more social media shout-outs in two minutes than Kanye did all evening. It pays to leave your pants at home.
It's not as if Kanye didn't try to upstage Madonna's lack of pants. For viewers close-watching at home, a familiar face popped up on the right side of the screen just a second before Beck's stunned acceptance speech for album of the year.
Kanye West, in a half-finished stage-crashing riff that referenced his 2009 Video Music Awards dash (then involving Taylor Swift), poked his head in the frame just before Beck spoke. Fans gasped a bit, thinking Ye was about to awkwardly stick up for Beyoncé again (as he did at the VMAs). Sadly, Kanye waved Beck off and things went as planned, proving these Grammys could take home honors for most boring telecast ever.
In a somber rendition of "Happy," Pharrell's dancers used the "Hands up, don't shoot" gesture, an expression of protest after the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown. The performance gained traction online, but for the singer's bellhop-evoking attire. The move went largely unnoticed, as did the fact that he was performing the most ubiquitous song of 2014. Where's that perky beat?
Sam Smith was widely tipped to be a big winner in the major categories at this year's Grammys. The big prize for album of theyear eluded him, but his wins for record, song and new artist still have him feeling optimistic about what's next.
"I think it's going to affect me in the most positive way possible. I can now put 'Grammy-winning artist' before everything I do," Smith said backstage.
He believed he owed the success of "Stay With Me" and his album, "In the Lonely Hour," to a newfound acceptance of being himself. "I didn't play a character, so I don't have to work hard to do what I did again."
Rosanne Cash was one of the big early winners, pulling in Grammys for American roots song and American roots performance (for "A Feather's Not a Bird") and Americana album (for "The River & the Thread").
It was, as she acknowledged, her first Grammy win "since Reagan was president" (1985, to be exact). But her Americana wins also reflected a lifetime of investment in making a living from music. She saw the high and lows of her father Johnny Cash's career, and though she was thrilled at her wins, she also admitted to an existential sadness about acts that feel let down by piracy and the free-music economy.
"I know a lot of musicians are discouraged and feel like they can't make a living anymore," she said. But, still, she held out hope that artists will pursue the heights of their craft regardless of how the money shakes out. "You never lose that love," she said.