Lady Antebellum’s desperate late-night call for companionship, “Need You Now,” was named record and song of the year among five awards the country trio collected during the 53rd Grammy Awards ceremony Sunday from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
But the group was denied a sweep of the top three categories by Canadian indie rock group Arcade Fire, whose exuberant “The Suburbs” CD was named album of the year in the evening’s biggest upset.
“We’re going to go play another song because we like music,” lead singer Win Butler said excitedly after Barbra Streisand announced the rock collective’s victory in the category over multimillion-selling collections by Lady A, Eminem, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.
His comment may also have reflected the thought process in the minds of Grammy voters who bestowed all four top awards to music and musicians strongly rooted in traditional songwriting and instrumental camaraderie over beat-based recordings heavily reliant on contributions of producers and studio production wizardry.
Lady Antebellum won in five of the six categories in which it was nominated. Group member Dave Heywood, one of the co-writers of “Need You Now,” said, “What an amazing year,” then referred to the group-penned hit as “a song that has turned our world upside down.” The album of the same name was the second-biggest seller of 2010, its 3.1 million copies behind only Eminem’s 3.4 million for his blockbuster comeback, “Recovery.”
The rapper picked up the rap album of the year award, while iconoclastic fashion plate Lady Gaga won three of the six Grammys she was nominated for and Esperanza Spalding was named best new artist, an upset for the 26-year jazz singer and bassist over multiplatinum acts Justin Bieber and Drake, as well as critically acclaimed British rock and soul performers Mumford and Sons and Florence & the Machine.
“Wow,” Spalding said. “Thank you to the academy for even nominating me in the category.”
Accepting the Grammy for pop vocal album for “The Fame Monster,” Lady Gaga said, “I had this dream when I was really young that I could be whoever I wanted to be.” That was right after she’d been bleeped for shouting a profanity when she stepped up to the microphone. Before the show started, she also won the female pop vocal performance and short form music video awards for her single “Bad Romance.”
“Need You Now” also took the country album, country song and duo-group country vocal performance trophies.
This year’s show brought out the biggest guns in pop music of the previous year--Eminem, Lady Antebellum, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Drake, Bieber and much of the cast of “Glee"--with one significant exception: Taylor Swift, who just launched a tour overseas, was performing in Osaka, Japan.
The music industry traditionally counts on the Grammy Awards show to pump adrenaline into ever-sliding sales. That’s especially true this year, when in the first six weeks of 2011, three sales lows have been set for the album claiming the No. 1 spot on the national sales chart.
It’s one of the few occasions when a relatively broad spectrum of music--rap and country to jazz and indie rock--gets national exposure on the same network TV show.
The show also featured the first Grammy night performance by Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger, and a rare appearance by Bob Dylan, who drew a standing ovation from the Staples crowd after being backed by younger roots music acts--the Avett Brothers and England’s Mumford and Sons--for a gravelly voiced, hootenanny-like rendition of his song “Maggie’s Farm.”
Jagger devoted his segment as a tribute to soul singer Solomon Burke and sang the late singer’s 1964 hit “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” Barbra Streisand, the Recording Academy’s MusiCares Person of the Year for her cultural and philanthropic contributions, made it a trio of ‘60s veterans with a performance of her “Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’).”
Aretha Franklin, the tribute of a show-opening salute featuring Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams and Florence Welch of Florence & the Machine, also was in absentia. But she delivered a videotaped message thanking well-wishers during her recent hospitalization for surgery for a still-undisclosed illness.
Following that segment, one audience member was overheard saying “Thank God she remembered the words,” referencing her gaffe during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl.
Cee Lo Green, audaciously showing up on CBS-TV outfitted like the NBC peacock, also was silenced briefly on the telecast while singing his hit single with the unprintable title, ".... You,” accompanied by the Henson puppets and Gwyneth Paltrow. On the telecast, it was referred to as “The Song Otherwise Known as ‘Forget You.’”
Eminem led the night with 10 nominations largely pegged to his “Recovery” album, but he took home only two: rap album and rap solo performance for the single “Not Afraid.”
“Recovery” had been widely considered the favorite in the category going into Sunday’s ceremony. The album delivered a potent comeback for the Detroit rapper, even though reviews were mixed. It finished 2010 as the top-selling album of the year, with more than 3.4 million copies, demonstrating Eminem’s continued might in the retail arena.
In fact, rap album sales actually increased by 3% in 2010, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the only musical genre that posted a gain. And that was largely due to Eminem’s “Recovery.” Taking his numbers out of the picture, sales in the genre would have been 10% lower than in 2009.
Major wins would crown a triumphant year for Eminem that has quickly extended into 2011, with two key commercial appearances during the Super Bowl.
His pairing with Rihanna for the hit single “Love the Way You Lie” also was widely considered a front runner to take the record of the year award in a field that also includes Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ paean to the Big Apple, “New York State of Mind,” B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars’ “Nothin’ On You,” Green’s controversial " You” and Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.”
Before the telecast began, Eminem’s single “Not Afraid” took the rap solo performance Grammy, but “Love The Way You Lie” lost in rap-sung collaboration to the Jay-Z-Keys recording.
Eminem’s numerous nominations reflect the intensely collaborative nature of the rap and R&B fields, a process that’s helped performers in those genres rack up multiple nominations in recent years. It also contributes to Bruno Mars’ seven, Jay-Z’s and Lady Gaga’s six each. From other fields, only country trio Lady Antebellum tallied six or more nominations.
Train’s “Hey Soul Sister (Live)” took the first Grammy of the telecast for pop duo or group vocal. “Thanks, Justin Bieber, for not being a duo or group,” lead singer Pat Monahan said in accepting the Grammy. British rock group Muse took rock album category, for its collection “The Resistance,” over recent works by Neil Young, Jeff Beck, Pearl Jam and Tom Petty.
Besides rap, country music was the only other genre that didn’t experience a two-figure sales drop from a year earlier, with total sales of 43.7 million albums, down 5% from the 46.1 million country albums sold in 2009. Those results also reflected the success of blockbuster hits from Lady Antebellum, which collected the country album Grammy, and Swift. Country was the fourth most popular genre in 2010, behind rock (103.7 million albums), R&B (57.9 million) and alternative (53.7 million), according to Nielsen SoundScan’s year-end genre analysis.
For the performers selected to appear on Grammy night, it’s a no-lose situation. Even if they don’t take home a trophy, their record sales typically get a sizable bump in the days and weeks following the show. And the telecast is historically top heavy with performances. This year’s show had 16 musical production numbers, compared to just 10 Grammy Awards being handed out over the course of the 3 1/2-hour ceremony.
“We’re just focusing on the performance,” Lady Antebellum’s manager, Gary Borman, said during rehearsals this week. “That’s the one thing we have some control over.”
Show producers love spectacle, hence the acrobatic bicyclists paired up with Arcade Fire for their performance of “The Suburbs,” and the oversized flame-belching bonfire-cum-volcano constructed onstage for four-time nominee Rihanna’s duet with rapper Drake on her “What’s My Name?”
Lady Gaga was ushered into Staples Center for the awards atop a wooden stretcher carried by gold-lame outfitted servants, inside what looked like a giant watermelon, dinosaur egg or alien seed pod--at least, everyone was told she was inside it. For her featured performance of her new single “Born This Way,” she appeared in a sleek but, by her own outrageous standards, comparatively conventional gold dress
But country singer Miranda Lambert, who came into the show with three Grammy nominations, went the opposite direction in deciding how to present her reflective hit “The House That Built Me” on TV for an audience that might not have tuned in to hear her previous performances on the Country Music Assn and Academy of Country Music Awards shows.
“I’m sure there are a ton of people who don’t know who I am and who have never heard this song,” said Lambert, who talked show producers out of some suggestions for flashier visuals to go with the song that gave her her first Grammy ever, for female country vocal. “This song didn’t need a lot of bells and whistles.... I wanted to showcase what the song means to me and have pictures of a lot of the people who built this industry over time in the houses that built them. I think it’s better this way and I’m very excited to perform it.”
Rihanna bested Lady Gaga and others in the dance recording field with her single “Only Girl (In the World).” It was a cheerier result than two years ago when her scheduled appearance at the Grammys was derailed when her then-boyfriend Chris Brown assaulted her during a fight on the way to the show.
A night of upsets may have begun in the pop collaboration with vocals category, in which jazz musician Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie and a group of international friends triumphed with their version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” over tracks that teamed Eminem, B.o.B. and Hayley Mills; Elton John and Leon Russell; Lady Gaga and Beyonce, and Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg. It offered another example of the Grammy night adage: Never underestimate the power of a Beatle.
The music industry’s love affair with the Beatles surfaced again with awards to Paul McCartney for solo rock vocal for his rendition of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” and the award for historical album went to “The Beatles in Stereo,” the 16-disc box set that packaged stereo versions of all the Fab Four’s original studio albums.
Another big surprise, however, was that “The Suburbs” failed to win the alternative music album award, which went to the Black Keys’ “Brothers.”
Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to Julie Andrews, Dolly Parton, the Kingston Trio, the Ramones, the Juilliard String Quartet, jazz musician Roy Haynes and gospel singer George Beverly Shea.
The eligibility period for the 2010 Grammy Awards was Sept. 1, 2009, through Sept. 30, 2010. Awards are determined by about 13,000 voting members of the Recording Industry, whose membership includes musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, managers and record company personnel.
Jessica Gelt contributed to this report.