Everybody expected Eminemto take Album of the Year at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards. Recovery was the year's best-sellingalbum and one of its most critically acclaimed. And since Eminem had lost inthat marquee category twice before (to SteelyDan and Norah Jones), he wasoverdue. But, as you know by now, he lost again, this time to Arcade Fire's The Suburbs.
The Suburbs wasalso #1 album and was also critically admired. But when it lost for BestAlternative Music Album early in the evening to the Black Keys' Brothers,its chances of upsetting Eminem for Album of the Year appeared to be next tonil. The Black Keys ("Tighten Up) also beat Arcade Fire ("Ready To Start") inthe category of Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. But thenArcade Fire turned around and won the big one. You just never know with Grammyvoters.
The first sign that Eminem's sweep might not pan out camewhen the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys smash "Empire State Of Mind" beat Eminem's collabo withRihanna, "Love The Way You Lie," forBest Rap/Sung Performance and Best Rap Song. "Empire State Of Mind" was aninstant classic, but everyone figured this was going to be Eminem's year. Usuallythat means a sweep. In the end, Eminem's "sweep" consisted of just two awards,the same number he won last year for his so-so album, Relapse.
Eminem has won 13 Grammys, including a category-leading fiveawards for Best Rap Album. But after 12 years of stardom, he has yet to win inany of the "Big Four" categories-Album, Record or Song of the Year or Best NewArtist. I'm starting to wonder: What's it going to take?
Here were some of the night's other biggest shockers:
Esperanza Spaldingtakes Best New Artist. Few had even heard of the talented jazz musician beforethe nominations were announced on Dec. 1. Most observers figured thatSpalding's nomination would be its own reward; her ticket to the Grammy stage.I expected Drake to take the award,but Mumford & Sons, Florence + the Machine and JustinBieber also had their supporters. In the end, the tightness of the race,and the lack of a clear-cut front-runner, may have enabled Spalding to squeakthrough. This may have been one of those years when all five candidates drewroughly 20% of the vote.
Herbie Hancockbeats Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Hancock's all-star remake of John Lennon's "Imagine" beat three megahits ("California Gurls,""Airplanes" and "Telephone") for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals. I figuredthe combined diva power of Lady Gaga andBeyonce on "Telephone" would take theaward, but the voters opted for Hancock's remake, which featured P!nk, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No. 1, Jeff Beck and Oumou Sangare.(Hancock won a second Grammy for "A Change Is Gonna Come," another track from The Imagine Project, which took Best Improvised Jazz Solo.)
Paul McCartneywins his first Grammy in 31 years. The ex-Beatle won for Best Solo RockPerformance for "Helter Skelter," a track from his live album Good Evening New York City. It was McCartney's first Grammy since his band Wings won for Best Rock InstrumentalPerformance in 1979. (It helped McCartney's chances that everyone knows thesong, which first appeared on theBeatles' White Album in 1968.)
Mavis Staples winsher first Grammy ever in a career dating back to the 1950s (in gospel) and the1970s (in R&B). Staples, the lead singer of the Staple Singers, won for Best Americana Album, beating out suchhigh-profile artists as Rosanne Cashand Robert Plant. The Staple Singersreceived a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, but they never won aGrammy in competition. "That was the shock of my life," Staples said when she tearfullyaccepted the award, which was presented in the pre-telecast part of the show."It's been a long time coming...It was worth the wait."
Neil Young winshis first Grammy for his music in a career dating back to the 1960s. Young tookBest Rock Song for "Angry World," beating such powerhouse rivals as Mumford & Sons' "Little Lion Man"and the Black Keys' "Tighten Up."Young won last year for Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, but evenhe seemed to not count that as a meaningful recognition of his work. "This ismy first Grammy for music," he said in picking up the award, which was alsopresented in the pre-telecast part of the show. He then alluded to Mavis Staples' even longer wait forGrammy recognition. "I'm not Mavis, but I'm close."
Crazy Heart beats Glee: The Music, Volume 1 for BestCompilation Soundtrack for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media.This wasn't exactly a shocker: After all, "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart won an Oscar and a GoldenGlobe a year ago and a Grammy tonight for Best Song for Motion Picture,Television or other Visual Media. But it means that the Glee phenomenon, which has been one of the few commercial brightspots in music in the past year, went unrecognized at the Grammys. (The Glee Cast's version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" alsolost for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.)