At a GRAMMY ceremony that will be forever known for a marriage ceremony with 33 couples presided over by Queen Latifah with Madonna singing, a dance music duo that does not speak dominated the awards with four artist wins.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, named best new artist, also had four wins. Lorde became the youngest artist to win in a general category besides best new artist when “Royals” was named song of the year.
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Daft Punk won album and record of the year honors for the album “Random Access Memories” and the single “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers. It is the first general category win for a dance-oriented album since the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack won album of the year for 1978. They also won pop duo or group performance, for “Get Lucky,” and dance/electronica album. Behind the scenes, Daft Punk collaborator Pharrell Williams was named producer of the year, non-classical, and engineers who worked on “Random Access Memories” won the GRAMMY for engineered album, non-classical.
“The time that went into this was like a Steely Dan record,” mastering engineer Bob Ludwig said backstage. He became involved with project through guitarist Nile Rodgers, whose work together dates back the guitarist’s work with Chic and “Let’s Dance” with David Bowie. “The point of view was this record has to be perfect. There was no stone unturned, no dollar unspent.”
Daft Punk was the cornerstone of one of the “GRAMMY moment” performances, doing a seamless medley of “Get Lucky,” Chic’s “Freak Out” and Wonder’s “Another Star” with Williams, Rodgers and Stevie Wonder; it was one of the more successful groupings in the show’s history.
Winning record and album of the year is not that common, having not occurred since Robert Plant and Alison Krauss did it at the 2009 ceremony. That combination has only occurred five times in the last 20 years, the Dixie Chicks, Norah Jones and Santana among acts that have pulled off the perfecta.
By and large, the Recording Academy honored popular acts that defined 2013 across multiple platforms: “Get Lucky,” Lorde’s downtempo “Royals,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.” Bypassing Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” considering its legal issues with the Marvin Gaye camp, made logical sense for this peer-to-peer award.
Besides new artist, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis swept the rap categories they were nominated in: song and performance for “Thrift Shop,” the second biggest seller of 2013 with 6.15 million downloads, according to SoundScan, and album for the million-selling “The Heist.”
It was in the middle of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ performance of “Same Love,” a song that discusses attitudes toward homosexuality, when Queen Latifah presided over the marriage of 33 couples – straight and gay.
“I hope this is inspiration (for rappers) to tackle any subject you want, (even) a subject that may seem like a difficult subject,” Queen Latifah said backstage after the telecast. “We need to make sure we get back to that.”
The awards telecast was front-loaded with music released since the 56th annual GRAMMY ended its eligibility period on Sept, 30. Beyonce and Jay Z opened the show with a performance of “Drunk in Love,” her five-week-old single currently at No. 12 on the Hot 100. Hunter Hayes ‘ single about bullying, “Invisible,” went on sale immediately after his performance in the show’s second segment. Keith Urban’s new single “Cop Car” and Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” with Juicy J, given a ghouls-‘n’-goblins staging, came from albums released after the eligibility period closed.
After an hour or so, the show focused on the elements it is better known for, collaborations and celebrating past achievements. Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons were paired on their two major hits, “M.A.D.D. City” and “Radioactive,” winner of the rock performance award.
Kacey Musgraves had to follow that overpowering performance with a much more restrained reading of her be-yourself anthem “Follow Your Arrow.” She won the top country awards, song (“Merry Go Round”) and album.
“I made a record inspired by real life,” she said backstage, “with all the traditional elements (of country music) – the Lorettas (Lynn), Marty Robbins. I’m working to be a part of presenting that.”
Justin Timberlake, surprisingly left out of the general categories, won twice — rap/sung collaboration for “Holy Grail” with Jay Z and R&B song for “Pusher Love Girl.” Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” bested his “The 20/20 Experience” for pop vocal album. With two wins each, Paul McCartney pushed his total to 19 GRAMMYs and Dave Grohl to 14.
The Beatles, who will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their arrival in the U.S. with a CBS special taping on Monday and airing Feb. 9, had a steady presence throughout the show. McCartney and Ringo Starr performed “Queenie Eye” from McCartney’s album “New”; Starr performed his Hot 100 No. 1 from 1973, “Photograph,” with a band that included guitarist Peter Frampton, bassist Don Was and singer Judith Hill.
McCartney won the rock song award for his recording “Cut Me Some Slack” with Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear. Grohl received two GRAMMYs for his studio-preservation project that yielded the film “Sound City,” winning compilation soundtrack for “Sound City: Real to Reel.”
Grohl’s concept, McCartney said, was for them to jam on Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally. “We’ve been there, we’ve done that,” was the Beatle’s reaction. “We should make something up.
“We only had three or four hours,” McCartney said backstage. “It was an excuse for my wife to bring the kids over for a visit with Dave’s wife and kids.” He credited, make that blamed, Johnny Depp for giving him a cigar box guitar that he wound up using. At first he was not aware of who the musicians were that Grohl was working with until he heard them talking about not performing for awhile.
“I found myself in the middle of a Nirvana reunion and I was very happy.”
Other veteran acts went home winners and made appearances. Led Zeppelin won its first-ever GRAMMY, taking home the rock album award for their live album “Celebration Day.” Charlie Musselwhite, the Chicago blues harpist who turns 70 on Jan. 31, was also a first-time winner receiving the blues album trophy for his album with Ben Harper “Get Up!” Black Sabbath won their second GRAMMY, metal performance for “God is Dead?”
Kris Kristofferson received a lifetime achievement award and performed with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton; Robin Thicke joined Chicago to play “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it Is” and “Beginnings” from their debut album, which went into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame this year, adding “Saturday in the Park” and “Blurred Lines” to their medley.
Cyndi Lauper, Ben Harper and Musselwhite, La Santa Cecilia, Roomful of Teeth and Tye Tribbett were presenters and performers during the pre-telecast who were also winners. Tribbett said he thought being asked to present was “their way of saying you didn’t win.” He was honored for gospel song and gospel album.