The 2011 Grammys ended with a major shocker, as Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire beat out platinum pop stars Eminem, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry for the night’s big award, Album of the Year, for “The Suburbs.”
The seven-member ensemble expressed shock over the unexpected win, opting for an encore performance in lieu of a laundry list of thank yous. Despite finishing a BMX-themed performance of “Month of May” just moments before their big announcement, Arcade Fire hijacked the stage to perform a beaming rendition of “Ready to Start,” a song that ironically challenges the big business aesthetic that the band confronts with its do-it-yourself independent attitude.
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The band got a bit more vocal about their win in the press room after their final performance. “Were we more surprised than Barbra Streisand or less surprised?” the band joked.
“It was shocking,” frontman Win Butler told reporters in the Grammy press room. “The idea never even entered my mid, even the the slightest bit, until when they said the name of the album.”
“This award is for our record,” he continued. “We really believe in records. When we make a record, we really put all of our soul into it. To be recognized for that [by] this group of people, in the age of the iPod or in the age of the single or whatever it is, we still really care about records so it means a lot to us.”
Video: Arcade Fire at the CBS “Thank You” cam
Despite not winning the Album of the Year title, Lady Antebellum still walked away with the most trophies overall, winning Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Country Song and Best Country Performance by Duo/Group for the song “Need You Now.” Additionally, the chart-topping country trio took home the award for Best Country Album, winning five awards total.
“We really wanted to make Nashville and the country music community proud tonight,” said singer Hilary Scott. “I hope that they feel that way and i think it just shows that country music is relevant and it’s relatable. I just hope they think we’re flying the flag right.”
The other big surprise of the night was a Best New Artist win by jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, who beat out both Justin Bieber and Drake to win the title. “I take this honor to heart so sincerely, and I will do my damndest to make a whole lot of great music for all of you.”
Other big winners included Eminem, who performed alongside Dr. Dre and Rihanna during the show and walked away with a Best Rap Album trophy for “Recovery,” and Lady Gaga, who took home the Best Pop Vocal Album statuette “The Fame Monster.” In addition to thanking her fans and family during her acceptance speech, Gaga gave Whitney Houston an unexpected shout-out. “I want to thank Whitney Houston because when I wrote ‘Born This Way,’ I imagined [she was] singing it,” Gaga told the Grammy crowd.
Shortly after her tender performance of “The House That Built Me,” country songstress Miranda Lambert was awarded her first-ever Grammy, for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. British rockers Muse followed suit, winning Best Rock Album for “The Resistance” after their raucous performance of “Uprising.” In the band’s acceptance speech, frontman Matt Bellamy thanked his nameless “pregnant girlfriend,” otherwise known as actress Kate Hudson.
Train took home the first televised award of the night for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for its ubiquitous song “Hey Soul Sister.” The band humorously thanked Justin Bieber in its speech, specifically for “not being a duo or a group.”
Before the telecast began, many artists took home statues that were given out during the pre-telecast ceremony. The Black Keys led the pack with three awards (Best Alternative Album, Best Rock Performance for Duo/Group for “Tighten Up,” and an award for Art Direction for their album “Brothers”). La Roux took home an award for Best Electronic/Dance Album for the British duo’s self-titled debut. Additionally, Usher and Fantasia took home awards for Best Male and Best Female R&B Vocal Performances, respectively, for “There Goes My Baby” and “Bittersweet.”
The event kicked off with a timely tribute to Aretha Franklin, as female singers across all genres — R&B diva Jennifer Hudson, country queen Martina McBride, pop princess Christina Aguilera, gospel powerhouse Yolanda Adams and alternative chanteuse Florence Welch — performed a medley of hits in honor of the queen of soul.
But soon enough, the Grammys stopped looking back and took a huge step forward as Lady Gaga emerged from a futuristic egg pod to perform her new single, “Born This Way” for the first time on television. The performance featured a pink-ponytailed Gaga — equipped with prosthetic shoulder horns — gyrating on stage in front of a chorus of dancers wearing flesh-colored body suits.
Cee Lo‘s colorful performance of “Forget (F**k) You” alongside Muppet back-up singers and a playful assist from Gwyneth Paltrow is one for the history books, proving that a little humor never hurt the Recording Academy (and that the actress can sing quite well).
Other standout performances included a dance-off duet between a black-leathered Justin Bieber and his fancy-footworking mentor Usher; an impressive, retro-tinged display from Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae and B.o.B; and a rare serious moment for Katy Perry, who performed her song “Not Like the Movies” set to home movies of her wedding to Russell Brand.
Additionally, an ill Rihanna gave two solid performances, first a flame-filled collaboration with Eminem for “Love the Way You Lie” and later a sexy romp with Drake on their duet, “What’s My Name?” The show also featured Mick Jagger’s first-ever Grammy performance (a tribute to Solomon Burke), a solo return for Barbra Streisand, and a tribute to acoustic music led by folk pickers Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan (with “Maggie’s Farm”).