LOS ANGELES -- In terms of
the number of golden gramophones claimed -- eight --the biggest winner as
the 47th annual Grammy Awards were handed out on Sunday night at the Staples
Center was the late Ray Charles.
But in terms of establishing himself as a
musical force to be reckoned with and the artist that everyone was talking
about, the evening belonged to Chicago native and hip-hop innovator Kanye
The triple-threat rapper, producer and songwriter claimed only three of
the almost-unprecedented 10 nominations stemming from his debut album, "The
College Dropout," including best rap song and best rap album. He lost the
major prizes for best new artist and Song and Album of the Year.
But West stopped the show with his uplifting performance of the hit
"Jesus Walks" -- "I feel like I've been saved!" actor and presenter Kevin
Bacon exclaimed immediately afterward -- and his acceptance speech for best
rap album was one of the most memorable in Grammy history.
"When I had my accident, I found out that nothing in life is promised
except death," West said. "If you have the opportunity to play the game of
life, you need to appreciate every moment."
Then, West shifted gears and flashed his famously cocky humor. "I plan to
celebrate and scream and pop champagne every chance I get, 'cause I'm at the
Grammys, baby!" he shouted.
"Everybody wanted to know what I would do if I didn't win. Well, I guess
we'll never know!"
West's most difficult loss had to be ceding the best new artist prize to
L.A.'s marshmallow popsters Maroon 5. When he met the press backstage later
on, even that band's singer Adam Levine acknowledged that West had been
"Everybody expected Kanye West to win, and he's incredible," Levine said.
"I feel like we're sharing this prize with him."
Always fond of honoring departed greats, it was no surprise that voters
from Grammy sponsors the Recording Academy gave eight awards to the late
Charles for his final album, "Genius Loves Company," a mediocre but
double-platinum-selling collection of duets. Among the prizes it claimed
were Album of the Year and best pop album and Record of the Year (for "Here
We Go Again," Charles' duet with Norah Jones).
One hint that it would be a big night for Charles came early on when
Alicia Keys performed a duet of "Georgia on My Mind" with actor Jamie Foxx,
the Oscar-nominated star of the biopic "Ray."
Nominated for eight awards herself, Keys claimed four, including best R&B
album ("The Diary of Alicia Keys") and R&B song ("You Don't Know My Name,"
her collaboration with West, which counted among his wins).
Also nominated for eight prizes, 7 million-selling R&B superstar Usher
claimed four awards, including best contemporary R&B album ("Confessions")
and best rap/sung collaboration ("Yeah!" with Lil Jon and Ludacris).
After Maroon 5's win and Recording Academy President Neil Portnow's
annual speech demonizing music downloading, the evening's lamest moment came
when John Mayer won song of the year for "Daughters." He also claimed best
male pop vocal performance for the acoustic weeper.
Three months after the presidential elections, voters honored two artists
who released intensely anti-Bush albums. Green Day's "American Idiot"
claimed the prize for best rock album, while Steve Earle's "The Revolution
Starts ... Now" won best contemporary folk album.
Accepting the prize, Green Day -- which also delivered an incendiary
performance, in terms of both pyrotechnics and musical fire --
guitarist-vocalist Billie Joe Armstrong took credit for proving that "rock
'n' roll can be dangerous and fun at the same time." (He self-censored the
nasty words in the song "American Idiot" when the band performed, but he
still surprised censors by flipping his middle finger.)
When the bulk of the awards were handed out before the telecast, Chicago
alternative-country heroes turned art-rockers Wilco claimed two prizes for
"A Ghost Is Born," winning best alternative album and best recording
As for the performances, the Grammys took a cue from the Oscars in
opening with a whiz-bang, high-energy medley -- minus Billy Crystal,
thankfully -- underscoring the show's diversity as the Black Eyed Peas, Gwen
Stefani and Eve, Los Lonely Boys, Maroon 5 and Franz Ferdinand offered
snippets of their hits.
Continuing a publicity blitzkrieg priming the pump for their spring tour,
U2 performed the bland ballad "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." The
Irish rockers also claimed three Grammys, including best rock song for
"Escapemonos," the much-hyped musical debut of Jennifer Lopez and her
third husband, Marc Anthony, didn't generate much heat, despite the boudoir
stage setting. But even soggier were the all-star tribute to Southern rock
and sing-along version of the Beatles' "Across the Universe" intended as a
fund-raiser for tsunami victims.
As host, Queen Latifah was amiable if not particularly inspired. Much
better was her medley of the sultry jazz numbers "Lush Life" and "Baby Get