If there was a theme among the major winners as the 49th annual Grammy
Awards were handed out last night in Los Angeles, it was women persevering
against the odds and coming out on top.
Country-pop trio the Dixie Chicks claimed five Grammys: song, record and
album of the year, best country performance by a group and best country
album. The wins seemed like vindication after many gigs on last year's tour
were cancelled in Red states, where fans continue to boycott the singers
because of their political statements.
"To quote the great Simpsons: 'Ha ha!,' " lead vocalist Natalie Maines
said when claiming the song of the year statue. Later, accepting album of
the year, she elaborated.
"I think people are using their freedom of speech here tonight with all
these awards," Maines said. "I think people were using their voice the same
way this loudmouth did."
Mary J. Blige had eight nominations and only won three prizes: best
female R&B vocal, best R&B song and best R&B album. But the Queen of Hip-Hop
Soul viewed the wins as public redemption after years of personal turmoil.
"For so many years, I've been talked about negatively, and this time I am
being talked about positively," Blige said. Later, she added, "I don't think
you can have a great peak if you haven't had a valley, because it's in the
valley where you find out who you really are."
Also among the night's big winners -- though less deserving than the
ladies -- were punk-funksters turned soggy balladeers the Red Hot Chili
Peppers, whose wins included best rock album, best performance by a group
with vocal and best rock song.
Rapper Lupe Fiasco had topped the list of Chicago nominees, but he lost
in all three of his categories. This was especially disappointing in the
best rap album contest, since the winner, Ludacris, was announced by two
Chicago rap superstars: Common and Kanye West.
The most high-profile Chicago area winner: power-pop band OK Go, which
won best shortform music video for "Here It Goes Again."
With 97 of the 108 Grammy categories presented during the non-televised
ceremony before the broadcast, the show had less to do with the actual
awards than ever. Instead, viewers got 3½ hours of a mainstream variety show
wishing it was "American Idol."
Last year, when the awards moved to Wednesday, Simon Cowell & Co. drew 32
million viewers, while only 17 million tuned into the Grammys. This year,
the Grammys moved back to Sunday to avoid the competition, and they tried to
take some "Idol" tricks with them.
The "Grammy Moment" contest invited viewers to vote for one of three
unsigned, previously unknown singers -- all of them model-beautiful anorexic
young women, introduced by Chicago's Jennifer Hudson-- to duet with Justin
Timberlake. The idea had nothing to do with the Recording Academy's stated
purpose for the awards -- "to honor excellence, achievement and innovation
in the recording arts and sciences" -- and it was a slap in the face to all
of the winners and performers excluded from the broadcast.
In another nod to the immensely popular "American Idol," Carrie Underwood
claimed the prestigious best new artist Grammy, in addition to best female
country vocal and best country song ("Jesus, Take the Wheel"). She also
peformed as part of a glossy new country tribute to the Eagles that was
exceeded in its lameness only by James Blunt crooning "You're Beautiful."
Of the other performances, the much-hyped reunion by the Police turned
out to be anticlimactic.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are the Police, and we're back!" Sting said,
laying the foundation for a summer tour that will be the band's first since
1984. But the still-peroxide-blond trio delivered only one song, "Roxanne,"
rendering the early single in the style of Sting's solo versions, complete
with a pointless jazzy interlude. The group seemed to rely on taped backing
vocals, and it lacked the explosive energy it displayed during the New Wave
Another surprising disappointment was Gnarls Barkley's irresistible
"Crazy," which Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse inexplicably rendered as a
march at half the speed of the recorded version. (The group was shut out of
the major categories but won best alternative album and best
On the plus side: Christina Aguilera's barn-burning performance of James
Brown's "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" and Chris Brown's display of
rhythmic step dancing.