U2 Plus Five Is No. 1

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Top Noms Kanye West, Mariah Carey Carry Home Three Trophies Each

By J. Freedom du Lac, Washington Post Staff Writer


Neither time nor Time magazine covers can slow down U2. The Irish rock band with the crusading lead singer has defied the odds by releasing relevant albums for a quarter-century. Wednesday night the music industry saluted the band accordingly by awarding U2 with the album of the year Grammy for the soulful song cycle "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb."

The quartet won five Grammys in all -- its biggest-ever jackpot -- including best song ("Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own") and best rock album. Noting that there might be some concern his head would swell after all the honors, Bono, U2's notoriously self-assured singer, said: "It's too late!"

But better "Late" than never? Not quite. The acclaimed rapper Kanye West was denied a bid for the music industry's top honor for the second consecutive year as his superlative "Late Registration" met the same fate as 2004's "College Dropout." Nominated for eight awards, West was shut out in the major categories, including record and song of the year, for "Gold Digger." But he still took home three statuettes: best rap solo performance ("Gold Digger"), best rap song ("Diamonds From Sierra Leone") and best rap album ("Late Registration").

Mariah Carey, also nominated in eight categories, was unable to add an exclamation point to her comeback story, as she also lost out in the major categories. Carey, who last (and first) won a Grammy in 1990, still bagged three awards, for female R&B vocal ("We Belong Together"), R&B song (ditto) and contemporary R&B album ("The Emancipation of Mimi"). But none was presented during the 3 1/2 hour telecast, so we never did get to hear her crow about her comeback.

Green Day's ode to loneliness, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," won record of the year, besting "We Belong Together" and West's heavily favored "Gold Digger." Thus, one of the Grammys' most perplexing streaks was kept alive: No hip-hop single has ever won record of the year.

Throwback soul singer John Legend, who tied West and Carey with eight nominations, won for best R&B album ("Get Lifted") and male R&B performance ("Ordinary People"). He was also named best new artist, which isn't the kiss of death it used to be. (It should make for interesting banter between Legend and his friend and collaborator West, who somehow lost the best-new-artist award last year to Maroon 5.) U2's honors didn't stop with the four band members: Steve Lillywhite won for non-classical producer of the year for his work on "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" as well as on the Jason Mraz album "Mr. A-Z."

The focus during the no-host telecast on CBS was squarely on the music, as the scripted jokes were few and far between. There was this, though: To bring out Paul McCartney, Ellen DeGeneres said: "Our next performer needs no introduction." Period. She then walked off the stage and let McCartney be, for a performance of "Fine Line" and, interestingly, perhaps the noisiest of Beatles songs, "Helter Skelter."

McCartney, who'd never before played on the Grammys, reappeared later for an awkward "mash-up" with hip-hop star Jay-Z and rap-rockers Linkin Park. They threw "Yesterday" into the ill-conceived mix, and there's no question that McCartney is wondering today how he'd gotten himself into that mess.

Madonna, looking yoga-fit in a blue leotard, briefly performed a video duet with the animated dance-rock band Gorillaz before taking over the stage to play the delightful clubland hit "Hung Up."

Carey gave a relatively measured reading of "We Belong Together" before turning her multi-octave weaponry loose on the gospel song "Fly Like a Bird" with Hezekiah Walker. Sugarland's "Something More" literally offered something more: Control-room chatter bled into the live broadcast, marring the country-folk trio's otherwise sparkling performance. After an impassioned "Vertigo," U2 teamed with Mary J. Blige on "One." Unfortunately, the pitch-impaired soul singer sucked the air out of the soaring song.

The most interesting performance came courtesy of West, who was assigned the task of making the ubiquitous "Gold Digger" sound fresh. He recast the insanely catchy song as . . . a marching-band halftime special! West and his sidekick, Jamie Foxx (who channels Ray Charles in singing the "Gold Digger" hook), dressed as drum majors for the high-octane performance. The outspoken West, who has been known to give network censors the vapors, introduced it all by saying: "Start the five-second delay now."

One of the biggest headlines of the night had nothing to do with an award. It was the return of Sly Stone, the reclusive funk-rock icon who hadn't performed since 1987 and hadn't been seen in a major public setting since his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Following an all-star tribute to his band of nearly four decades ago, Sly & the Family Stone, the J.D. Salinger of pop shuffled onto the stage sporting a dyed-white mohawk and wraparound Dior sunglasses, a metallic silver overcoat draped over his back.

Looking tentative and frail, and wearing a cast on his hand, Stone stood hunched over a keyboard during a freewheeling version of "I Wanna Take You Higher." He played a little, sang less, raised his hand to acknowledge the crowd -- and then disappeared before the song was over. Will we ever see him again?

Fittingly, the segment was introduced by comedian Dave Chappelle, who knows a thing or two about dropping off the radar. "The only thing harder than leaving show business is coming back," Chappelle said.

Another major shocker: In an interview backstage, West came on all humble about having lost album of the year. "It's all good. Because U2, those are my boys right there," said West, dapper as always in a lavender Yves Saint-Laurent suit and white leather gloves. "U2 deserves it."

West added that he'd return to the studio to make an album that the Recording Academy couldn't deny. "It gives me another goal, to go back and work on 'Graduation,' to show them I really deserve album of the year."

It was a big night for longstanding academy favorites like R&B great Stevie Wonder, who took home two awards (R&B duo with vocal and male pop vocal), giving him 24 in his lifetime. Only Quincy Jones (27) and the late classical conductor Sir Georg Solti (31) amassed more Grammys in their trophy cases.

McCartney, however, gleaned no gold for his night's work. His three nominations all drew blanks.

Bluegrass star Alison Krauss won three statuettes with her band, Union Station: best country album, country performance by a duo or group with vocal and country instrumental. Krauss has won a total of 20 Grammys, making her the all-time female leader. (Aretha Franklin, whose reading of "A House Is Not a Home" won for best traditional R&B vocal tonight, now has 17.) No doubt endearing herself to the show's producers, Krauss also delivered one of the shortest acceptance speeches of the night: It took her less than 30 seconds to say "Hi" to he folks back home, and then thanks. Krauss was similarly stingy with her words backstage, where she was asked what makes her such a big Grammy favorite. "I don't know," she said. "I'm not going to ask questions."

Kelly Clarkson didn't, either. Or maybe she did, but we just missed it: The first "American Idol" winner said so much, and so much of it was . . . indecipherable. Upon accepting the award for best female pop vocal for "Since U Been Gone," Clarkson cried, talked and squeaked, sometimes all at once.

When Clarkson was called back to the stage later to accept the award for best pop vocal album ("Breakaway"), she didn't cry. But she may have set a Grammy record for most words spit out during a single acceptance speech. "I don't know what's going on, but thank you Jesus and God and everybody that's supported me," she said before motormouthing her way through a dizzying riff on . . . well, who knows? We just couldn't keep up.

We did, however, ask her later whether she'd intentionally left "American Idol" off her thank-you list. The show's snarky judge, Simon Cowell, recently said some unflattering things about Clarkson. But she said there was no slight intended. "I forgot to thank my dad, the rest of my family! But I did thank the fans, and that's 'American Idol.' "

As is often the case, politics was in the air at the awards show. But not all of the soapboxy statements came from the usual suspects.

The usually mild-mannered composer Burt Bacharach, for instance, took aim at the Bush administration in an interview after his politically inspired "At This Time" won for best pop instrumental album.

With his two preteen children standing by his side, Bacharach said: "I've never seen times like we've got right now. I'm really upset. This is the future I'm leaving behind for these kids, and I'm concerned. I think we've really made a mess of it. If the president had just gotten up and said, 'I made a mistake. I take full blame for it. There are no weapons of mass destruction; our information was wrong. Bear with me and we'll get through this together.' But to be stonewalled -- " Bacharach shook his head. "I never like to be lied to by a girlfriend or an agent. And certainly not the president of the United States."

During the telecast, Bruce Springsteen performed a chilling version of his acoustic ballad "Devils & Dust" and then referenced the American troops, saying: "Bring 'em home."

More than 1,000 individuals were nominated in 108 categories, but only a handful got any serious airtime. Just 11 awards were presented during the telecast from the Staples Center. The rest were handed out during a swift-moving ceremony at the Convention Center next door -- 97 awards in less than 2 1/2 hours.

The awards America forgot, or at least didn't get to see, included best Hawaiian music album (for the compilation "Masters of Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Vol. 1"), historical album ("The Complete Library of Congress Recordings by Alan Lomax"), spoken-word album (Sen. Barack Obama's "Dreams From My Father"), long-form music video (Martin Scorsese's superlative Bob Dylan documentary "No Direction Home"), New Age album ("Silver Solstice," by the Paul Winter Consort), gospel performance (CeCe Winans's "Pray") and Tejano album (Little Joe y La Familia's "Chicanisimo"). There was also, of course, the polka album award, which went to "Shake, Rattle and Polka!" by Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra. No surprise there: Sturr pretty much owns the category, with 15 wins over the past 20 years.

The early awards segment included some entertaining, even priceless, moments that didn't make the telecast. When Dianne Reeves was announced as winner of the jazz vocal album award for her work on the "Good Night, and Good Luck" soundtrack, presenter Giselle Fernandez waited a beat and then said, "We will accept . . ." before Reeves, who was rushing to the stage, shouted, "NO YOU WON'T!!"

Copyright © 2006 The Washington Post Company. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on February 9, 2006 12:56 AM.

2006 Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California (February 8, 2006) was the previous entry in this blog.

U2 back in Mexico after bodyguard beating is the next entry in this blog.

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