Montreal's Arcade Fire scored what may have been the greatest whiplash victory in the history of the Grammy Awards, taking the album of the year award on Sunday after giving up what looked like an easy win in the alternative album category (their disc The Suburbs lost that one to the Black Keys' Tighten Up).
The band had just finished a rollicking performance of their old-school rock number Month of May when Barbra Streisand read their name from a list of nominees that included discs by Eminem and Lady Antebellum, both already laden down with awards.
Win Butler and Régine Chassagne thanked Montreal in both official languages, before scrambling back to their instruments to close the show with Ready to Start, which includes the lyrics: "All the kids have always known, that the Emperor wears no clothes" - a concise description of the indie music view of the Grammys, at least until now.
For other prominent Canadians, the boulevard of broken dreams ran right past Los Angeles's Staples Center. Justin Bieber, the bookies' favourite for the best new artist award, fell to jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, who also beat Drake in the same category. Bieber's My World 2.0 lost out to Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster for pop vocal album, and Drake's album Thank Me Later missed out on the rap album Grammy, which went to Eminem's Recovery.
Neil Young's song Angry World took the award for rock song, in what was, incredibly, his first Grammy for music (he won in 2009 for boxed set). "It's appreciated greatly," he said.
British rockers Muse took the prize for rock album with The Resistance, defeating Young's Le Noise. Michael Bublé won the traditional pop album prize for Crazy Love.
The Grammy's most talked-about collaboration turned out to be a garishly benign event, as Cee Lo Green sprouted feathers, the Muppets became his backup group, and Gwyneth Paltrow morphed into a throaty country singer during a performance of Green's hit, euphemized by the recording academy as The Song Also Known as Forget You, which lost the song and record of the year Grammys to Lady Antebellum's Need You Now.
For colour and flash, it was a bit muted compared with Katy Perry's red and white Valentine version of Teenage Dream, or Lady Gaga's performance of Born This Way. Gaga, who had already won two Grammys at the preshow gala (for female pop vocal performance and short form music, both for Bad Romance), emerged from a giant insect egg with sharp prosthetic shoulders, while discussion raged among music bloggers whether she had swiped major song elements from Madonna's 1989 hit, Express Yourself.
A segment featuring Bieber began with video footage from 2007 of him wearing a Maple Leafs jersey and singing for R&B star Usher (who won two R&B Grammys during the preshow gala). Bieber then launched a dynamic performance of I Will Never Say Never, his voice noticeably lower and darker than in that four-year-old video clip. Drake made a brief and somewhat awkward appearance during a duet with Rihanna ( What's My Name).
Read the live blog in which Globe Style reporter Amy Verner and Globe music writer Brad Wheeler commented throughout the show on the red carpet fashions, the musical performances, the winner and the losers.
Mobile users can read the live blog here.
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