The biggest winners at the Grammy Awards didn’t open their mouths or show their faces all night, but they still took home all the top prizes.
Originally formed in 1993, the French dance-electronic duo Daft Punk stole the spotlight at Sunday evening’s 56th annual Grammy Awards, taking home five awards including the coveted dual honour of album and record of the year.
And all they had to do was nod and collect their Grammy trophies.
The helmet-clad duo – in reality Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo – stayed true to their manner of not speaking in public or showing their faces during their multiple trips to the podium to accept their Grammys.
In addition to record of the year, Daft Punk’s Get Lucky collected best pop duo/group performance and their album Random Access Memories was named album of the year, best electronic/dance album and best-engineered album.
The French electro-pop duo also won over the Staples Centre crowd in Los Angeles with a groove-sharing performance of Get Lucky, sharing the stage with Stevie Wonder and collaborator Pharrell Williams.
Other notable winners included rap newcomers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and the teen pop sensation Lorde.
Macklemore & Lewis won four Grammys early in the broadcast including a trio of trophies: best rap album for The Heist along with best rap performance and rap song for the infectious Thrift Shop.
The 17-year-old Lorde performed her huge radio hit Royals and was handed the Grammy award for best pop solo performance and song of the year (which she shared with Royals co-writer Joel Little).
“Thank you everyone who has let this song explode, because it’s been mental,” said Lorde while accepting her first Grammy.
Running slightly more than 45 minutes late, last night’s Grammys broadcast was a rambling and eclectic affair that included a same-sex wedding, a semi-reunion of the two living Beatles, Madonna in a cowboy outfit and some awkward rap-dancing by Taylor Swift. The highlights:
BOW DOWN, JAY Z
The veteran rapper Jay Z won only two of his nine nominations, and played second fiddle to his wife Beyoncé, whose sultry, booty-centric rendition of her Drunk in Love opened the proceedings. The R&B singer, whose smash self-titled album from 2013 was released too late in the year for consideration this time around, was bleeped out by censors occasionally and did sexier things in a chair than we’ve seen since Sharon Stone was totally inappropriate in 1992’s Basic Instinct. It’s also possible that she started a whole new wet-curls fashion trend. Jay Z joined her for his verses, but he needn’t have bothered.
After Beyoncé's knockout opener, the collective groan heard was the TV-land reaction to the reality that for the third consecutive year, the bland former rapper LL Cool J would be the evening’s host. The NCIS: Los Angeles actor wore a cap, obeyed the teleprompter, wore a velvet-y suit and licked his lips a lot, but, as usual, failed to distinguish himself. He was a bit player on a broadcast that featured 20 performances.
Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O'Connor, better known by her stage name Lorde, won major honours – song of the year and pop solo performance – for her single Royals. Interestingly, the 17-year-old New Zealander was the next performer after Beyoncé and Jay Z. On a stripped down version of the hit, a goth-inspired Lorde sang about a queen bee, luxurious love affairs, fantasy life styles and craving a different kind of buzz than the kind enjoyed by the hip hop elite: “And we'll never be royals, it don't run in our blood.”
To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Grammy for best rock song went to Cut Me Some Slack, penned and performed by Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Kris Novolosec and Pat Smear. In accepting the award, Grohl said, “We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Paul and for Ringo… “ At which point Kris Novolosec cut in with “and if it weren’t for Black Sabbath and the Rolling Stones.” Which was a pretty valid point considering who was on the stage.
LONE STARR – AT FIRST
Former Beatle Ringo Starr had his moment in the Grammy spotlight with a game version of his 1973 hit Photograph. Ringo was joined onstage by a makeshift band that included Pete Frampton on guitar and other veteran musicians. Ringo got a standing ovation and applause from John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and son Sean Lennon in the crowd, but why didn’t Paul join him on stage? Well apparently that's because Ringo, in a surprising turn, joined Paul McCartney onstage in a later performance (more below).
Julia Roberts wore a low-cut Erin Brockovich type cleavage to introduce the Beatles tribute. The Oscar-winning actress read the teleprompter with all the excitement of a school announcement, then introduced Sir Paul McCartney to play a “fabulous new song.” The so-called Beatles reunion amounted to Ringo Starr sitting in with McCartney and his band for a rendition of Queenie Eye, a Magical Mystery Tour-style tune off McCartney’s New album from a year ago. Starr was the more passive of the two drummers on stage, and he appeared to be off beat in the audience when he attempted to clap to Get Lucky later. This will only heighten the buzz leading up to their next joint performance at a taping of The Night That Changed America: A Grammys Salute to The Beatles, which takes place Jan. 27, to air on CBS on Feb. 9 – exactly 50 years after the band twisted and shouted its way into history on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Collecting the Grammy for best Pop Duo went to Get Lucky, as performed by Pharrell Williams, Niles Rogers and those precocious French digital dance wizards known as Daft Punk. Of course Daft wore their trademark headgear onstage to collect, which prompted Williams to lead off the acceptance speech with, “On behalf of the robots…” That got a laugh.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: Daft Punk – performing live for the second time only – who appeared onstage with Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams and Niles Rogers. The performers were supposed to be in a recording studio setup, but it looked more like a rec room. The group went through the first several bars of the song, but where was Daft Punk? Then the helmet-clad duo suddenly appeared in the DJ booth, and the song shifted to Rogers’ Freak Out. The mashup even had Katy Perry dancing in the crowd. Unfortunately, so was Sir Paul McCartney.
Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler came out with Smokey Robinson to present the award for record of the year. Tyler vocally screeched his way through the opening lines of Robinson’s You Really Got A Hold on Me, which flustered Robinson, before they announced the winner: Get Lucky. By this time, the two Daft Punk boyos were in all-white suits with white helmets. As before, they did not speak after taking the stage, but collaborator Pharrell Williams spoke for them: “The robots would like to thank…,” said Williams revisiting his earlier joke. “Honestly, I bet France is really proud of these guys right now.”
The other performances
FEELING THE MUSIC
At least one mega-star in the audience got caught in an awkward moment. During Kendrick Lamar’s rather overblown version of Radioactive, several stars in the first few rows of the audience started dancing, among them, Taylor Swift, who performed a stiff-legged shuffle vaguely mindful of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. Get this girl an oil can!
KENDRICK ON TOP
In addition to Daft Punk’s seventies-loving Get Lucky segment, the other top live piece was the hyper-energetic show by rockers Imagine Dragon and rapper Kendrick Lamar. Neither won a trophy, but their strobe-lit, in-your-face mash-up of the former’s anthemic Radioactive and the latter’s m.A.A.d City was seamless, inspired and its own reward.
The much ballyhooed on-stage marriage of 34 (or 33) straight and gay couples – apparently officiated by Queen Latifah, whose title was thought to be ceremonial – was the sweeping moment it was expected to be, although the appearance by a Colonel Sanders-suited and frozen-faced Madonna added nothing to the occasion. The segment was set to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's Same Love, a gay-rights single featuring an empowering rap from Macklemore and a hook sung powerfully by Mary Lambert.
KATY PERRY DID NOT ROAR
For her live performance, the pop singer Katy Perry chose to sing the moody hip-hop influenced track Dark Horse instead of her hit anthem Roar. The number was heavily choreographed, involving a giant see-through sphere, scary trees, a War Horse-styled puppeted beast and broomstick pole-dancing. The over-the-top spot no doubt scared her pint-sized fan base, while bewildering most everyone else. She failed to win an award.
THICKE WAS THIN
Robin Thicke joined veteran horn-rock outfit Chicago for a medley of Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is, Saturday in the Park and Thicke’s controversial smash summer single Blurred Lines. No twerks, and no sparks. Earnest keyboard ballads – Grammy got their money’s worth on the piano rental – included over-serious emoting from Hunter Hayes and John Legend. Taylor Swift was equally solemn, but her fierce, hair-tossing rendition of the break-up ballad All Too Well was strongly presented.
What were we saying about the freakish appeal of country music? Because today’s country scene isn’t limited to Taylor Swift, the Grammys’ last hour brought out a stage turn from Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, with a combined age of nearly 160 years. Then out came Merle Haggard, who sang his trademark song, I’m Proud to be an Okee from Muskokee, replete with steel guitar and backing vocals from Blake Shelton. The only thing missing was bales of hay onstage.
The recent passing of Phil Everly seemed to hold more weight than the other deaths in the past year. Apparently, Cory Monteith, the Glee star who died last year, had his last name misspelled during the segment, with the I and E being inverted. Following the extended In Memoriam segment, country star Miranda Lambert and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong teamed up in the show’s dying moments to perform The Everly Brothers’ When Will I Be Loved?
CANADIANS AT THE SHOW
Expat pianist Chilly Gonzales shared in Daft Punk’s album-of-the-year win. Rapper Drake was shut out. Vancouver-born, Montreal-based children's musician Jennifer Gasoi won best children's album for Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well, while Michal Bublé toppled Tony Bennett to take the prize for best traditional pop vocal album, for To Be Loved.
THEY GOT IT RIGHT
Country-music outsider Kacey Musgraves earned the best country album nod for her smart Same Trailer Different Park, an upset winner over Taylor Swift’s Red, among others. When she came out to collect her trophy, Musgrave only got a few words into her acceptance speech when she was cut off by the stage band. Sorry, y’all.
THEY GOT IT WRONG
Led Zeppelin was consistently ignored by Grammy when the band was active, but Sunday’s best rock album award for 2013's Celebration Day was just as much a joke. Celebration Day is a live album from a 2007 reunion concert, with no new original material. Other mistakes include not nominating Lorde in the best new artist category (deservingly won by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who also took home golden gramophones for best rap performance and rap song for Thrift Shop and top rap album for The Heist). Also hard to fathom were the non-nominations of the documentaries 20 Feet From Stardom and Muscle Shoals in the music film category, which was ridiculously won by Paul McCartney's Live Kisses concert movie.
Some reactions can’t be faked. New Zealand pop sensation Lorde took the stage to collect her Grammy for best solo pop performance for Royals, and looked much like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. “Well, hello,” stammered the 17-year-old while clutching her trophy. “This is the one thing that I did not expect the most about tonight…” Oddly, a win for Royals was probably the safest best of the night.
Music kingpin Jay Z was one funny father when he took the stage to collect his Grammy for best rap collaboration for Holy Grail. Jay gave props to the man upstairs for “putting that beautiful young lady in my life” (pointing to wife Beyonce sitting four rows away) and snuck a shout-out to young daughter Blue Ivy by saying, “tell Blue I got a gold sippy cup for you.” How could anyone not love Jay Z?
PASSING THE TORCH
Seventies-era singer-songwriter Carole King teamed with Sara Bareilles (the current version of Carole King) to perform each other’s mournful hits and present the award for song of the year (which King won herself in 1971). The lofty honour went to Royals, which required a second trip to the stage for 17-year-old Lorde, accompanied this time by her writing partner Joel Little. Said Lorde: “I mean, I probably wouldn’t be here if Joel wasn’t here. This guy has nurtured me through my first years of songwriting, so I kind of owe him.” Before leaving the stage, Lorde thanked the fans that made Royals an international hit. “It’s been kind of mental,” she said.
THIS SONG IS OVER
The final award, album of the year, brought out Alicia Keys and Yoko Ono as presenters. The winner: Daft Punk – yet again! – which meant another trip to the podium for the helmet-wearing Frenchmen, this time with elfin songwriter Paul Williams speaking for the Random Access Memory team, and rapturous over the earlier Same Love marriage ceremony, which he called, “fantastic, the height of fairness and love.” Williams called the Random Access Memory album, “a labour of love.” And then came a messy jam with Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl, Nine Inch Nails and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and the Grammys were over, 40 minutes late.
The red carpet
See our live photo gallery here.
CITYTV, which is carrying the Grammy broadcast this year, went all-in on red-carpet coverage. And boy were they proud of it – notice the faux-platinum CITYTV microphones that were touted by hosts. The station was also keen to remind us they carried wall-to-wall coverage – literally – sometimes showing an eight-way split-screen of all their camera setups, as well as making frequent references to having not one, but two(!) spots on the red carpet.
In addition to sending their top on-air personalities to Los Angeles for the festivities, they added Canadian celebrity content by anointing Olympic diver Alex Despatie (who hosts CITYTV’s Montreal morning show) and Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson as our ambassadors to speak to the music world’s A-list. It seemed a bit of a mismatch, but there was Robertson getting some face-time with Ringo Starr. (The Beatle, we learn, was excited to see Beyoncé, like the rest of the world.) At the end of the 30-second scrum, Ringo was thanked for speaking live to Canadians. Ringo, who was probably on his 10th interview in the past 30 minutes, eventually clued in to what was happening. “Oh, Canada? I love Canada.”
With reports from Cliff Lee