When English folk band Mumford & Sons took the stage to accept the award for album of the year for "Babel" at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, they couldn't resist poking fun at the category presenter, Adele, and her dominance of the event in 2012. Because of her, they "couldn't get a look in," lead singer Marcus Mumford joked.
In a ceremony that also witnessed The Black Keys, Fun. Gotye and Frank Ocean emerge as winners, it was Adele who bookended proceedings at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
On top of awarding the night's biggest prize, the Brit singer - a six-time winner in 2012 - took the first award of the evening for best solo pop performance for her hit, “Set Fire to the Rain.” Appearing genuinely shocked to be called onstage, Adele thanked her fellow nominees, saying, “We all work so hard and make it look so easy.”
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In contrast, this year's Grammys was memorable for its disparaty when the final list of winners was revealed.
The Black Keys dominated the event early due to a haul of pre-ceremony awards. Dan Auerbach took producer of the year, and won rock performance, rock song and rock album alongside the band for their album “El Camino.”
Best new artist went to Fun. “I didn’t think we were going to win this one,” said lead singer Nate Reuss, citing fellow nominees Frank Ocean, The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes and Hunter Hayes.
The trio (Ruess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost), who had performed their hit “Carry On” earlier in the night also took the Grammy for song of the year for their anthem to adolescence, “We Are Young.” “I don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote the chorus to this song,” quipped Ruess, adding, “If you are watching this in HD you can tell that we aren’t young.” The trio have been performing together for 12 years.
A humble Frank Ocean took home his first Grammy statuette in the urban contemporary album category for “Channel Orange.” His second came on the heels of the first when he won for rap/sung collaboration, which he shared with Jay-Z, Kanye West and The Dream for their work on “No Church in the Wild.”
Following a standing ovation, Prince awarded record of the year to Belgian-Australian singer Gotye for the catchy “Somebody That I Used To Know” (featuring Kimbra). In his acceptance speech Gotye said that thanks to listening to artists like Prince while growing up he was inspired to write music.
Kelly Clarkson won best pop vocal album for “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You”). During the ceremony, the first “American Idol” winner performed double duty by singing a tribute to lifetime achievement recipients Patti Page and Carol King -including a moving rendition of “A Natural Woman” - before presenting the award for best country album, which went to “Uncaged” from the Zac Brown Band.
In his opening monologue, second-time host LL Cool J - who conveyed a low-key approach to his duties throughout - lightly touched on the passing of Whitney Houston and how it overshadowed much of last years’ proceedings.
Drawing attention to the reportedly leaked dress code regulations that made headlines earlier in the week were presenters Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez, the latter wearing a clinging black dress that featured a thigh-high split. “As you can see I read the memo,” said Lopez. “You inspired the memo,” said Pitbull, as an image of Lopez’ famous navel-baring Versace outfit from the 2000 Grammys appeared onscreen.
As always at the Grammys, it's the performances that are the biggest draws.
Ellen DeGeneres and Beyonce heralded the return of Grammy performer Justin Timberlake after a four year absence. In what was one of the standout performances of the ceremony, Timberlake – dapper in Tom Ford tuxedo and backed by a similarly clad big band – added a retro moment when he performed his latest releases “Suit & Tie” and “Pusher Love Girl.” CBS turned the telecast black and white to add suitable Rat-Pack-like atmosphere as the “SexyBack” singer was joined onstage by Jay-Z for “Suit & Tie.” Timberlake’s new album “The 20/20 Experience” drops March 19.
It was one of only a few high-energy moments throughout the evening. Looking like a cross between a circus ringmaster and the Mad Hatter, Taylor Swift sang her nominated hit “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together” to raise the curtain on the show. Swift donned a white tie, top hat, tails and matching shorts and was joined onstage by acrobats and dancers for a lively, if slightly surreal opening number.
A rousing tribute to Bob Marley featuring Bruno Mars, Sting, Rihanna and Ziggy Marley brought the head-bobbing, hand-clapping audience to their feet. It was Rihanna’s second appearance behind the microphone. The “Diamonds” singer proved her vocal prowess with a soulful rendering of her song, “I Want You to Stay” earlier in the proceedings.
Other notable performances included Mumford & Sons, Carrie Underwood, and Alicia Keys who joined Maroon 5 for a powerful mash up of their hits “Girl on Fire” and “Daylight,” respectively. Elton John and Ed Sheeren performed a haunting version of Sheeren’s nominated song “The A Team.”
Following the in memoriam segment of the show, Elton John returned to the stage once more to take part in a tribute to the late Levon Helm of The Band. John was joined by the Zac Brown Band, Mavis Staples, Bittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Mumford & Sons for a piano-driven rendition of Helm’s “The Weight.”
Rounding out the evening was a hip-hop mash-up featuring host LL Cool J, Public Enemy's Chuck D, Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello and DJ Z-Trip. LL's "Rock the Bells," Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome" and the booming riff of the Beastie Boys' "No Sleep Till Brooklyn" combined to raise the roof as the final curtain came down.