Patrick Carney, Dan Auerbach
THE BIG WINNERS
Album of the year: Mumford & Sons, “Babel”
Record of the year: Goyte, “Somebody That I Used to Know”
Song of the year: fun., “We Are Young”
Rock album: The Black Keys, “El Camino”
Rock song: The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy”
Pop vocal album: Kelly Clarkson, “Stronger”
Best new artist: fun.
Alternative music album: Goyte, “Making Mirrors”
Rap album: Drake, “Take Care”
Rap song: Jay-Z and Kanye West, “N****s in Paris”
R&B album: Robert Glasper Experiment, “Black Radio”
R&B song: Miguel, “Adorn”
Urban contemporary album: Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”
Country album: Zac Brown Band, “Uncaged”
Country song: Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins, “Blown Away” (Carrie Underwood)
Updated: March 12, 2013 6:31AM
Last year’s Grammys came pre-loaded with plenty of drama, from the return of Adele after throat surgery to the death of Whitney Houston just days before the ceremony. This year, the only pre-show drama was around a CBS memo advising attendees to keep themselves covered on the red carpet.
The ceremony Sunday didn’t exactly relieve the drama drought.
As the Recording Academy transitions from a boomer-centric, Steely Dan-awarding demographic into a younger, playlist-shuffling voting body, the Grammy ceremonies are becoming as diverse and catholic as the nominations. Sunday’s performances during the marathon three-and-a-half-hour show, broadcast on CBS from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, spanned a dozen genres but lacked a big talking point or an overall stunning moment.
The Black Keys edged ahead of the awards pack, taking four and sweeping the rock categories. The show began with six leading contenders for six awards each — Kanye West, Jay-Z, the Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean and the band fun. The rock duo was the only act to hold its luck through the show, winning best rock song and rock performance (“Lonely Boy”), and rock album (“El Camino”), with guitarist Dan Auerbach also named producer of the year (non-classical).
Belgian-Australian singer Gotye pulled off a couple of upsets, winning three Grammys on the strength of his omnipresent 2012 single “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The album that generated the song, “Making Mirrors,” beat out Fiona Apple, Bjork, M83 and Tom Waits for alternative album. Then Gotye spoiled fun.’s nomination sweep of the top four Grammy categories when “Somebody” took the award for record of the year.
West and Jay-Z kept their “Throne” collaboration alive through three Grammys, too, for rap performance and rap song (“N****s in Paris”) and rap/sung collaboration (“No Church in the Wild,” with Ocean).
Ocean came into the ceremony Sunday as a critical favorite, but other than sharing the above prize with West and Jay-Z, the only other Grammy that he picked up was the inaugural award for urban contemporary album.
The one awards stunner of the night came once again at the end. Despite only winning one other award all day (for long-form music video), folk-rock band Mumford & Sons landed album of the year — almost as much of a last-minute shocker as Arcade Fire’s left-field win two years ago.
As usual, the show was a long sprint since it’s built on lots of performances — the occasionally genuine and the mostly manufactured.
Because apparently no awards telecast would be complete without her, Taylor Swift opened the show with her latest, biggest hit, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the song she closed the MTV Video Music Awards with five months ago. Dressed in a white circus ringmaster’s costume and surrounded by marionette-like dancers — and one seriously creepy clown rolling back and forth — Swift warbled through the tune in her typically pitchy style.
The much-ballyhooed comeback of Justin Timberlake was about as underwhelming as the release of his new single, “Suit & Tie.” For the telecast, the performance was shown in black-and-white — and seemed just as old and tired. Timberlake sounded good, but stuck behind a mike stand, he barely danced. Jay-Z stepped up from his Jack Nicholson seat in the front row to add his rapped contributions. Timberlake then performed a new song, “Pusher Love Girl” from his forthcoming album “The 20/20 Experience,” and though the telecast returned to color, it wasn’t quite as exciting as arriving in Oz.
Ocean’s moment on the stage was almost as highly anticipated, but he blew it. With a terrible song choice — “Forrest Gump” lacks melody and showcases his least-compelling lyric writing — Ocean attempted to present a multimedia event, combining projection screens behind him and on his piano. But an unsure delivery and vocals that kept slipping under the key left most wondering what all the fuss has been about.
Perhaps the most surprising and enjoyable performance of the night came from Rihanna — not in the way it shocked or rocked or pushed boundaries but in its elegant understatement. Singing “Stay,” a cool, aching ballad, she provided ample reasons to reassess her as a vocalist.
Chicago’s Grammy stars were contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird, whose “Meanwhile” album (on local label Cedille) won for chamber music/small ensemble performance. A 17-minute piece from that disc, Stephen Hartke’s “Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays,” also won the Grammy for best contemporary classical composition.
Otherwise, it was an off night for local contenders. R. Kelly, Lupe Fiasco, Shemekia Copeland, Heritage Blues Orchestra, Kurt Elling, Kathy Griffin, Kaskade, Donald Lawrence, Anita Wilson and even Michelle Obama missed out in their categories.