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Updated: January 27, 2014 23:48 IST

Grammys laud giants and upstarts

Ben Sisario
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Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk accepts the award for record of the year for
AP Thomas Bangalter of Daft Punk accepts the award for record of the year for "Get Lucky" at the 56th annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, in Los Angeles.

Daft Punk wins four prizes, including album of the year

Newcomers, establishment stars and even a pair of French robots shared the spotlight at the 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday night, reflecting a changed music business in which top celebrities command constant attention yet a monster hit can come from anywhere.

Daft Punk, a French duo who hide their faces under robot-like helmets and have become elder statesmen of electronic dance music, won four prizes, including album of the year for Random Access Memories and record of the year for Get Lucky, their ubiquitous hit with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, a hip-hop duo from Seattle who quickly went from the indie fringe to the top of the charts, were the biggest winners of the night with four awards, including best new artist and most of the Grammys rap categories, beating giants like Jay Z and Kanye West.

And Lorde, a 17-year-old New Zealander who in less than a year went from uploading songs to the Internet in obscurity to a nine-week run at No. 1, won song of the year and best pop solo performance for Royals, a stark and sensuous send-up of the fantasies of conspicuous consumption in pop. (Record of the year recognises a recording of a song; song of the year is for song writing.)

Thank you everyone who has let this song explode, Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-OConnor, said when accepting the prize for song of the year.

Yet the incumbent stars of the music world were also very much part of the show. It opened with Beyoncº and Jay Z performing a steamy version of ‘Drunk in Love’ from Beyoncºs new album. That album caused a sensation in the music business when it was released by surprise last month, instantly becoming a major news story around the world.

And in keeping with the Grammys focus on flashy live spectacle, the show included 21 performances, often in special or unusual combinations. Metallica played its classic One with piano virtuoso Lang Lang; Pink sang while performing acrobatics suspended above the stage; and Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton smirked their way through ‘Okie From Muskogee’ and ‘Highwayman.’

In what Grammy organisers hoped would be a heart-warming showstopper, 33 gay and straight couples were officially married by Queen Latifah, deputised by Los Angeles County during a performance of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis marriage-equality anthem ‘Same Love,’ which also featured Madonna.

The wedding segment led to some criticism from conservatives. On Sunday afternoon, after news of the weddings was reported by The New York Times, Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis of the conservative American Family Association, said on Twitter that the Grammys were featuring sodomy-based wedding ceremonies.

Among the other big winners of the night, Bruno Mars, whose rising pop profile will bring him to the Super Bowl halftime show next Sunday, took best pop vocal album for ‘Unorthodox Jukebox.’ Jay Z won his 19th Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration for ‘Holy Grail,’ featuring Justin Timberlake. Accepting it, he said he wanted to thank god a little bit for this award, and, holding up the trophy, sent a message to his two-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy: Look, Daddy got a gold sippy cup for you!

Vampire Weekend won best alternative music album for ‘Modern Vampires of the City,’ and Imagine Dragons, a young alternative band that had one of the biggest hits of the year with Radioactive, won best rock performance for that song.

But in keeping with the Grammys reverence for older rock acts, most of the awards in that field went to graying heroes from decades ago. Led Zeppelin won its first Grammy ever for ‘Celebration Day,’ a concert recording from its reunion in 2007, and Black Sabbath took best metal performance for the song ‘God Is Dead?’ Best rock song went to ‘Cut Me Some Slack,’ a jam between Paul McCartney and the surviving members of Nirvana.

As the music industry has struggled over the last decade, the importance of the Grammy ceremony has only grown, offering invaluable media promotion and an avenue for minting a new pantheon of young pop stars.

The performances also featured Imagine Dragons with rapper Kendrick Lamar for a hard-charging and surprisingly cohesive set that had stars in the audience like Steven Tyler singing along, and Taylor Swift dancing with awkward abandon.

All but 10 of the 82 awards of the night were given out in a nontelevised ceremony on Sunday afternoon, which was more glamorous than it has been in the past, but as ever was plagued with no-shows by many winners. — New York Times News Service

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