An emotional and powerful tribute to Michael Jackson, followed by two of his children taking the stage, created one of the most memorable moments of the 52nd annual Grammy awards.
It was a night that featured many collaborations – some far better than others – and showed that talent from several generations is still thriving and RadarOnline.com was on the scene to bring you all the highlights and misses from music’s top awards event.
The Grammys lacked controversy but did deliver some record-breaking moments, including 20-year-old Taylor Swift becoming the youngest artist to win Album of the Year. She took home four awards while Beyonce won six, the most ever won by a woman in one night.
There’s no doubt the emotional core of the night was Smokey Robinson, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Celine Dion and Carrie Underwood singing along to Michael Jackson’s 1995 track “Earth Song.”
This portion of the show was broadcast in 3-D and even the star-filled audience donned the goofy cardboard glasses. When Michael’s voice, clear and sharp, filled the theater it was a stark reminder of what the music industry lost with his passing.
Dion was first to step on stage and sang a flawless verse. Underwood showed surprising vocal depth on the track, Hudson was pitch-perfect and Smokey Robinson displayed a silky, powerful voice that defies time.
“Michael Jackson was gone too soon,” Smokey said before introducing two of Michael’s children. Prince and Paris, wearing red armbands, took the stage after the performance to accept a lifetime achievement award for their father. Prince did most of the talking, moving the crowd when he said about his father: ”through all his songs his message was simple: love.”
The night got off to a good start with Lady Gaga and Elton John teaming up for an opening medley. Not all collaborations went as smoothly but there were no Kanye West-microphone-grabbing moments to taint (or enliven?) the evening.
Pink got everyone’s attention when she stripped to a barely-there flesh-colored body suit before spinning high above the crowd while performing, in keeping with her Circus tour.
The Black Eyed Peas though also turned in a memorable performance. Rocking black and silver futuristic costumes the band not only entertained as they were joined on staged by silver robot aliens, but they also proved it’s not all about Fergie. Their version of “I Gotta Feeling” showed the group’s cohesiveness and made their lyric, “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night,” seem clairvoyant.
America’s hottest band, Kings of Leon, took home Record of the Year with the infectious “Use Somebody.” Lead singer and guitarist Nathan Followill made the crowd laugh when he accepted and said,” I’m not gonna lie, we’re a little drunk.”
But that’s about as controversial as the night got. It was simply, and fittingly, the music that took the spotlight, with an eclectic mix of talent performing.
Beyonce left no doubt why she’s reached superstar status with a razor-sharp performance early in the show. Later she took home the Grammy for best female pop vocal performance for “Halo” and was surprisingly nervous accepting the award. Still, she didn’t forget to thank husband Jay-Z, telling him from the stage, “I love you.”
The worst collaboration of the night featured one of the night’s biggest winners: Swift. She closed the show with a surprise victory in the Album of the Year category for Fearless but earlier she struggled on stage.
After she performed her new hit “Today Was a Fairy Tale,” Swift was suddenly joined on stage by Stevie Nicks. The eras didn’t mix well as their version of Fleetwood Mac’s Rhiannon proved, with Swift badly off key and Nicks holding back. Mercifully, they sang an abbreviated version before Swift took the lead and regained her footing with an on-key but unspectacular version of You Belong With Me while Nicks sang back up.
A far better musical pairing followed the Michael Jackson segment of the show when Bon Jovi brought out Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles for a studio-sharp version of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”
The gimmick of the night was the audience voting on what else Bon Jovi would play and not surprisingly Living On a Prayer was the choice. Nettles stayed on stage and supplied a more-than-capable backing vocal as Bon Jovi knocked out the stadium anthem to cheers.
Collaborations seemed to be the theme of the evening as Green Day performed early in the night with the cast of their soon-to-open on Broadway musical based on American Idiot. Later the band won Rock Album of the Year and the punk rockers-turned-mainstream darlings bounded to the stage. Lead singer Billie Jo Armstrong did the usual thank yous before adding, “and now I’m going to do shots with Kings of Leon.”
Later, Wyclef Jean thanked America for its support of earthquake-ravaged Haiti and while urging the crowd to buy a song using iTunes, he told the audience: “The music industry is still alive even though ain’t no more record companies.”
Despite the changing nature of music distribution, the evening left no doubt that talent is in plentiful supply. That talent, however, didn’t always jell.
A perfect example: Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige teamed up on Simon & Garfunkle’s Bridge Over Troubled Water and it was a strange performance that failed to inspire but was used to urge the audience to donate to Haiti relief by texting.
Dr. Dre, Eminem and Lil’ Wayne helped the audience recover with their performance but by then the audience seemed played out and the final surprising note was Swift beating out Beyonce and Lady Gaga for Album of the Year.