Unlike last year, when Adele swept the Grammy Awards, this year the marquee awards were spread around. Mumford & Sons’ sophomore album Babel was voted Album of the Year. It was the second year in a row that a British artist has won that award. Adele took it last year for 21. Mumford & Sons, which has spearheaded a comeback for folk/rock, also won for Best Long Form Music Video for Big Easy Express.
“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra took two awards, including Record of the Year. The classy breakup ballad echoes Sting’s best work. It was the best-selling song of 2012. (This marks the second year in a row that the year’s best-selling song has also won Record of the Year. Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” earned both distinctions last year.) Gotye won a third award: Best Alternative Music Album for Making Mirrors. (This should make up for the curious fact that Gotye was passed over for a nomination as Best New Artist.)
[ Photos: Grammys red carpet report card ]
The New York pop-rock trio fun. took two key awards: Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “We Are Young.” That chart-topping hit, which the members co-wrote with their producer, Jeff Bhasker, echoes the grandeur of classic Queen hits.
Though they were shut out in the marquee categories, The Black Keys won three awards. The rock duo won Best Rock Album for El Camino and Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance for “Lonely Boy.” They beat Bruce Springsteen in all three categories. In addition, the duo’s Dan Auerbach was voted Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.
Jay-Z/Kanye West won three awards: two for their frisky smash “N****s In Paris” and one for “No Church In The Wild” (which featured Frank Ocean and The-Dream). Both tracks are from their hit 2011 collaboration, Watch The Throne. These awards bring West’s total of Grammys to 21; Jay-Z’s to 17. (With both artists, all of the awards have come in the rap and R&B fields. That’s a sore point with West.)
Red-hot DJ Skrillex, who won three Grammys last year, won three more awards this year: Best Dance/Electronica Album for Bangarang, Best Dance Recording for the title track (which features Sirah) and Best Remixed Recording, Non- Classical for his remix of Nero’s “Promises.”
Adele took Best Pop Solo Performance for the second year in a row for “Set Fire To The Rain.” Adele won six awards at last year’s Grammys. She’s only the second artist to win six or more Grammys one year and come back and win another Grammy the following year. The first: Michael Jackson.
Artists who had big hits last year, but went home empty handed include Carly Rae Jepsen, Maroon 5 and Flo Rida. Jepsen had the year’s #2 hit with the fizzy “Call Me Maybe,” but lost in her two categories. Maroon 5 (which has won three Grammys in the past) had its biggest year on the charts with such smash hits as “Payphone” and “One More Night,” but also came up short in its two categories. Flo Rida has sold in the range of 40 million digital songs, but has yet to win a Grammy.
As always, there were several big surprises. Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream won Best Americana Album, beating Mumford & Sons’ Babel, which was heavily favored to win. “I was not expecting this,” Raitt said in picking up the award.
Kelly Clarkson was also a surprise winner for Best Pop Vocal Album for Stronger. (Most observers expected fun. to win.) Clarkson won the same award with 2005’s Breakaway. She’s the first repeat winner in the history of the category, which dates to 1994.
Paul McCartney was also an upset winner for Best Traditional Pop Album. His well-received but modest-selling Kisses On The Bottom, beat Michael Buble’s blockbuster Christmas. Buble had won three times in the category.
Janis Ian’s Society’s Child: My Autobiography was a major upset winner of Best Spoken Word Album, a category that honors “books on tape.” Ian beat Bill Clinton, the books-on-tape edition of a book by Michelle Obama, Rachel Maddow and Ellen DeGeneres, which triggered the best joke of the night. As Ian accepted the award in the pre-telecast portion of the show, she said dryly, “I keep thinking this is the punch-line to a joke that begins, ‘An ex-President, a First Lady and three lesbians walk into a bar…’”
Ian also alluded to the magnitude of the upset. The award had been expected to go to either Clinton or the Obama title. “To say this is an upset is an understatement.”
Frank Ocean lost in three marquee categories, but won two other awards, including Best Urban Contemporary Album for Channel Orange. He’s also a winner because millions of people gained their first exposure to Ocean on the show.
Jay-Z/Kanye West weren’t the only artists to move up high on the list of all-time Grammy winners.
Jazz man Chick Corea, whose shelves are already jammed with Grammys, won two more awards, bringing his total to 20. He and Gary Burton won Best Improvised Jazz Solo for “Hot House.” In addition, Corea’s composition “Mozart Goes Dancing” won Best Instrumental Composition.
Pat Metheny also won his 20th Grammy for Unity Band, which he recorded as Pat Metheny Unity Band. It was named Best Jazz Instrumental Album.
Yo-Yo Ma won his 17th Grammy for The Goat Rodeo Sessions, which he recorded with Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile. It won as Best Folk Album.
Beyonce won her 17th Grammy for “Love On Top,” which took Best Traditional R&B Performance. Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z are now tied with 17 Grammys, making theirs a 34-Grammy household. (Be glad you don’t have to dust them all.)
Grammy fortune didn’t shine on another high-profile married couple. Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton both lost in their categories.
Jimmy Fallon, the affable host of NBC’s Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, won Best Comedy Album for Blow Your Pants Off. The Roots, the house band on the NBC show, lost Best Rap Album for Undun (but have won two Grammys in the past).
Drake took Best Rap Album for his sophomore album, Take Care. It’s his first Grammy. He beat Nas’ Life Is Good. Nas, a rap star since 1994, has yet to win a Grammy.
Robert Glasper Experiment took Best R&B Album for Black Radio. Miguel won Best R&B Song for his soulful ballad “Adorn.” (Like Gotye, Miguel was passed over for a nomination for Best New Artist.)
“We Found Love” by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris won as Best Short Form Music Video. The clip also won Video of the Year at the VMAs in September.
Ravi Shankar, who died on Dec. 11 at age 92, won for Best World Music Album for The Living Room Sessions Part 1. It’s his fourth Grammy. His award was accepted by his daughter, Anoushka Shankar, who was nominated in the same category with Traveller. Ravi Shankar was voted a Lifetime Achievement Award this year.
Brian Wilson won his second career Grammy for co-producing The Beach Boys’ box set The Smile Sessions, which was voted Best Historical Album. Smile, which the Beach Boys shelved in 1967, has long had mythic status as one of the most famous unreleased albums of all time.
Billy Vera, who had a #1 hit in 1987 with the soulful ballad “At This Moment,” won Best Album Notes for his work on the Ray Charles collection Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles. In accepting the award, Vera called Charles “the greatest musical performer of the second half of the 20th Century.”
Esperanza Spalding, who was a surprise winner for Best New Artist two years ago, won two awards. She won Best Jazz Vocal Album for Radio Music Society and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for “City Of Roses.” She wrote the arrangement with Thara Memory, who has been her teacher since she was eight years old.
Matt Redman won two Grammys for his song “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord).” The song won Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance and tied for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song. Redman co-wrote the song with Jonas Myrin.
Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars won Best Song Written for Visual Media for their collaboration “Safe & Sound,” which they co-wrote and recorded for the movie The Hunger Games. The award was no doubt a welcome acknowledgment of the song, which was ruled ineligible for Oscar consideration.
In her acceptance speech, Swift thanked the Civil Wars. When it was his turn to speak, John Paul White of the Civil Wars quipped, “I think it’s appropriate that Taylor thanks us because we’ve been carrying her for a while now and it’s really getting tiring.”