As expected, the music biz's top sellers — Eminem and Ladies Gaga and Antebellum — scored plenty of shiny trophies at Sunday's 53rd annual Grammy Awards. But in one of the weirder, wilder installments of "music's biggest night," it was Canadian concept rockers the Arcade Fire who took the biggest prize — album of the year — for The Suburbs.
Here are some of the highlights from the show, which was broadcast live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles:
IF ELMO AND LIBERACE HAD A BABY: Cee Lo Green couldn't wail the real version of his soulful hit F--- You, but that didn't stop him from having a goofy showstopping blast with the cleaned-up Forget You. Backed by Hensonesque Muppets and a tottering, high-heeled Gwyneth Paltrow (who performed the censored song on Glee), Green grinned almighty while dressed in a fuzzy red explosion of Elton John's circa-1975 closet. Sadly, Green's tune lost out to Lady Antebellum's Need You Now, which won both song of the year and record of the year.
SPEAKING OF F-BOMBS: Eminem, eyes and veins bulging, snuck more than a few R-rated doozies past the censors when he stalked the stage with Rihanna for an expanded take on Love the Way You Lie and then, with singer Skylar Grey and Dr. Dre, for the reclusive doc's prickly I Need a Doctor. Em would go on to win best rap album for Recovery.
JOHN LEGEND CALLED IT AN 'UPSET': And he was right, when jazz singer and thumpin' bassist Esperanza Spalding snuck past Drake and Justin Bieber for best new artist. That sound you heard was 10 million screaming, sobbing 16-year-olds grabbing pitchforks and heading for L.A.
ALL HAIL THE QUEEN: Opening the night was an girl-strong salute to the royal songbook of Aretha Franklin, who is recovering from surgery due to an undisclosed ailment. (She has denied rumors that she's battling pancreatic cancer.) Led by Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera (who seemed downright giddy to be invited to anything after her Super Bowl debacle), the stars sounded belty, but the vibe was warm. Great to see the Queen looking good via video, too.
THE YOLK'S ON HER: Yeah, I know, you lovvvve Gaga. But her curiously familiar new single Born This Way should have Madonna's lawyers doing cartwheels. Plus when Gags decided to "express herself" from within an egg (or womb or whatever), she gave off the stench of the desperate. Wearing a porn version of Darth Vader's getup, she later accepted the award for best pop vocal album for The Fame Monster.
BOB DOESN'T NEED NO STINKIN' EGG: Coolest (strangest, freakiest, funniest) team-up of the night was Brit folk-rockers Mumford & Sons, American folk-rockers the Avett Brothers and lovably terrifying Bob Dylan, who all joined for a besotted Maggie's Farm, during which Bob gestured as if he were trying to sell the world a Volvo.
THE FUTURE HAS STYLE: Smart, tight, imaginative performances by new stars were in vogue. Miranda Lambert, usually a wild child, quietly broke hearts with The House That Built Me, which won best female country vocal.
Rapper B.o.B., firebrand singer Janelle Monae and hip-hop renaissance man Bruno Mars teamed for sparkling numbers, including a doo-wopped Grenade. Rihanna and Drake generated literal and figurative heat during an incendiary performance of What's My Name? And after giving a robust rendition of Uprising, brainy Brit-poppers Muse won best rock album for The Resistance.
HIPS DON'T LIE: It was fun and life-affirming seeing 66-year-old Stone alone Mick Jagger bust out his ol' wiggle moves while howling Everybody Needs Somebody to Love in tribute to the late, great Solomon Burke.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at tampabay.com/blogs/poplife.