For all the shiny trophies handed out at the 51st annual Grammy Awards Sunday — Robert Plant and Alison Krauss took album of the year for Raising Sand; Coldplay and Lil Wayne cleaned up, too — "music's biggest night" was more about spectacle than acceptance speeches.
So as I get over the apocalyptic pairing of the Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder(!), allow me to dole out hardware of my own:
BEST REASON TO WEEP OPENLY: Looking gamtastic (if sounding loopy), the reclusive Whitney Houston presented the night's first major award, best R&B album. This category was never in doubt, as Jennifer Hudson won for her self-titled debut. "I'd like to thank my family, those in heaven and those who are here today," said the 27-year-old, whose mother, brother and nephew were slain in October.
But J.Hud's best moment at the Staples Center in Los Angeles was still to come. After lip-synching at the Super Bowl, she went live with You Pulled Me Through, which she started a cappella and finished with tears in her eyes.
BEST REASON FOR YOUNG WOMEN TO HANG WITH WRINKLY DUDES: The May-December pairing of bluegrass gal Krauss and Led Zeppelin's Plant was also rewarded with record of the year (Please Read the Letter) and best pop collaboration (Rich Woman), among others. And their slinky duet at the end of the show (which basically let you know who was going to win the big prize) was seriously sexy.
BEST MEMBER OF U2: The Dublin rockers kicked off the festivities with pedestrian new cut Get on Your Boots, which reeks of Bono-esque pyschobabble. But leave it to the Edge to hit the buzzsaw button on his guitar and give the track live oomph. Hopefully, he does the same for upcoming album No Line on the Horizon, due out March 3.
BEST REASON TO BE 15 YEARS OLD: BFFs Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift hit all sorts of screechy, cat-exploding notes on a chummy, crummy Fifteen.
And while my daughter loved that (and doesn't care what I think), she went loopy for Disney dudes the Jonas Brothers, who really were teamed up with Stevie Wonder. Sigh. At least I can play Superstition in the car now.
Alas, the JoBros wound up losing the award for best new artist to British soul singer Adele.
BEST REASON TO HAVE A MIDWIFE HANDY: Extremely pregnant Sri Lankan rapper M.I.A. was due on Sunday! But she's a tough nut, so she interjected snippets of her Paper Planes during a nutty number by Swagga Like Us quartet Kanye West, Jay-Z, T.I. and Lil Wayne (who won best rap album for the multiplatinum Tha Carter III). It was a mess. And M.I.A. was dressed like a knocked-up Minnie Mouse. But c'mon, it was sooo fun.
BEST REASON TO TURN IT UP: Radiohead and the USC Marching Band didn't just sound great, they looked spellbinding, like something out of a Terry Gilliam movie. Who says Thom Yorke isn't playful anymore? Oh yeah, I did. Radiohead won best alternative album for In Rainbows.
I love when Carrie Underwood embraces her surly rock side, and the country star cooked on Last Name. But what was with the duct-taped frock?
Katy Perry caterwauled her faux-lesbian anthem I Kissed a Girl, but you had to love her descending banana spaceship, the symbolism of which I'll leave to you.
Other highlights: Paul McCartney and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl doing I Saw Her Standing There; Neil Diamond's cheeseball Sweet Caroline; the casual jam in honor of the late Bo Diddley; and Lil Wayne's tribute to the Big Easy.
BEST REASON TO TURN IT OFF: Not even a surprise rap by Jay-Z could juice a performance by British sad-sacks Coldplay, who tinkled out the cloying Lost before launching into plodding hit Viva la Vida, which won song of the year. Coldplay also won best rock album, beating out Metallica. 'Cause Coldplay rawk.
BEST REASON TO HAVE A GOOD LAWYER: R&B star Chris Brown and girlfriend Rihanna were scheduled to perform. But they were scratched from the show, no doubt because Los Angeles police are investigating an alleged domestic violence felony battery report involving the 19-year-old Brown. Word is, the Rev. Al Green and Justin Timberlake filled in for them. Not a bad trade at all, huh?
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.