Fresh Faces and New Voices at the Grammy Awards

  | February 09, 2015 13:31 IST
Sam Smith

Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea and Meghan Trainor at 2015 Grammy Awards (Image source: AFP)

Sam Smith, the 22-year-old British singer swept the Grammys with four awards

The 57th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday were a mixture of old songs, new faces and upsets, as Sam Smith, a 22-year-old British singer barely known to American audiences a year ago, won three of the top four prizes, and Beck became the dark-horse victor of album of the year. (Also read: Grammys 2015: I Am Malala Wins Best Children's Album)

Smith took best new artist as well as both record and song of the year for Stay With Me, a moody, lovelorn ballad that became a smash on pop radio stations.

"I want to thank the man this record is about," Smith said when accepting the prize for record of the year. "Thank you so much for breaking my heart, 'cause you got me four Grammys."

Besides those awards, Smith also won best vocal album, for In the Lonely Hour, one of last year's biggest hits. The record of the year prize is for the recording of a single song, while song of the year is for songwriters.

Beck's win, for Morning Phase, was a classic Grammy surprise, as the awards' voters chose a modest-selling but critically admired album in a rock context over bigger pop hits. Among its competitors were Smith's In the Lonely Hour; Beyonc's self-titled, multimedia album; and Ed Sheeran's x, a hit around the world on streaming services like Spotify. Held at the Staples Center, the show was broadcast by CBS.

Speaking to reporters backstage, the country star Dwight Yoakam, who had performed on the show, defended Beck as a worthy recipient.

"Beck is genuinely one of the great purveyors of the pure love of music," Yoakam said.

In addition to album of the year, Morning Phase took best rock album, beating releases by U2, Ryan Adams, Tom Petty and the Black Keys.

Among the night's other big winners, Pharrell Williams took home three prizes: Happy won best music video and, in a live version, best pop solo performance, while his G I R L won best urban contemporary album.

Beyonce, who like Smith had been up for a total of six awards, also won three: best R&B performance and R&B song, for Drunk in Love, and best surround sound album, for Beyonce.

Accepting the award for best R&B performance, Beyonce thanked God and her husband, Jay Z, who appears on the track. But she made sure to thank her fans as well, with whom she keeps in constant contact through social media.

"I'd like to say thank you to my Beyhive," she said. "Thank you guys for riding so hard."

That sentiment of treasuring the attention of fans and all the ways to reach them was echoed by a number of stars. Miranda Lambert, accepting the prize for best country album, thanked her record label and "all the people who get it to the fans."

Kendrick Lamar and Eminem split the four rap trophies. Lamar, a fast-rising young star who had walked away empty-handed last year, took best performance and song this year for I. Eminem won best rap album for The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and shared best rap/sung collaboration with Rihanna, for The Monster.

No clear winner emerged in the country field, either. Besides Lambert's prize for best album, Glen Campbell's I'm Not Gonna Miss You took best song, Carrie Underwood's Something in the Water won best solo performance and The Band Perry took home best duo or group performance for Gentle on My Mind.

In the rock categories, Jack White took best performance for his album Lazaretto, and the comedy-rock duo Tenacious D beat out Anthrax, Motorhead, Mastodon and Slipknot for best metal performance. Paramore's Ain't It Fun won best rock song, and the singer St. Vincent's self-titled release took best alternative album.

Chocked with 23 performances over 3 1/2 hours, the night was a mixture of old and new. It opened with AC/DC, the indomitable Australian arena-rock stars, who - now in their 50s and 60s - strutted and duckwalked across the stage to their new song Rock or Bust and its 1979 hit, Highway to Hell.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga sang Cheek to Cheek, an 80-year-old song by Irving Berlin; their album by that title also won best traditional pop album.

Beyonc sang the gospel hymn Precious Lord, Take My Hand, dressed in diaphanous white and surrounded by a company with outstretched hands.

Annie Lennox of Eurythmics joined Hozier, a 24-year-old Irish singer-songwriter, for his song Take Me to Church and then sang an intense version of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' 1957 song I Put a Spell on You that seemed to grip the stars in the front rows. After singing his song Thinking Out Loud, Sheeran, 23, joined the reunited Electric Light Orchestra for their 1970s number Mr. Blue Sky.

The night was also full of eye-catching performances, in stark colors or elaborately colorful scenes.

Kanye West, dressed in a velvety red jumpsuit and a thin gold chain, was barely illuminated by a low spotlight as he sang Only One, his voice warped by electronics. Later, Katy Perry followed a testimonial by a survivor of domestic violence by performing her By the Grace of God dressed in a white gown and cape, as a shadow pantomime unfolded behind her.

At the other end of the spectrum, Williams led an expansively staged version of Happy and Madonna, dressed in red and black matador-style lingerie, sang "Living for Love" as dozens of horn-masked dancers writhed around her like characters from the film Eyes Wide Shut. Among those who went home empty-handed were a cohort of fresh faces up for their first Grammys. Those included the pop singer and songwriter Meghan Trainor and Hozier, whose real name is Andrew Hozier-Byrne.

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