In case you weren't able to catch the televised portion of the Grammy Awards, the biggest highlights were a performance from Paul McCartney (who showed he still has it on a fabulous version of "Helter Skelter" | purchase/download), the drum major competition-themed performance of Kanye West's "Gold Digger" (purchase/download) and the tribute to New Orleans, featuring Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, and Bonnie Raitt.
The Aging Pop Stars & Hip-hop Show
In the past, Ive seen Grammy telecasts that featured all the hippest bands of the moment performing the hottest songs the radio has to offer. Not this year. This year was an amalgamation of aging pop stars, two country acts, and Kanye West. The show kicked off with a somewhat bizarre performance by cartoon mega-stars Gorillaz, which featured hip-hop folksingers De La Soul. Then Madonna showed up and did what she does best - upstaging a group of dancers half her age.
This was followed by the somewhat impromptu sing-and-clap-along a capella performance of "Higher Ground" by Stevie Wonder (purchase/download) and Alicia Keys (dedicated to the memory of Civil Rights leader Coretta Scott King).
Other (somewhat bizarre) Highlights
In one of his more articulate moments on the show, U2s Bono claimed that U2 is "not a rock band. [They're] more like a folk band. The loudest folk band in the world." Right.
After American Idol Kelly Clarkson accepted her first award of the evening (beating Bonnie Raitt for Best Female Pop Vocal) with her somewhat embarrassing teary, mascara-dripping, squeaky, overwhelmed acceptance speech, bluegrass fiddling prodigy Alison Krauss accepted her award with the poise and demeanor of a legend and a pro.
LL Cool J made a very sweet and sincere (albeit brief) speech in tribute to Lifetime Achievement Award winner/Blues legend Robert Johnson.
Best New Artist John Legend performed in black and white until the lights and fog machine kicked in, turning everything to Technicolor, Wizard of Oz-style.
Folk Music Winners
Tom Hanks, of all people, paid a brief tribute to Lifetime Achievement Award winners The Weavers. Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman were there to represent the group, and were met with a standing ovation. This was succeeded by the closest thing to a folk performance on the show - Bruce Springsteen making a touching solo appearance performing his hit "Devils and Dust" (purchase/download) (which also won a standing ovation and a Grammy for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance).
Hip-hop folksinger Kanye West won three awards. Emmylou Harris took home the trophy for Best Female Vocal Country Performance for her song "The Connection". Alison Krauss received three Grammys. Del McCoury won for Best Bluegrass Album. Delbert McClinton won for Best Contemporary Blues Album. Sacred Ground: A Tribute to Mother Earth scored the Native American Music Album award.
Senator Barack Obama won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album for his Dreams From My Father CD.
Bob Dylan and Martin Scorsese's documentary film venture No Direction Home took a Grammy home for Best Long Form Music Video.
Tim O'Brien's Fiddler's Green captured the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album, while John Prine won it for Contemporary Folk. For a full list of this years Grammy Award winners, check out the Grammy Web site.