Pop veterans Steely Dan had a surprising run Wednesday night at the 43rd annual Grammy Awards, taking home three awards for “Two Against Nature” and the single “Cousin Dupree.”
Steely Dan’s first album of new material in two decades earned album of the year trophy, besting Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP” and albums by Paul Simon, Radiohead and Beck.
Released by the Warner-distributed Giant, it also earned prizes for pop vocal album and for best engineered album.
U2, whose “Beautiful Day” single was released at the very end of the eligibility period of Oct. 1999 to Sept. 30, 2000, walked off with the other two major awards of the night – song and record of the year.
“There are many bands applying for the best band in the world. For right now, it’s our night,” Bono said, accepting the record of the year trophy.
Early on, though, the night looked like it was indeed going to belong to record industry’s latest bad boy, rapper Eminem.
He took home trophies for rap album “The Marshall Mathers LP,” rap solo performance for “The Real Slim Shady” and shared with Dr. Dre the best rap performance by a duo or group.
Eminem and country singer Faith Hill took home three trophies each.
In accepting the rap album statuette, Eminem said, “I want to thank everybody who could look past the controversy (to) see what it was and what it isn’t.”
His Grammy nominations have been protested by those have maintain Eminem should not be honored for lyrics that are homophobic, violent and misogynistic. To that point, a protest, organized by GLAAD, was held outside the Staples Center prior to and during the ceremony.
The Grammy folks had clearly braced themselves. Besides airing public service announcements about hate crimes and domestic violence, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Michael Greene gave a lengthy introduction on censorship before introducing Eminem and Elton John, who closed the show with a performance of the rapper’s celeb diatribe “Stan.”
“We should be genuinely concerned about the younger kids… (who can’t determine) what’s real and what’s shock theater,” Greene said, his speech greeted with a gradual low moan.
Bette Midler, who presented the album trophy with Stevie Wonder, began her introduction by saying, “I brought the most beloved figure in music to hide behind” in case Eminem wins.
John, who won the musical show trophy for “Aida,” and Eminem hugged at the end of their performance, Eminem said thank you to the standing, applauding audience and then raised a middle finger.
Many musicians, however, were on Eminem’s side, among them Radiohead’s Phil Selway, who said backstage: “He has made the most culturally significant album” of the year.
In effect, a year in which the musical field was wide open, it was a label – Interscope – that walked away the big winner. U2, which had recorded for Island before the Universal-Polygram merger, now appears on Interscope, and Eminem records for Aftermath/Interscope.
Not counting classical or gospel recordings, Warner Music appeared to be the top winner, with talent taking home 18 statuettes.
Macy Gray, wearing jeans and a long-sleeved red shirt with the word “goofy” on the front, received the first televised award of the night, female pop vocal performance, for “I Try.” Although the song appears on her album, which was nominated last year, the song was deemed eligible this year due to its May release as a single.
The new category of Native American music was presented on-air by Robbie Robertson and Val Kilmer. Tom Bee and Douglas Spotted Eagle won the award for “Gathering of the Nations Pow Wow,” a disc of 16 drum groups recorded at a festival held in Albuquerque, N.M.
Beyonce Knowles of Destiny’s Child took home two of the five awards for which she was nominated. Knowles accepted her awards with her two new bandmates, and not her former songwriting partners, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson, who collaborated on “Say My Name.”
Singer D’Angelo powered his way through the other major R&B awards, winning trophies for R&B album and male R&B vocal. Others taking home two awards each were B.B. King, Bela Fleck, Foo Fighters, and Dr. Dre. Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” won two awards.
“Ours,” said the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, explaining that their RCA album was recorded in his home studio, “was the only album nominated that was done for free.”
Lifetime achievement awards were handed out Tuesday to Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., the Beach Boys, the Who and Bob Marley. Grammy Trustees awards went to producers Arif Mardin and Phil Ramone. Camera men were unprepared when the awards were announced, showing only Beach Boy Mike Love.