Mumford & Sons won Album of the Year for Babel, which the band said came as a surprise. “We figured we weren’t going to win anything, because the Black Keys have been sweeping up all day, and deservedly so,” said Marcus Mumford, who also led his band through “I Will Wait” and helped anchor the Levon Helm tribute.
He wasn’t kidding about the Black Keys: the rockers won Best Rock Album for El Camino and Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance for “Lonely Boy.” They also performed the song, adding a New Orleans twist with piano from Dr. John in a full feathered headdress and a punchy burst of brass from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Black Keys singer Dan Auerbach also won Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) for his work on Dr. John’s Locked Down and other albums.
Fun. won Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “We Are Young.” Singer Nate Ruess was self-deprecating about the tune in his acceptance speech. “I don’t know what I was thinking writing the chorus for this song,” he said. “This is in HD and everyone can see our faces, and we are not very young. We’ve been doing this for 12 years.”
The group also performed their latest single, “Carry On,” on a stage that rained down water on the band.
Gotye won Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Somebody That I Used to Know,” featuring Kimbra. He also won Best Alternative Music Abum for Making Mirrors. “I’m a little bit lost for words, to receive an award from the man standing behind us,” Gotye said after winning Record of the Year, referring to presenter Prince. “Many years I spent listening to this man’s music growing up had a big reason I was inspired to make music.”
Jay-Z and Kanye West also had a good showing: “N****s in Paris” won a pair of Grammys, for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance, and their song with Frank Ocean, “No Church in the Wild,” won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. West wasn’t in attendance, and Jay-Z gave over the acceptance speech to Ocean, who seemed daunted. “Do you want to say something?” he asked Jay-Z shyly.
Ocean, who also won Best Contemporary R&B Album for Channel Orange, later performed his song “Forrest Gump” against a backdrop that pictured a lonesome desert road extending toward a horizon dotted with clouds.
The night was heavy on performances. Elton John was everywhere, leading the Levon Helm tribute and performing “The A Team” with Ed Sheeran, before Latin pop star Juanes offered a tribute of his own with an acoustic rendition of John’s “Your Song.”
The tribute to Helm, who died last year of cancer, included Zac Brown, Mavis Staples and Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes trading verses on “The Weight.” In other onstage collaborations, Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys performed a mash-up of “Daylight” and “Girl on Fire,” with Keys and Adam Levine sharing vocals. Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert split their stage time between his “Home” and her “Over You.” Later, Bruno Mars kicked off a Bob Marley tribute with his own horn-soaked tune “Locked Out of Heaven” before introducing Sting, who steered them into “Walking on the Moon.” Eventually, they got to the Marley part, with Rihanna, Ziggy Marley and Damian Marley singing “Could You Be Loved.”
Tom Morello, LL Cool J and Chuck D ended the show with “Whaddup,” which included a snippet of the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn.”
Rihanna also sang her own song “Stay,” with guest Mikky Ekko helping on vocals.
Justin Timberlake returned to the Grammys stage for the first time in four years. He started his performance with new single “Suit & Tie,” singing in front of vintage-style bandstand booths billing “The Tennessee Kids.” A sepia-toned camera filter oversold the retro vibe, but Jay-Z added a thoroughly modern touch when he strolled up from his seat in the audience to punctuate the middle section with rhymes. Timberlake also performed the new song “Pusher Love Girl,” a tune heavy on falsetto vocals.
Though Jack White didn’t win any of the three Grammys he was nominated for, he drew one of the biggest ovations of the night with a performance featuring both of his bands, the female Peacocks and the male Buzzards, for “Love Interruption” and “Freedom at 21,” respectively.
Kelly Clarkson, who won Best Pop Vocal Album for Stronger, paid tribute to Lifetime Achievement winners Patti Page and Carole King, singing a soulful medley of “Tennessee Waltz” and “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman.”
During her performance, Carrie Underwood wowed as much for her silver dress, which served as a projection screen, as her performance of “Blown Away,” which also won Best Country Solo Performance. “Country music has always been so good to me, and I thank the good Lord that I’m part of such a wonderful, talented, amazing family,” Underwood said in accepting the award.