"Stay loose, hide your flasks and have a good time," host LL Cool J declared from the Staples Center stage in Los Angeles moments before the broadcast portion of the Grammy Awards began. Backstage, the mood was even looser as newly minted winners chatted excitedly about the significance of winning a trophy.
"You do have a great country," joked Sam Smith to the press after winning four Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Stay With Me." "What's beautiful about this record to me is I didn't play a character," said Smith, who's currently on the cover of Rolling Stone. "It was just me being me. I was living my life and just spoke about it through music, and I'm going to do the same again."
He wasn't sure about the song at first, he noted. "It's the ones that I'm not 'sure' about in the beginning which turn out to be the best ones," Smith explained. "'Stay With Me' is a very simple song in terms of melody. The lyrics, it's not."
His co-writer on the track, William Phillips (a.k.a. Tourist), called its international success and Grammy recognition "humbling." "It's reaching more people than I'll ever be able to speak to in my life," Williams told Rolling Stone. "There's a lot of people out there that the song resonated with. It's so touching to be a part of it. It means so much to think that a lot of people have gained a lot of happiness from that song – and a lot of sadness. That song provides a space for people to justify who they are and think that everything is OK."
Smith's own period of heartbreak fueled his lyrics, and he said he hopes to share the result with the man who inspired it when he returns to England. "I'll be seeing him soon," said Smith. "So I can let him touch the Grammy — once."
Like Smith, many winners were surprised to prevail in categories crowded with heavy hitters. Miranda Lambert, who won Best Country Album for Platinum and said "I love every album in this category," explained, "That's why we make music, to move people. This [Grammy] makes all that make sense."
"Say Something," the collaboration between Christina Aguilera and A Great Big World, won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Band singer-keyboardist Ian Axel looked mildly stunned behind his white-framed glasses as he described meeting the pop superstar the first time: "We were really scared to meet her and work with her. Like, who are we?"
A couple of veteran artists of wildly disparate styles and visions returned for the Grammys after first winning in the 1980s. Rosanne Cash, who last night won three Grammys for her album The River & the Thread, joked that she was last a winner at the ceremony "during the Reagan Administration."
When "Weird Al" Yankovic's award was announced for his album Mandatory Fun during the pre-telecast portion of the evening, he sprinted down the aisles to the podium. His first Grammy arrived 30 years earlier for the Michael Jackson parody "Eat It."
"It never gets old," said Al, who suggested he planned to celebrate over a burrito. "For the first week after I've won a Grammy, I have it fixed to my forehead with woodscrews, like a Grammy unicorn. Then I take it off and put it on a shelf somewhere."
Mandatory Fun was his first-ever Number One album, but it may also be his last, as he emphasized that singles and EPs can be released faster. As AC/DC could be heard rumbling on the stage nearby, Yankovic joked, "I wanted to do one with AC/DC, and I think I should run out there while they're still onstage and start jamming with them right now."
He was also asked about Prince, one major artist who's never granted Yankovic permission to create a parody tune, who was in the hall last night. "If he wants to hang, I'm certainly open for that," Al said. "If he wants to go bowling or play Parcheesi with me, I'm up for that."