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OK, so maybe we undervalued the U2 album, but so did consumers—although that could change in the next few days if the Grammy Angel alights on the Irishmen.
GRAMMYS KICK OUT THE JAMS
Academy Decides It’s Time to Award U2; Green Day Slips In Through the Back Door; McCartney Reminds Us That He Can Still Rawk
When it came out in the fall of 2004, U2’s How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb seemed like an earnest but flawed follow-up to the epochal All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Nonetheless, the album turned out to have legs with the Grammy voters, who selected it as Album of the Year, and picked its thematic centerpiece, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own,” as Song of the Year. By the end of the night, U2 had won in all five categories for which it was nominated, and the same album generated three Grammys last year, making it one of the most honored pieces of work in Grammy history. OK, so maybe we undervalued the LP, but so did consumers—although that could change in the next few days if the Grammy Angel alights on the Irishmen.

U2’s sweep meant relative disappointments for the critically acclaimed Kanye West and the immensely popular Mariah Carey, the recipients of eight nominations each. Carey had a good afternoon, picking up three Grammys out of the four categories that were announced during the pre-show ceremony, but she was shut out in the nighttime, most startlingly in Record of the Year, which was won by Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” not by Mariah’s wall-to-wall smash “We Belong Together,” which appeared to be a gimme going in. Nobody saw that coming. For that matter, both "Gold Digger" from West and the Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” seemed to have better odds than Green Day going in.

West, likewise, was on track early, picking up a pair, as "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" got Best Rap Song and “Gold Digger” won for Best Rap Solo Performance. But all he won last night was the Best Rap Album gramophone for Late Registration, and that was as much of an automatic as any category this year. Outgoing L.A. Times pundit Robert Hilburn laced into the voting bloc for failing to recognize the significance of West’s achievement, calling him “an artist who is a revolutionary force today in the tradition of Sly Stone” and essentially saying the envelope-pushing rapper/producer was robbed by not taking Album of the Year for Late Registration. Still, West didn’t leave Staples empty-handed, and his homie John Legend walked away with the Best New Artist gramophone as well.

But even if the two IDJ superstars didn’t bring home all the hardware, it was still a sweet moment for L.A. Reid, who said for the record, "This has been a tremendous year of growth and achievement for the artists of Island Def Jam Music Group. Across a wide spectrum of music—pop, R&B, rap, rock, and alternative fields—we have much to be proud of and thankful for. Congratulations to all the nominated artists, who will always continue to be the lifeblood of IDJ."

One of the evening’s most fascinating stories involved Kelly Clarkson, who took the two Female Pop Vocal awards, fending off Mariah (but not “We Belong Together”) and Gwen (but she sings “shit” a lot) on the singles side, and beating a (gasp!) Beatle in albums. This coup culminates Clarkson’s parallel rise to Idol-transcending Clive diva (the latest in a distinguished line) and critics’ darling (see the Voice poll singles results). And that, folks, is a truly unusual trifecta in 2006. 

TAKES: Did Paul McCartney and his hot little combo totally kick ass on “Helter Skelter”—not to mention “Fine Line”—or did the drugs kick in at just the right time? Watching Abe Laboriel Jr. make thunder and sing the high harmonies was old-school outtasite… If Atomic Bomb was gonna be Album of the Year, it was certainly gonna be Best Rock Album as well, heading off the altogether magnificent (in our humble opinion) X&Y by Coldplay, who get the Rodney Dangerfield award for 2005… Our beloved Arcade Fire lost out in both categories it was nominated for. Now, it’s one thing to be topped in the voting for Best Alternative Music Album by The White Stripes’ provocative Get Behind Me Satan, but it’s something else again to lose out to Josh Groban for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television, etc. On her initial trip to the podium, Clarkson first thanked Kwatinetz, second time she went with Clive—or was it Jesus and God? Same diff. And by first acknowledging Jon Brion, Kanye just may be able to get comped for one of Brion’s always-sold-out Friday night Largo gigs, if not a booking from FlanaganSteve Lillywhite was awarded Producer of the Year for a rather unlikely pairing: U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and Jason Mraz’s Mr. A-Z (say what?!). The exquisitely designed and illustrated digi-pak for Aimee Mann’s The Forgotten Arm, by Mann and Gail Marowitz, won for Best Recording Package. And the Grammy for Best Polka Album goes to Shake, Rattle and Polka! by Jimmy Sturr & His Orchestra… Would you believe "Don't Phunk With My Heart" by the Black Eyed Peas took Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group? And all along we thought they were a pop group. The parallel pop award went to the genre-crossing instant classic “Feel Good Inc.” by the most adorable cartoon band since Alvin & the Chipmunks—but the Gorillaz were no more animated than Madonna in the opening sequence (now streaming on grammy.yahoo.com). Wouldja believe those 47-year-old stems? Yow… The Best Country Album victory by Allison Krauss & Union Station—who are more NPR than 615—suggests that there aren’t a whole lotta big-hat-wearin’ voters… The most unexpected moment of all, though, had nothing to do with the show itself; it was hearing “I’m in Love with a Girl” from Big Star’s obscure 1973 masterpiece Radio City used in a spot for Heineken… Now, if you'll excuse us, we're gonna go have our Mohawk dyed platinum.

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