LOS ANGELES — The 52nd Grammy Awards belonged to Beyonce as the singer made history by smashing the record for most trophies by a female artist in a single night.
The 28-year-old picked up six prizes Sunday, owning a ceremony in which a group of young artists helped put a fresh face on the greying Grammys.
“Wow, thank you so much,” Beyonce said as she took the stage to claim her award for best female pop vocal performance.
“I’m sorry, I’m nervous. I’d love to thank my family for all their support, including my husband, I love you. And I’d like to thank all of my fans for all of their support over the years, goodnight, thank you.”
Taylor Swift was one of the few to interrupt Beyonce’s run on the podium. The 20-year-old won four awards including the evening’s biggest prize: album of the year. She is now the youngest artist ever to win the award (Alanis Morissette was 21 when she nabbed the prize for “Jagged Little Pill”).
“Our families are freaking out in their living rooms,” said a clearly astonished Swift.
“When we’re 80 years old and we are telling the same stories over and over to our grandkids and they’re so annoyed with us, this is the story we’re going to be telling over and over again: in 2010, that we got to win album of the year at the Grammys. Thank you thank you.”
But despite Swift’s stunning victory, the night belonged to Beyonce.
She won song of the year for the omnipresent “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and brought her all-time Grammy haul to 16 awards.
She had previously been tied for most wins by a female at a Grammys with Lauryn Hill, Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Alicia Keys and Amy Winehouse.
The Black Eyed Peas, Jay-Z and Kings of Leon had three trophies Sunday while Gaga, Kanye West, Rihanna, Maxwell, Eminem, Jason Mraz and Bela Fleck were among a group of two-time winners.
Canadians Neil Young and Michael J. Fox both won their first-ever Grammy prizes, while Vancouver’s Michael Buble took his second career award.
Beyonce also won best R&B contemporary album for “I Am … Sasha Fierce,” best R&B female vocal for “Single Ladies,” best traditional R&B performance for “At Last” and best R&B song, while 23-year-old Gaga — who entered with five nominations — earned trophies for best dance recording (“Poker Face”) and best electronic/dance album (“The Fame”).
The platinum-blond electro-pop oddball also opened the evening on a typically bizarre note.
With a sign hanging overhead reading “The Fame Factory,” Gaga vamped through a verse of her “Poker Face” with the stage dressed up with industrial props and smoke puffing out of steel pipes. Wearing a sparkling green unitard with matching high heels, Gaga was then thrown into a fire-filled vat while a dancer chanted “she’s a monster.”
Below was a double-sided piano with prop arms growing out of it and Elton John positioned on the other side (with his face made up to look scorched by flames). The glittering twosome then performed a duet of “Your Song” and Gaga’s “Speechless.”
“Take my picture Hollywood, I wanna be a star!” she screamed.
It wasn’t the only performance with sky-high production values.
Pink performed her contemplative piano ballad “Glitter in the Air” while suspended high above the crowd at the Staples Center. Dressed (but only barely so) in weaving white ribbons, she spun around and around while water droplets fell to the crowd below and scantily clad acrobats circled higher still.
“That was amazing!” Keith Urban blurted out as he took the stage afterwards to present an award.
Backstage, Pink said she was a gymnast for eight years and has been doing silks for seven years, and claimed in all seriousness that she’s a better singer while flying around like a marionette. She admitted, though, that the strobe lights caused her to lose her balance for a moment.
“I thought I was going to fall on my nude butt, but I worked it out,” said the feisty singer.
“I would say that no one ever has another excuse to lip synch.”
Beyonce, meanwhile, marched onstage wearing a black minidress, surrounded by male dancers encased in armour and helmets to perform her soaring anthem, “If I Were a Boy.” The performance went up another notch when she wedged in a smouldering sampling of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know,” with the stage turning red for the breakup anthem (though Beyonce, strutting down the centre aisle to a raised platform, seemed more seductive than vengeful).
The Black Eyed Peas went for a similar black-steel motif, with Will.i.am rapping behind a metal facemask with an ammo belt slung over his shoulder. Dancers outfitted like retro robots — and encased in silver costumes made to look like speakers — joined the stage as the band segued from “Imma Be” to “I Gotta Feeling” while a video collage of fan-generated YouTube clips (along with celebrity cameos from the likes of 50 Cent, Adam Lambert and Alex Rodriguez) looped overhead.
Green Day — winners of best rock albums for their “21st Century Breakdown” — played anti-war anthem “21 Guns” with the cast of Broadway’s upcoming “American Idiot,” lending the already epic tune a sense of over-the-top extravagance that would have been foreign to the pop-punk trio once upon a time.
Celine Dion headlined a 3-D tribute to Michael Jackson along with Usher, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson.
The environmentally conscious “Earth Day” mini-movie Jackson created for his “This Is It” tour before his death last June flashed across the screen in three dimensions, while images of the King of Pop scrolled by on screens in the theatre.
Since special glasses were distributed at Target stores, Canadian viewers didn’t get the full effect of the lush visuals (which transitioned from animals galloping through jungles to brief scenes of post-apocalyptic devastation). But they were included in the fun of seeing glamorous guests including Beyonce with goofy-looking 3-D glasses fastened to their faces.
Zac Brown Band won for best new artist, while Kings of Leon surprised some when their reverb-drenched stadium smash “Use Somebody” took record of the year honours.
“I’m not going to lie, we’re all a little drunk, but we’re happy drunk,” singer Caleb Followill said by way of acceptance.
Colbert provided the Grammys equivalent of an opening monologue after Gaga’s performance, but saved his best line for his trip to the stage to accept the award for best comedy album for “A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!”
“This is a Christmas album, so obviously I should thank Jesus Christ,” Colbert said.
Earlier, Young won for best boxed or special limited edition package, given for the elaborately designed first volume of his long-awaited “Archives” collection.
The Toronto-born singer’s first-ever Grammy came only days after he was celebrated on Friday night as the MusiCares Person of the Year, which recognizes an artist’s philanthropy.
Fox, who was raised in Burnaby, B.C., picked up the prize for best spoken word album for his reading of “Always Looking Up,” a memoir about his battle with Parkinson’s disease.
And Buble won best traditional pop vocal album for “Michael Buble Meets Madison Square Garden.” It’s the same category the 34-year-old won in 2008.
Neither Buble nor Fox was present at the pre-show.
Toronto rapper Drake didn’t win either award for which he was nominated, but had a consolation prize in the form of the show’s final performance.
Lil Wayne and Eminem performed part of “Drop the World” before Drake entered dramatically, singing the hook for his “Forever.”
Lil Wayne took the opportunity to introduce him (“ladies and gentleman, Drizzy Drake,” he rasped) but the audience already knew the 23-year-old — in fact, Swift and Jamie Foxx were both shown dancing and chanting Drake’s lines back at him as he rapped.
When it was over, he broke into a wide grin and hugged the other two men.
Alberta powwow dance group Northern Cree, Toronto R&B singer Melanie Fiona, hard-rockers Nickelback and producer David Foster also went home empty-handed in their categories.
Montreal duo Beast’s video for “Mr. Hurricane” lost out to the Black Eyed Peas’ ubiquitous “Boom Boom Pow” clip.