Shock and Surprise at the 2011 Grammy Awards

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Montreal band Arcade Fire were shocked after winning the coveted Album of the Year award for The Suburbs. They lost out in the Alternative Album category earlier in the night, and beat the likes of Eminem and Lady Gaga for the honor.

The 53rd annual Grammy Awards were broadcast Sunday, and Lady Antebellum, Jay-Z and Lady Gaga walked away the big winners. Lady Antebellum won five Grammy awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “Need You Now.” Although Jay-Z and Lady Gaga didn’t win in any of the general categories, each took home three Grammys apiece in the rap and pop categories, respectively. Arcade Fire won Album of the Year for The Suburbs, shocking everyone who assumed Eminem’s Recovery was a shew-in. Slim Shady was nominated for 10 Grammys — the most of any artist — but he only won two, one for Best Rap Album and the other for Best Rap Solo Performance for “Not Afraid.”

After the show, I caught up with fellow music lover Chase Hilton to talk about the show, the winners, and the performances. Here’s our conversation:

Hunter Schwarz: I’d say this was one of the better Grammy award shows in recent memory. Lots of good performances and a lot of surprises.

Chase Hilton: I’m usually bored by who the Grammys pick to win the big awards because it becomes very predictable but tonight proved that the Grammy voters may have actually listened to the nominees!

HS: I don’t know if anyone could have predicted tonight with much accuracy.

CH: I think that there were some pretty considerable upsets.

HS: Like every category Eminem didn’t win.

CH: Eminem was definitely an easy favorite in all of his categories and rightfully so. I was shocked that he and Rihanna didn’t pick up Record of the Year.

HS: Eminem usually gets a lot of Grammy love. And it was like he said himself, Rihanna propelled him and his album to new heights, so it seemed like it would have been able to draw in an even larger number of voters.

CH: Exactly. Plus, when you consider the overarching narrative of his career and his latest album, it would be so fitting for him to win with an album entitled “Recovery.”

HS: It seemed like a storybook ending for a banner year for Slim Shady. And like you said earlier, it would have been the second year in a row that the biggest selling album won the Grammy for Album of the Year. (Taylor Swift’s best-selling Fearless won last year.)

CH: Usually, Grammy voters don’t conform to the general audience’s taste in music.

HS: And what was up with “Need You Now” doing so well? I mean, it is the most beautiful booty call song of all time, but still, Record and Song of the Year?

CH: Nothing against Lady Antebellum, because I think they are super talented musicians and have had a stellar year as well, but they are pretty in-the-box country pop.

HS: Best New Artist was probably the biggest surprise. That award is notorious because its winners have a tendency of becoming irrelevant after winning, not before. Did anyone know who Esperanza Spalding was before she won? She’s probably the most Googled term of the night.

CH: So true. I think that the last Best New Artist winner to actually make a mark in the music industry was Carrie Underwood in 2007.

HS: I was thinking Drake would take home the prize, only because I thought the voters would be split between Florence + the Machine and Mumford and Sons.

CH: I think that the Best New Artist category is pretty bizarre — how would someone compare and vote between a rapper, a teen pop sensation, a folk/rock group, a UK alternative pop genius and a jazz cellist. What are they voting on?

HS: Best-ness and New-ness. Let’s talk about performances. Lady Gaga had the most anticipated performance of the night. She hatched out of her egg, reminding everyone the name of her record is BORN This Way and now the whole dinosaur bones in her face on the single art make sense. The buzz when the song debuted on Friday was that it was a rip-off of Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” I don’t have a problem with it because she’s Lady Gaga, she’s the new Madonna. Madonna is to female pop stars what the Beatles are to rock bands. She invented their job.

CH: And if you think that Gaga isn’t fully aware of the similarities, you must be pretty thick.

HS: Her hair was a knowing nod to Madonna. That long ponytail was reminiscent of Madonna 1989-1990 during the Blonde Ambition Tour, but then she went and confused everyone when she said that Whitney Houston inspired the song. What was that all about?

CH: Right? That was very confusing. I didn’t put them in the same box.

HS: I was really glad to see Janelle Monae and “Cold War” get some love.

CH: Oh man, she is my heart’s best new artist. Where is the love? I was shocked she didn’t earn more nods from the Academy.

HS: Yeah, hopefully that was some good exposure for her.

CH: I love checking iTunes after big shows like this and seeing the immediate impact the exposure has on lesser known artists. Florence’s album is in the top 10 again.

HS: I expect her to be a big winner. Same with Mumford & Sons, Arcade Fire and Cee Lo Green. Mumford & Sons have done pretty well already with Sigh No More. It jumped into the top ten in January and is currently No. 11. I think it will go top ten again this week, especially since there are no big albums coming out. Their performance with Bob Dylan was a passing of the baton of sorts for folk music.

CH: I saw a couple of their songs climb the charts.

HS: “F**k You” is the song that won’t die. It ran its course and then Glee brought it back to life. I expect Cee Lo’s performance with Mrs. Coldplay will send it up again.

CH: It’s perfect. So tongue in check, so entertaining. And Gwyny can sing!

HS: I know! I loved her in Country Strong. Get her a recording contract. Or at least a song on the next Coldplay album.

CH: I thought the diva showcase at the beginning was pretty great. How considerate of the Grammys to give Christina a chance to redeem herself.

HS: It was cool to have all those singers from different genres together.

CH: But man, if Jennifer Hudson isn’t the best thing to come from Idol… Wow, she stuns me every time.

HS: They should let her re-try out.

CH: No way, losing was the best thing that could’ve happened to her. It got her out of the machine and let her find her career in a different way. If she had won, she never would’ve done Dreamgirls, scored a huge produced debut album, or won a Grammy.

HS: I can’t believe that was Mick Jagger’s first Grammy performance. I’ll bet so many teenagers now know who the guy Ke$ha sings about is.

CH: Haha, now Ke$ha knows who Mick Jagger is. I can’t imagine he was never invited! I wonder if he just never accepted the invitations in the past.

No word on if Jagger was just never invited or if he always said no, but rest assured Ke$ha is now kicking guys who look like him to the curb. Still, I hope I can move like him when I’m his age. Scroll below for a list of the winners:

Album of the Year: The Suburbs, Arcade Fire

Record of the Year: “Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum

Song of the Year: “Need You Now,” Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)

New Arist: Esperanza Spalding

Female Pop Vocal Performance: “Bad Romance,” Lady Gaga

Male Pop Vocal Performance: “Just The Way You Are,” Bruno Mars

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group: “Hey Soul Sister,” Train

Pop Vocal Album: The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga

Alternative Album: Brothers, The Black Keys

Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Crazy Love, Michael Buble

Rock Song: “Angry World,” Neil Young

Rock Album: The Resistance, Muse

Rock Performance: “Tighten Up,” The Black Keys

Solo Rock Vocal Performance: “Helter Skelter,” Paul McCartney (from Good Evening New York City)

Hard Rock Performance: “New Fang,” Them Crooked Vultures

R&B Album: Wake Up!, John Legend and The Roots

Contemporary R&B Album: Raymond V Raymond, Usher

R&B Song: “Shine,” John Legend & The Roots

R&B Performance: “Soldier Of Love,” Sade

Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: “Hang On In There,” John Legend and The Roots

Urban/Alternative Performance: “(Forget) You,” Cee Lo Green

Rap Album: Recovery, Eminem

Rap Solo Performance: “Not Afraid,” Eminem

Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group: “On To The Next One,” Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz

Rap Song: “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys

Rap/Sung Collaboration: “Empire State Of Mind,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys

Dance Recording: “Only Girl (In The World),” Rihanna

Electronic Dance Album: La Roux, La Roux

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