HOLLYWOOD — Alicia Keys, U2 and the soundtrack to “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” dominated the pop music world in 2001, and Grammy voters managed to split the ballot, rewarding Keys with five awards, U2 with four and, depending on how you count it, “O Brother” with as many as six.
Keys, the 21-year-old pianist and singer who put Clive Davis’ J Records on the map with her album “Songs in A Minor,” was named best new artist and nabbed the coveted song of the year for “Fallin’ ” at the 44th annual Grammy Awards ceremony at Staples Center. While a handful of best new artists have won a pair of the four top awards, Keys is the only one besides Christopher Cross to nab song and new artist.
Three songs from U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” won awards: record of the year for “Walk On,” pop performance for “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” and rock perf for “Elevation.” The album was named tops in the rock category. Last year, U2’s “Beautiful Day” took home record of the year, making the Irish band the first back-to-back winner in the category since Roberta Flack in 1972 and 1973. This is the first time, however, that the winning songs came from the same album.
Bono used an elevation analogy after the track won the rock group award. “It’s still a great thing to behold a rock ‘n’ roll band in full flight. Not just the sound of it, the deal that you make on the ground (when you start). Maybe 20 years later you might find yourself at an awards ceremony with the same people you started out with. Wow.”
The soundtrack of the Joel and Ethan Coen film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” was named album of the year, the first soundtrack to win the award since “The Bodyguard” grabbed that honor in 1993.
It was a year short on multiple winners. “O Brother” producer T-Bone Burnett won four awards, including producer of the year. Alison Krauss and Union Station nabbed four — two for their Rounder Records-released work and two for their role in “O Brother.” Ralph Stanley won three.
Winners of two awards each were Bela Fleck (for the second year in a row), Outkast, Mel Brooks, Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra and Lucinda Williams, who contributed to “Timeless,” the country album winner.
Although U2, Keys and “O Brother” dominated, many of the nominees in the four major award categories took home their genre-specific trophies: Outkast in rap, Bob Dylan in folk, Train in rock, Alicia Keys in R&B, Nelly Furtado in pop. India.Arie, who surprised many onlookers when she nabbed seven nominations, was shut out.
This year’s kudocast played out against a backdrop in which a number of veteran acts were escalating efforts to alter standard artist contracts by appearing before governmental bodies and staging four benefit concerts on Tuesday. The artists’ rights issues have been welcomed by bizzers such as J Records prexy Clive Davis and Grammy honcho Michael Greene, and many of Tuesday’s performers were highly visible at the Grammys — Don Henley, Sheryl Crow and the Dixie Chicks, among others. None of the presenters nor winners raised any artists’ rights issues onstage.
In fact, the night was filled with relatively innocuous acceptance speeches, most of them a collection of thank you’s. “I had fun writing it,” a giddy Nelly Furtado said after her pop win, “so wooooo.”
Greene was the only speechmaker with a message — end illegal Internet downloading of music. Calling the situation “pervasive and out of control,” a stern Greene suggested new performers are in “immediate danger of being marginalized out of the business.”
Kudocast lasted nearly 3½ hours and included six performances by artists teamed up for one-time-only perfs as well as a medley of tunes from the “O Brother” acts. U2 opened the show performing “Walk On” with off-screen assistance from Kirk Franklin’s choir and took home the telecast’s first presentation, pop performance by a duo or group. Four other performers on the show won awards immediately after their performances — significant because on-air perfs, more so than wins, prompt an immediate sales spike.
For the first time in the category’s 15-year history, the song written for motion picture, television or other visual media award went to a song from a TV show: “Boss of Me,” by John Flansburgh and John Linnell of They Might Be Giants, for Fox laffer “Malcolm in the Middle.” “Lady Marmalade,” the hit single from Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge,” won pop collaboration with vocals for Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink, the first time that trophy has gone to a unit larger than a pairing.
A couple of repeats from the Oscars and Tonys occurred: Tan Dun’s score for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The Producers” album were winners.
Linkin Park’s “Crawling,” a track from the biggest-selling album of last year, “Hybrid Theory,” nabbed the hard rock nod.
Age and beauty went hand in hand throughout the night. James Taylor won the male pop vocal trophy for a new version of his 30-year-old “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight.” Ralph Stanley, 75, the soul of “O Brother” who called himself an “old time traditional mountain singer,” became the oldest vocalist to win his first Grammy. But he was hardly the only member of the senior set to go home with a statue. Earl Scruggs, 80, oldest winner of the night, Delbert McClinton, 60, Freddy Fender, 64, and Quincy Jones, 68, also received Grammys. The Blind Boys of Alabama, who have been together for 58 years, also won their first Grammy.
The London Symphony Orchestra, whose artist-run label LSO Live debuted last year, won two trophies for its recording of Berlioz’s “Les Troyens.” Pierre Boulez, nominated for six awards, won one.
The reality of making music on smaller labels reared its comical head after Clarence Fountain of the Blind Boys of Alabama accepted the traditional soul gospel award. Most gospel award winners begin their acceptances with words of praise for God. Fountain played the realist: “I want to thank my good friend who put up the cash (for the album).”
One hundred and one awards were handed out at the ceremony hosted by Jon Stewart.