It was a share-the-wealth night at the 2014 Grammy Awards, as a mixed field of performers dominated by a pair of helmeted French electronica musicians and high-profile newcomers took home the heaviest metal.
Daft Punk captured four awards, including the coveted album of the year for “Random Access Memories.” Song of the year honors went to upstart New Zealander Lorde and songwriter Joel Little for her smash “Royals.”
Best new artist honors went to rap pair Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Macklemore delivered the show-stopping moment of the night when 33 couples were married by Queen Latifah during the performance of the same-sex marriage anthem “Same Love,” with Madonna joining them onstage as well.
“Get Lucky,” the massive summertime hit by the Daft Punk (Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo), Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, was named record of the year and best pop duo/group performance at the Staples Center event. Williams, who earlier in the day won a Grammy for non-classical producer of the year, accepted the pair’s first award “on behalf of the robots,” since the helmeted twosome (who changed their headgear multiple times during the show) opted to remain silent on stage.
When Daft Punk went on to win the night’s big prize, album of the year, veteran tunesmith Paul Williams, who performs on “Random Access Memories,” did the talking. He noted the surreal nature of working with the French pair who are routinely referred to as robots.
“Back when I was drinking I used to imagine things that weren’t there,” Williams said. “Then I got sober and two robots called me up and asked me to make an album.”
“Random Access Memories” took best dance/electronic album and an award for Daft Punk’s engineering team at the pre-telecast ceremony at the Nokia Theatre. The recording artists performed “Get Lucky” during the evening show with guest Stevie Wonder, with interpolations of Rodgers’ Chic classic “Le Freak” and Wonder’s “Another Star.”
Daft Punk had previously scored a pair of Grammys in dance categories in 2008. Their “Get Lucky” breakout has led the album “Random Access Memories” to sales of 885,000 to date.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis became the first pure rap act to claim the best new artist award, trumping hardcore rap star Kendrick Lamar, among others. Ben “Macklemore” Haggerty has been active in Seattle since 2000, and has been partnered with producer-songwriter Lewis since 2006. However, the act didn’t break through until the release of “The Heist” in late 2012; the independently funded and distributed album has sold 1.26 million copies to date.
Acknowledging his long road to the Grammys stage, Macklemore told the Staples audience, “Before there was a story, there was our fans…Without them, there would be no us.”
Though frozen out in the best new artist category, 17-year-old New Zealand phenom Lorde (Ella Yelich O’Connor) scored the best song (with Joel Little) and best pop solo performance trophies for her slinky smash “Royals.” The tune sold 4.4 million copies last year. Ironically, she performed the song early in the telecast immediately after Macklemore and Lewis’ win in the new artist category. Her breakthrough album “Pure Heroine” was shoved aside by Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” in the best pop vocal album category.
It was practically inevitable that “Cut Me Some Slack,” a song written collectively in Dave Grohl’s studio during a two-hour session, would take the best rock song award. With 15 Grammys to his credit – including two won on Sunday, derived from the musician’s “Sound City – Real to Reel” docu – Foo Fighters front man Grohl is a perennial Grammy darling, and his former Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear shared in the honor. But the presence of Paul McCartney, being feted on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ U.S. arrival, made the honor a slam dunk.
Wryly tipping his hat to his own illustrious past, McCartney (whose film “Live Kisses” received a nod as best music film at the afternoon ceremony) graciously praised the Nirvana members backstage: “Playing with them, they were a great band. That’s a great thing. I should know.” Paying back the compliment, Grohl noted that he had bought a Beatles LP boxed set for his young daughters. “There aren’t too many things that last forever,” Grohl said.
McCartney and his former band mate Ringo Starr did their part to promote CBS’ Feb. 9 special celebrating the 1964 arrival of Beatlemania in America. Starr contributed a big-band version of his 1973 hit “Photograph”; the ensemble included Blue Note Records prexy Don Was on bass. (Backstage, Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne, who was charged with introducing Ringo, exclaimed, “I completely fucked it up!”) Introduced by Julia Roberts, McCartney followed up with his new song “Queenie Eye” with Starr backing him on drums.
Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison, the widows of John Lennon and George Harrison, joined best R&B album winner Alicia Keys in presenting the album of the year statuette to Daft Punk.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the night was country It girl Kacey Musgraves’ “Same Trailer Different Park” winning the best country album award, outpacing bestsellers by Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton. Musgraves’ win, which will no doubt be seen as a blow for country music traditionalism, directly followed a group performance by Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Shelton.
Musgraves said backstage, “I made a record that was inspired by real life…and all the elements of country music I grew up with,” namechecking such predecessors as Loretta Lynn, Glen Campbell and Marty Robbins.
Jay Z and Justin Timberlake, both shut out of the major categories, brought home an award for best rap/sung collaboration, for “Holy Grail” from the former’s No. 1 album “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” Holding his award aloft, Jay Z addressed his infant daughter Blue Ivy from the stage: “Daddy got a gold sippy cup for you.”