Monday, February 12, 2007

Blige, Dixie Chicks win big at Grammys

LOS ANGELES - The Grammys traded iPods for record players on Sunday night as Mary J. Blige, the Dixie Chicks and the Red Hot Chili Peppers each won three trophies amid a slew of blast-from-the-past performances.

Blige, the overall nominations leader with eight, won best R&B album for "The Breakthrough," her double-platinum triumph, plus best female R&B performance and R&B song for "Be Without You."

A tearful Blige said her album "has not only shown that I am a musician and an artist and a writer, it also shows I am growing into a better human being."

"For so many years, I've been talked about negatively," said Blige, who during her 15-year career has often discussed her past substance and self-esteem problems. "But this time I've been talked about positively by so many people."

The Dixie Chicks know about negative talk: The country superstars turned into red-state pariahs after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush during a 2003 concert, on the eve of the Iraq invasion.

"Not Ready to Make Nice," their defiant anthem about the backlash, won the trio song of the year honors. They also won, ironically, country album of the year, despite distancing themselves from the genre with their album "Taking the Long Way."

"That's interesting," Maines said at the podium. "Well, to quote the great 'Simpsons' — 'Heh-Heh.'"

"Just kidding," said Maines. "A lot of people just turned their TVs off right now. I'm very sorry for that."

Emily Robison noted, "We wouldn't have done this album without everything we went through, so we have no regrets. I thank everyone who voted for us."

The Chili Peppers' double album, "Stadium Arcadium," was a triple winner, including best rock song and rock performance by a duo or group for "Dani California." Like the Dixie Chicks and Blige, the Chili Peppers delivered a critically acclaimed, commercially successful album as their careers hit the veteran stage.

The Grammys, often derided as The Grannys, embraced its baby boomer status as in its 49th year. Though the show featured a medley with some bright new stars, including John Mayer, John Legend and Corinne Bailey Rae, it relied heavily on the classics. Nominee Lionel Richie sang his '80s hit "Hello" and Smokey Robinson sang the Motown classic "The Tracks of My Tears" in a tribute to R&B. The Police, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers who split in 1984, reunited to kick off the show with "Roxanne" — even though they weren't nominated for anything.

Soon afterward, Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder, who dueted on a remake of Wonder's "For Once In My Life," beat out two of the year's biggest songs, Nelly Furtado and Timbaland's "Promiscuous" and Shakira and Wyclef Jean's "Hips Don't Lie," for best pop vocal collaboration.

Even some of the more contemporary artists were relegated to singing songs that weren't their own — Christina Aguilera sang the late James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" instead of her own nominated songs, while Carrie Underwood, the newcomer who had one of last year's most successful albums, crooned "Desperado" and "San Antonio Rose" — not her signature tune "Jesus, Take the Wheel," which was nominated for song of the year. For a while, it seemed as if VH1 Classics had taken over the production.

But new artists were celebrated, a bit. Chris Brown injected some hot-footed funk with his "Run It," while Underwood was celebrated as the best new artist.

Among the double winners were John Mayer, T.I. and Ludacris.

The Recording Academy was hoping to inject more excitement into the show with its contest, "My Grammy Moment," in which three women were contending for the chance to sing onstage with Timberlake during his performance; the winner was to be determined by viewers and revealed during the show.

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