Late Album Release Prevented U2 Sweep

U2 frontman Bono said during the band's third acceptance speech that Grammy Awards night "is our night." Had the group's latest LP come out a month earlier, that statement may not have been an exaggeration.

As it was, the Irish rock act landed three trophies — the same as boy-of-the-moment Eminem, country superstar Faith Hill, and comeback jazz duo Steely Dan (whose Two Against Nature nabbed a fourth prize for its engineers).

But U2 was only competing with one weapon, the single "Beautiful Day," which was released in early fall. The album that song comes from, All That You Can't Leave Behind, hit stores Oct. 31, one month after the deadline for eligibility at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards.

Bono displayed a curious combination of egoism and self-deprecation onstage, where his band visited once for a performance and three more times to pick up Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group honors.

"The whole year has been quite humbling, going back to scratch, reapplying for the job," he said, before switching gears to a more recognizable Bono. "What job? The best-band-in-the-world job."

Backstage, when asked if he was disappointed that All That You Can't Leave Behind couldn't contend for Album of the Year, Bono responded, "Next year we expect an avalanche." Then he added, in case there was any confusion, "Megalomania starts at an early age."

Without a single artist contending in both the Record of the Year and Album of the Year categories, a single artist's dominance — as happened with Santana last year and Lauryn Hill in 1999 — was impossible.

With this year's fragmented results, the big winner of the show is hard to ascertain.

Is it Steely Dan, whose members looked as stunned as everyone in the audience at winning their first three Grammy trophies after a 20-year hiatus from recording? And will the upset victory spark the sales of Two Against Nature, which stand at around 800,000 copies?

Or is it the year of hard-edged rap, with the team of Dr. Dre and Eminem combining for five prizes? Eminem's three trophies were all for work produced by Dre, who won as a producer (partially for his work on The Marshall Mathers LP) and for his "Forgot About Dre" duet with Eminem on Dre's 2001.

Undoubtedly, it's also notable as the year that teen pop was completely shut out: The power foursome of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, 'N Sync, and the Backstreet Boys was blanked — as was grown-up bubble-gum star Madonna.

Though Bono joked backstage, "We see ourselves as just another Irish boy band," this year's Grammy's may well be remembered as the show that veteran boy band U2 missed dominating by a month.

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