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Jazz-rock duo Steely Dan surprised all but the most conservative pundits, leading the way Wednesday night at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards by winning three trophies (and a fourth for its engineers). Faith Hill, Eminem, and U2 each took home three awards.
Though Eminem won three Grammys at the ceremony, The Marshall Mathers LP was denied the Album of the Year award — which many expected the disc to win, despite the considerable controversy surrounding it.
Even without the prize, Eminem had the centerpiece of the show: a performance of his song "Stan" (the only song of his that the Academy would allow him to play, because of its relative lack of profanity) with openly gay pop icon Elton John.
The two vocalists, introduced by Recording Academy President Michael Greene, were in stark contrast, with the 28-year-old rapper walking around the stage with a plain, white T-shirt and jeans, while John, standing at a keyboard and singing Dido's parts in the song, wore a yellow suit and shirt with large, pink polka dots. Following the song, the two embraced, as the audience at Staples Center stood in applause.
Steely Dan's Two Against Nature, the duo's first album since 1980, not only upset the Eminem disc for the Album of the Year honor, it also won the Best Pop Vocal Album prize — defeating such powerhouse artists as Madonna, Britney Spears, and 'N Sync — and its single "Cousin Dupree" won Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, over tracks by 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys. Two Against Nature also was named Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.
Another upset victor was country singer Shelby Lynne, who won the vaunted Best New Artist trophy, defeating favorite Sisqo. Not only is Lynne a music veteran ("It took 13 years and six albums to get here," she quipped in her acceptance speech), but she also had by far the lowest album sales of the other rookies, selling 165,000 copies of I Am Shelby Lynne.
Rock veteran outfit U2 also made a powerful showing, with its hit "Beautiful Day" winning trophies for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. All three of the awards were passed out during the ceremony, bringing the quartet to the stage repeatedly — in addition to a trip to the stage for a performance of "Beautiful Day."
Frontman Bono took the mic after the first award, thanking his mother and God, then adding, "I can imagine God saying, 'Don't thank me for that song. … I never listen to it on my radio.'"
On the second trip to the stage, guitarist The Edge took the mic, prompting host Jon Stewart to joke, "I didn't know he could talk."
Bono again handled the acceptance on the group's third trip, saying, "The whole year has been quite humbling, going back to scratch, reapplying for the job. What job? The best-band-in-the-world job. … A lot of people in the world are up for that job. … Right now, it's our night — thank you!"
Faith Hill won two awards before the show began but had a long list of people to thank when she was called to the stage to collect the Best Country Album Grammy. Her list ended in a loss for words: "Thank you so much, I love … everybody."