Steely Dan won the big prize, but Eminem stole the show at the Grammy Awards, winning three trophies and capping the ceremonies in a duet with Elton John.
The odd couple received a standing ovation from the packed house at the Los Angeles Staples Center for their bleeped version of the rapper's hit song "Stan." Eminem dressed in pale blue sweats and John in a pink polka dot suit. The openly gay pop star and the controversial artist ended the performance with a hug and held hands.
The performance was introduced by the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, Michael Greene. He defended their inclusion, reminding viewers "music has always been the voice of rebellion."
The ceremonies may have arrived amid a controversy but they went off without a hitch. Acts as diverse as 'N Sync, Christina Aguilera and Dolly Parton strutted their stuff onstage, and as expected the fashions featured plenty of flesh. Even Bette Midler flashed a bare stomach while awarding Steely Dan the Best Album Award for Two Against Nature. The 1970s group picked up three awards Wednesday, a career first.
Member Walter Becker credits Steely Dan fans for their decades of success. "The ones who have survived, exceeded to postions of power and influence and, it's very flattering that there are still so many people that are listening to what we do."
About 100 demonstrators protested against Eminem outside the glittery event. As the biggest stars in the music business made their entrances, a relatively small contingent voiced their objection to Eminem's violent and homophobic lyrics.
Madonna kicked off the night, arriving onstage in a sequined limousine. The newlywed danced her way through her hit single, "Music," accompanied by musicians and dancers on stage while paying homage to her vast career with video clips and a tank top sporting the phrase "Material Girl."
"As I was watching Madonna writhing around on the hood of the car" host Jon Stewart quipped in his opening monologue, "I was thinking, that is really going to drive up her insurance premium." Stewart was quick to address the controversy over rap star Eminem, under fire for his violent and homophobic lyrics. Stewart said he wasn't sure what all the controversy is all about, "I've met Eminem and he's really gay."
Victories for Shady
Grammy voters proved undaunted by the media stir surrounding Eminem's nominations, as protesters questioned his violent lyrics.
His chart topping album, The Marshall Mathers LP was named Best Rap Album with the rapper also nabbing Best Solo Rap Performance and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for his collaboration with his mentor and producer Dr. Dré.
Dr. Dré received an individual honor, as Producer of the Year. He headed in with a leading five nominations, as did Destiny's Child who was named Best R&B Song for "Say My Name," which goes to the songwriters.
When accepting his rap album award, Eminem addressed his detractors. "I guess first of all I want to thank everybody who could look past the controversy and see the album for what it is — and what it isn't."
A far less controversial act, U2, proved it truly knows what it takes to have a "Beautiful Day." The enduring rockers swept their nominations, picking up three awards for the hit single. Their album, All That You Can't Leave Behind, was not eligible for awards since it was released after the cutoff date for the Best Album category.
"On a personal level, this century has been going so well for us," said The Edge while accepting the award for Song of the Year.
When accepting Record of the Year, Bono was nearly at a loss for words, saying he was experiencing a "really unusual emotion." He continued, remarking on their success achieved with an album that marks a return to their classic songwriting style.
"The whole year has been quite humbling, going back to scratch reapplying for the job … the best band in the world job," said Bono who continued on to praise Radiohead and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as also deserving of that title, however not this time.
"Right now it's our night."
Gray Gets Gold, Hill Tops Country
Macy Gray picked up the first award during the broadcast. She beat out Christina Aguilera, Madonna, Britney Spears, Aimee Mann and Joni Mitchell for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "I Try." Gray thanked her mentors, including Prince and Chaka Khan and saying, "I'm really flattered by all of you who voted for me."
She later changed into a groovy purple outfit for a celebratory performance of that song.
Awards show darling Faith Hill can add Best Country Album to her credits for Breathe. The singer performed the hit during the broadcast, casually dressed in a black blouse and black pants.
While accepting her award she thanked her husband, songwriter Tim McGraw and nearly ran out of time for her mentions.
"They're saying please wrap up but this is my … I waited a long time for this award!"
Country legend Johnny Cash, who was just released from a Tennessee hospital Wednesday after a bout with pneumonia, won the award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance for "Solitary Man."
Fellow southern singer Shelby Lynne beat out Sisqo, country newcomer Brad Paisley, hard rockers Papa Roach and soul singer Jill Scott to be crowned Best New Artist. She was dressed in a sexy cropped blue top and skirt, she came to the podium and thanked her family for encouraging her to "be an individual."
ABC Radio, Wall of Sound and ABCNEWS.com's Buck Wolf contributed to this report.