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.