52d Annual Grammy Awards

Ladies’ night

Beyoncé wins six Grammys; Swift captures album of year

Beyonce (Reuters / Mike Blake) Beyoncé's six Grammys are the most by a female artist in one year.
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / February 1, 2010

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Pop superstar Beyoncé made history last night by winning six Grammys in one evening, the most ever by a female artist, but 20-year-old country phenom Taylor Swift took home the biggest prize, album of the year.

Beyoncé, who went into the evening with a leading 10 nominations, won song of the year for her smash single “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).’’ Although she couldn’t join her songwriting collaborators in accepting the award because she was prepping for her own performance, she was on stage to receive the award for best female pop vocal performance, for “Halo.’’ She gave a short speech thanking her family and husband, Jay-Z, a three-time winner himself in the rap category.

It wasn’t just in the awards where the women shone. Female artists gave some of the most eye-popping performances of the 3 1/2-hour telecast of the 52d Grammy Awards from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Beyoncé whipped herself into a frenzy, mashing up her own “If I Were a Boy’’ with Alanis Morissette’s scathing “You Oughta Know.’’ Swift performed her song “Today Was a Fairytale,’’ before Stevie Nicks joined her for a rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon.’’ The pair then segued into Swift’s “You Belong With Me.’’

In winning the album of the year prize, Swift bested Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas, and the Dave Matthews Band. The young songbird has been on an awards rampage with her sophomore release, “Fearless,’’ the best-selling album of 2009. Accepting the award, she appeared overcome, saying that this would be the story she would tell to her grandchildren someday.

The night’s other top female nominee, Lady Gaga, won two awards in the dance categories, but both came during the ceremonies prior to the telecast. She made her presence felt, however, with a grandiose opening number featuring Sir Elton John, an artist once known for his own outlandish wardrobe. Gaga began with her ubiquitous dance pop hit “Poker Face,’’ cavorting with a phalanx of dancers, some dressed as the singer herself. She was dumped into a flaming cauldron stamped “Rejected’’ before showing up, covered in soot, at a piano across from a similarly smudged John in sparkly shades. The duo traded verses on her dramatic ballad “Speechless,’’ adding a snatch of his classic “Your Song.’’

Collaborations, long a staple of Grammys shows, were the order of the night, and they were one way to get veteran artists onto the stage in a year when younger artists reigned in the top categories.

The most moving came during a tribute to Michael Jackson. Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, and Smokey Robinson accompanied Jackson as a 3-D video of his eco-lament “Earth Song’’ unspooled behind them. Following the tribute, two of Jackson’s children, Paris and Prince Michael, accepted their father’s lifetime achievement award. “Through his songs, his message was simple: love,’’ Prince Michael said.

Other pairings included best new artist winners the Zac Brown Band teaming with Leon Russell; double R&B winner Maxwell crooning alongside Roberta Flack; and the team of David Foster, Mary J. Blige, and Andrea Bocelli performing Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,’’ a performance that will be available via iTunes, with proceeds going to Haiti relief. One collaboration drew special attention from CBS censors: The mute button was pressed repeatedly during the performance by rappers Eminem, Drake, and Lil Wayne.

Other multiple winners included the hip-hop pop group the Black Eyed Peas, who copped three trophies and performed songs from their nominated album, “The E.N.D.,’’ with a cadre of robot dancers. Kings of Leon won three as well; their hit “Use Somebody’’ won record of the year, beating out songs by Swift, Beyoncé, Gaga, and the Peas.

Chick Corea, Yo-Yo Ma, and James Levine were among the musical luminaries with Boston ties who had reason to celebrate. Jazz titan Corea won his 16th Grammy, in the jazz instrumental album category for “Five Peace Band: Live,’’ with the John McLaughlin Five Peace Band. Levine, along with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus, scored the best orchestral performance trophy for “Ravel: Daphnis Et Chloé.’’ Ma won the best classical crossover performance award for “Yo-Yo Ma & Friends: Songs of Joy and Peace.’’

The red carpet pre-show was enlivened by General Larry Platt. The “American Idol’’ auditioner gave a somewhat winded performance of his nation-sweeping novelty jam, “Pants on the Ground.’’ Boogeying wildly, Platt clutched a handful of belts, perhaps to hand out to those who were looking like fools.

Many musicians also plugged “Music for Relief,’’ a new multi-artist compilation of unreleased material to benefit organizations aiding in the Haiti relief efforts.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at