Longtime dance-electronic duo Daft Punk earned major mainstream recognition Sunday night at the 56th annual Grammy Awards, taking five trophies including the top, coveted album and record of the year honours.
Despite their multiple wins, the critically acclaimed, helmet-clad duo — Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo — maintained their tradition of not speaking in public or revealing their faces, so for most of the night, it was largely left to collaborator Pharrell Williams to accept their awards.
"Honestly, I bet France is really proud of these guys right now," Williams noted at one point, before acknowledging the work of musician, composer and producer Nile Rodgers on the ubiquitous track, as well as Daft Punk's album Random Access Memories.
"This is the most insane thing," 1970s-era singer-songwriter Paul Williams, who also participated in the album, added as the Random Access Memories collaborators gathered onstage to accept album of the year.
"Back when I was drinking and using, I used to imagine things that weren't there and it was frightening. And then I got sober and two robots called and asked me to make an album."
Along with record of the year (a performance honour), Get Lucky won best pop duo/group performance. Random Access Memories won best electronic/dance album, best engineered album and album of the year. For the final category, Cologne-based Canadian pianist and composer Chilly Gonzales was among those named in Daft Punk's lengthy list of contributors.
Breakthrough for newcomers
Two newcomers on the music scene were also crowned as key winners at the annual awards: rap newcomers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and rising young star Lorde.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took four Grammys early on, including a trio of awards — best rap album for The Heist along with best rap performance and best rap song for the catchy Thrift Shop — at the pre-telecast ceremony, which was hosted by singer, songwriter and composer Cyndi Lauper. The duo then went on to win the first award of the evening's live telecast: best new artist.
"I want to thank our fans: the people who got us on this stage. Before there was any media, before there was any buzz about us, before there was a story, there were our fans, and it spread organically through them," Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, said onstage.
"We made this album without a record label. We made it independently and we appreciate all the support."
Their dominance of the rap categories was a controversial topic of the evening across social media. Earlier in the week, a source revealed to the Associated Press that the rap committee had rejected the duo from its categories, but that the decision had been overruled by the general Grammy committee.
Near the end of the telecast, Macklemore and Lewis also turned in one of the evening's most talked-about showpieces: a mid-performance marriage celebration for 33 couples, some gay and some straight, during their tune Same Love, which was accompanied by Mary Lambert, Madonna, Trombone Shorty and Queen Latifah.
New Zealand's Lorde delivered an understated performance of her hit song Royals early on in the broadcast, a fitting precursor to the track eventually winning both best pop solo performance and song of the year (an honour she shared with co-writer Joel Little).
"This is the one thing that I did not expect the most about tonight, so thank you so much," the fresh-faced New Zealand singer, 17, said upon her first win and adding thanks to her category's fellow nominees: Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Sara Bareilles and Bruno Mars.
"Thank you everyone who has let this song explode, because it's been mental," she said later as she accepted song of the year alongside Little.
Multiple wins for Timberlake, McCartney
Another of this year's top nominees, Justin Timberlake, earned a host of Grammy kudos:
- Best R&B song for Pusher Love Girl.
- Best music video for Suit and Tie (an award that goes to director David Fincher).
- As the featured artist on rap veteran Jay Z's hit track Holy Grail, which earned the Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration.
Jay Z had started the day as this year's most-nominated artist, earning nods in nine categories.
The evening also saw Paul McCartney honoured several times. During the web-streamed pre-telecast, Live Kisses, the concert film shot during a recent New York performance, won best music film. During the main broadcast, the former Beatle was among the co-winners of the best rock song category for Cut Me Some Slack, a tune from the soundtrack of Dave Grohl's Sound City music documentary. McCartney shares the latter trophy with Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear.
"[Grohl] said to me, 'We'll do a jam on Long Tall Sally.' I said, 'No, we've been there. We have done that. We should just make something up,' and we did it," McCartney recounted.
The evening also had a bit of a throwback feel in some of the rock categories, which included a best rock album win for Celebration Day by Led Zeppelin. The album was part of the 2007 reunion concert and film in which the surviving band members Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones joined with Jason Bonham (son of the late John Bonham) for a musical tribute to record exec Ahmet Ertegun. Meanwhile, rock stalwarts Black Sabbath earned the best metal performance Grammy for God is Dead?
Rising country star Kacey Musgraves was among the night's upset winners, besting more senior peers to take two significant trophies: best country album for Same Trailer, Different Park and best country song for Merry Go 'Round.
A pair of Canadians were among the early evening winners: B.C. crooner Michael Bublé and Vancouver-born, Montreal-based Jennifer Gasoi.
Bublé, who was not in attendance, nabbed his fourth Grammy in the best traditional pop vocal album category for To Be Loved. Jazz artist and children's entertainer Gasoi won best children's album for Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well.
A host of Canadians left with empty hands, including rapper Drake, rocker Neil Young, composer Mychael Danna and singer-songwriter Deric Ruttan.
Beyoncé kicked off the evening's performance-filled broadcast with a steamy rendition of her track Drunk in Love, with her rap mogul husband Jay Z joining in at the end.
Others who took the stage included Katy Perry, Pink with Nate Ruess, Hunter Hayes, Taylor Swift and surviving Beatles McCartney and Ringo Starr.
In recent years, the Grammys broadcast has become known for unconventional or unlikely musical pairings, which have the potential to become memorable match-ups (for better or worse).
In keeping with tradition, this year's tag-team performers included metal icons Metallica performing with classical pianist Lang Lang, rapper Kendrick Lamar with alt-rockers Imagine Dragons, R&B singer Robin Thicke with Chicago, Carole King with Sara Bareilles, and soul legend Stevie Wonder with Daft Punk. Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham united onstage for the grand finale.