Dixie Chicks, Blige, Ludacris Take Home Grammys

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The Dixie Chicks win five Grammy Awards, Mary J. Blige comes away with three, and rapper Ludacris gives a special shout out to Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly as he picks up his statue. Danyel Smith, editor in chief of Vibe magazine, reviews the awards.

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

I'm Farai Chideya and this is NEWS & NOTES.

Learning to say you're sorry is one of the most important parts of human behavior, but when it comes to the annual Grammy Awards, one group cleaned up by being unapologetic.

(Soundbite of song, "Not Ready to Make Nice")

Ms. NATALIE MAINES (Singer, Dixie Chicks): (Singing) I'm not ready to make nice. I'm not ready to back down. I'm still mad as hell and I don't have time to go round and round…

CHIDEYA: That's the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice," which got the controversial country group the Song of the Year honor. It was just one of five awards the Chicks picked up.

Now here to discuss this big winner and more is Danyel Smith. She's the editor in chief of music magazine, Vibe, and the author of two novels, most recently, "Bliss." Hey, Danyel.

Ms. DANYEL SMITH (Editor in Chief, Vibe): Hey, Farai, how are you?

CHIDEYA: I'm great. How are you?

Ms. SMITH: I can't complain.

CHIDEYA: All right. So let's dive in with the Dixie Chicks. This song was really a response to political criticism. What was up with that?

Ms. SMITH: I just feel like it's the perfect end to a perfect story. I mean it all depends on what your politics are. But then again, to me it doesn't because it's just about, you know, three women who said what they wanted to say. You know, got chastised for it. And a lot of artists would have just sort of gone, you know, crawling into a corner with their tail between their legs, but not the Dixies. The Dixies came back hard and they won.

CHIDEYA: Yeah. They criticized President Bush and they got death threats.

Ms. SMITH: Oh, yeah. Death threats, and a lot of their fan base was disenchanted with them, and country radio was disenchanted with them. But they said, you know what? We're who we are. We're saying what we want to say and we're not ready to make nice. And then they went off with great Grammys.

It was a big night for country overall, though.

CHIDEYA: Yeah. Well, let's turn to some of the African-American winners. You know, you had singers in groups ranging from R&B diva Mary J. Blige, to alterna-electronicist Gnarls Barkley. Mary has been in the game for a long time. How did she do this Grammys?

Ms. SMITH: You know, I thought she should have won more. I mean, I hate to sound ticky-tack, I think it was amazing that she was nominated for the eight or nine that she was nominated for. But when it comes down to it, the three Grammys that she did win were sort of the black categories. The Best R&B Performance, the Best R&B Song, the Best Performance of a blah, blah, blah, R&B. And it's great and I'm so excited for her. And we have her actually on our cover right now. We're still behind her at Vibe. But I just feel like - I don't know, I thought she was going to go home with a lot more Grammys than she did.

(Soundbite of song, "Be Without You")

Ms. MARY J. BLIGE (Singer): (Singing) Call the radio if you just can't be without you baby. I got a question for you. See I already know the answer. But still I want to ask you, would you lie? No.

CHIDEYA: So still I want to ask you, Danyel, you're saying that she got robbed, basically. Why do you think?

Ms. SMITH: I mean, I don't know if she got robbed, because it was a toughie. I mean, Carrie Underwood was, you know, there's just a lot of great artists on this. You know, there's some complaints I've seen online this morning where the Grammys paid too much attention, say, to sort of old school music or something like that. And I just want you to see (unintelligible) believe in old school, new school. I believe in Mary J. Blige put out fabulous music this year. She's been in the game for 15 years now. She was actually in the very first issue of Vibe back in 1992 as a, you know, as an artist on the verge.

And she has such a relationship with her listeners, and it's only grown and expanded over the years. I just thought it was her turn. Which says to me that that's okay, because we've got great music to look forward to from Mary in the future.

CHIDEYA: All right. More great music.

(Soundbite of song "Crazy")

Mr. GNARLS BARKLEY (Singer): (Singer) Who do you, who do you, who do you think you are? Ha, ha, ha, bless your soul. You really think you're in control? Well, I think you're crazy.

CHIDEYA: All right. That was "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley. That's were I was on New Year's eve, in an auditorium in Los Angeles shaking my rear end. They put on an amazing show. How did they fare?

Ms. SMITH: You know, to be honest with you, Farai, I don't know and I don't care.

CHIDEYA: Hater!

Ms. SMITH: I really don't.

CHIDEYA: You don't like Gnarl?

Ms. SMITH: It's horrible. But this - let me tell you something. I don't know and I don't care. Let me tell you how shady I am about this? I just feel like Gnarls Barkley is a novelty act, I don't believe, and I just don't - you know, what I mean? We cover them at Vibe because we're supposed to. But honestly, I'm not feeling it. I was rooting for Corinne Bailey Rae all the way.

CHIDEYA: Yeah, okay. So now something else. Rapper and actor Ludacris gave a special shout out to Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly. What was that all about?

Ms. SMITH: Oh, you know, what I say about Ludacris? I adore Ludacris. I'm so happy he won. It was a big night for Southern rap. But I don't know. I feel like Ludacris is such a nice guy. He's such a good guy. You know, he's on TV now. He's performing in the "Law and Order" franchise. And his - the albums that are mostly - I mean, they're a bit sexy, but most of them are extremely positive.

And I just felt like, okay, Luda, you want to be a little bit of a rebel on Grammy night because you feel like it's so establishment to get a Grammy finally at the stage in your career? You know what? Go on ahead if you want to try to find a little controversy, but it's not going to stick.

CHIDEYA: Yeah. Oprah's teflon, so I mean…

Ms. SMITH: Yeah. It's not going to stick to Oprah. It's not going to stick to Bill. And I'm just happy though on a lot of levels to see Ludacris get the credit that he deserves for being such an outstanding emcee.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, Danielle, we'll leave it there. I forgive you for not liking Gnarl.

Ms. SMITH: Yeah. They are not concerned about me.

CHIDEYA: Thanks, Danielle.

Ms. SMITH: Thank you, Farai. It's been lovely as always.

CHIDEYA: Absolutely. Danielle Smith is the editor in chief of Vibe Magazine.

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