RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Last night's Grammy Awards offered some upsets, with a couple of very big names coming away with very little in the way of honors. NPR's Mandalit del Barco was backstage at the awards here in Los Angeles, and has this report.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO: Late-night TV host David Letterman appeared behind his desk in a video to read his top-10 list of Grammy surprises.
(Soundbite of TV show, "53rd Grammy Awards")
(Soundbite of applause)
Mr. DAVID LETTERMAN ("Late Night with David Letterman"): Number seven: Jay-Z revealed "Empire State of Mind" was really about Trenton. Trenton.
(Soundbite of laughter)
That's right. Number six: the new category: best male or female traditional, R&B, urban, alternative, non-classical, Latin pop performance by a duo or group with vocals.
DEL BARCO: Letterman was poking fun at Grammy's 109 hyper-specific categories. Only 10 were given out last night during a three-and-a-half hour telecast that was long on extravagant production numbers, and short on drama - with a few exceptions. Surprise number one came in the best new artist category, which did not go to Canadian 'tween heartthrob Justin Bieber. Instead, it went to Esperanza Spalding.
Ms. ESPERANZA SPALDING (Singer): Wow. I take this honor to heart so sincerely, and I will do my damnedest to make a whole lot of great music for all of you. It's such a blessing and an honor. God bless. Thank you.
DEL BARCO: Spalding became the first jazz musician to win a best new artist Grammy.
(Soundbite of music)
Backstage, the singer, bassist and composer told reporters that all of those disappointed Justin Bieber fans will have plenty of time to celebrate his music in the future. She hopes now, they might spare a moment for hers.
Ms. SPALDING: Hopefully, people will realize that there's things happening in the jazz world they didn't know about. There's so much incredible music. So maybe if they want to put their sights in the jazz world and discover more people, that would be great.
DEL BARCO: Surprise number two: Eminem was all but shut out of the Grammys. He's been snubbed before but this time, he was a favorite, with 10 nominations. But he won only best solo rap performance, and best rap album.
EMINEM: Thank you to the fans. What up, Detroit? Stand up.
(Soundbite of applause and cheering)
DEL BARCO: Eminem was beat out for record of the year and song of the year by the far less-threatening Lady Antebellum. The country trio from Nashville won in those two top categories for "Need You Now."
(Soundbite of song, "Need You Now")
LADY ANTEBELLUM (Band): (Singing) It's a quarter after 1, I'm all alone, and I need you now.
DEL BARCO: Lady Antebellum appeared to be on a roll to take top prize, album of the year. Then surprise number three, announced by Barbra Streisand.
Ms. BARBRA STREISAND (Singer): And the Grammy goes to "The Suburbs," Arcade Fire.
(Soundbite of applause and cheering)
DEL BARCO: The Canadian rock band's 2010 release came out on a small, independent label, trumping artists who were all on the majors. When the members of Arcade Fire took the stage, they seemed as shocked as Streisand.
Unidentified Man #1: What the hell?
DEL BARCO: Singer Win Butler crawled on his knees to accept the prize. Arcade Fire closed the show with another performance, then marched backstage with Grammies in hand.
(Soundbite of humming)
Butler told reporters that at a time when music sales are dominated by downloads, winning album of the year is still important.
Unidentified Man #2: In the age of the iPod, no less.
Mr. WIN BUTLER (Singer, Arcade Fire): In the age of the iPod and the age of the single, or whatever it is. You know, we still really care about records. So it means a lot to us.
DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.
(Soundbite of song, "Ready to Start")
ARCADE FIRE (Band): (Singing) Now I'm ready to start. If I was scared, I would. And if I was pure, you know I would. And if I was yours, but I'm not.
MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.
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