Usually we complain when the Grammy Awards act too grown up.
But Sunday night, pop music’s top honors managed to pull off a classy affair that stayed on the good side of the line between stylish and stuffy.
Norah Jones emerged as the night’s big winner, a young artist making a name with vintage music. The 23-year-old crooner, daughter of Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar, walked home with five awards for work from her finely cultivated trad-pop album “Come Away With Me.” Jones’ trophies included album of the year, best new artist, record of the year and pop album.
All told, her album was responsible for eight wins, including song of the year for composer Jesse Harris, who wrote her hit “Don’t Know Why.” Jones, whose following was built last year through steady word of mouth, is certain to see her record sales skyrocket following her Sunday night triumph.
“I never thought the music I made would be considered ‘popular music,'” a flush-faced Jones said while accepting the pop album award.
Bruce Springsteen helped provide the kind of poetic symmetry the history books love. With New York hosting the Grammys for the first time in five years, the New Jersey rocker grabbed three awards, thanks to “The Rising,” a record memorializing Sept. 11.
Country trio the Dixie Chicks, who have helped put classic country sounds back on the radio, earned three of the gramophone statuettes, including best country album.
The national broadcast opened with another Big Apple touch: Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, together for the first time in 10 years, performed a sublime “Sounds of Silence,” occasionally wobbling out of sync but stirring up enough rich harmony to elicit an extended standing ovation.
Their duet aptly anticipated what would be a tasteful showing all around, packed with top-grade performances and gracious acceptance speeches from an eclectic parade of winners.
It was a sober show befitting a sober era. For one night, at least, the post-Sept. 11 seriousness foretold by culture-watchers seemed to kick in. If not quite hip to be square, the Grammys seemed to say it’s OK to be adult and not out of touch.
Even the bubblegum popsters in ‘N Sync managed to look good, delivering a gentlemanly tribute to the Bee Gees and the late Maurice Gibb.
Conspicuously missing was the barrage of anti-war pronouncements many expected. When Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst lofted a quick diatribe against action in Iraq, he garnered only scattered applause from the Madison Square Garden crowd.
Detroit dependably got its hand into the picture. It was a big night for the Funk Brothers, the Motown house band that spent decades buried in the back pages of pop’s annals. The group scored a pair of wins – best soundtrack and traditional R&B performance – for its work on the documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.”
Reached by cell phone in the Grammy audience, drummer Uriel Jones said he and his five surviving bandmates were thrilled – decked out in tuxedos and primed to party.
“We’re in heaven here,” Jones said with a laugh. “It’s a big feather in the cap. Something to behold. We’re getting ready to crank it up.”
Eminem earned a pair of wins, for rap album (“The Eminem Show”) and music video (“Without Me”). The Detroit rapper has now won the rap album trophy each of the three times he’s been nominated. But Eminem, last year’s biggest seller, once again failed to snag the big ones, including album and record of the year.
If nothing else, the Grammys symbolized this age of pop parity. The night had launched without a clear theme; eight artists went in with five nominations each, and the biggest categories were evenly distributed among rock, hip-hop and country acts.
On the performance side, it turned out to be one of the most memorable Grammy shows in memory, with top-shelf sets from Jones, the Dixie Chicks and Eminem, who delivered a striking reading of “Lose Yourself” with live support from the Roots.