Amy Winehouse has every reason to be proud of her time fixating on “Rehab.” The 24-year-old Brit made a spectacle of herself—but not in a bad way—Sunday night, reminding fans why they care about her troubles in the first place by winning a leading five Grammy Awards, including Record and Song of the Year.
Winehouse, also won Best Pop Vocal Album for her platinum-selling sophomore effort Back to Black and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (again for “Rehab”) and was named Best New Artist.
Even with the kudos, Amy Winehouse lyrics and name had a question mark next to it for weeks. And on the day of, producers still weren’t sure whether she would appear in the flesh, albeit via satellite.
And just when it seemed as if time had run out on the 50th Annual Grammy Awards and the most hyped performance of the evening—not to mention the most anticipated acceptance speeches—had yet to occur, they hooked up the satellite link to London and let ‘er rip at about 7:41 p.m. ET.
Amy Winehouse, sporting her signature beehive and looking healthier than tabloid readers have seen in a long time, tore into “You Know I’m No Good.” Then, appearing to lose the nerves as she went on, she segued into her smash hit “Rehab,” once again making people wonder, upon looking at her fragile frame, where that devastatingly mature voice comes from. Now there’s a celebrity who needs to take growth hormones. Very frail and unhealthy looking.
The overseas connection was made just in time for Winehouse to look positively flabbergasted at hearing her name called for Record of the Year. She immediately disappeared into the hugs of her band and various supporters, and the intimate crowd assembled to hear her performance in London started chanting “Amy, Amy!”
“Thank you to everyone at Island Records, everyone at EMI Music Publishing…to my mum and dad, to my Blake incarcerated…and to London, this is for London!” the quirky songbird shouted.
While London was obviously swinging tonight, the Staples Center in Los Angeles—where Frank Sinatra sang with Alicia Keys, and Obama beat Clinton—was the place to be.
(Well, by beating Clinton, we mean the sonorous baritone of presidential hopeful Barack Obama reading The Audacity of Hope bested the more honeyed tones of former Commander in Chief Bill Clinton’s Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World for Best Spoken Word Album. But still, look what happens when the Recording Academy has a golden anniversary to celebrate.)
First off, it was jazz veteran Herbie Hancock who prevented Winehouse from making a clean sweep, snagging the Grammy for Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters, a collection of Joni Mitchell’s music featuring Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae and Tina Turner, among others.
“You know it’s been 43 years since the first and only time that a jazz artist got the Album of the Year award,” Hancock, 67, said in accepting his 11th Grammy. “But this is a new day, that proves that the impossible can be made possible.”
Kanye West, who had the most nominations (eight) heading into the evening, solidified his rock-rap hybrid credentials with stirring live renditions of “Stronger” and “Hey Mama,” which he dedicated to his late mother, Donda West. Then he went on to collect four Grammys, including Best Rap Album for his 50 Cent-skewering Graduation and Best Rap Solo Performance for “Stronger.”
“For Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse—come on, you gonna play music on me,” the 30-year-old West joshed onstage as they cranked the time’s-up music. “If I don’t get up here for Album of the Year, you deserve it just as much as me. But I deserve it, too.”
Speaking about his mother, who died in November, West said, “I appreciate all the support and all the prayers—it’d be in good taste to stop the music now—I appreciate everything. And I know you’re really proud of me right now, and I know you wouldn’t want me to stop, and you’d want me to be the number one artist in the world.
“And Mama, all I’m gonna do is keep making you proud. We won this,” he said, hoisting his trophy for Best Rap Album.
It was also a big night for Bruce Springsteen, be it during the untelevised portion of the show, when most of the awards were handed out. The still running Boss picked up three Grammys, including Best Rock Song and Rock Vocal Performance for “Radio Nowhere” off of Magic, his first collaboration with the E Street Band since 2002.
While Springsteen’s kudos came off camera, those who did accept honors during the allotted three hours might have guessed what was on his mind.
“This doesn’t get old. You know that, right?” Dave Grohl said in accepting the Foo Fighters’ Grammy for Best Rock Album for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, which the former Nirvana drummer said was inspired by his daughter, Violet.
The very real “Pretender” purveyors finished the night with bookends, winning for Best Hard Rock Performance as well.
Also doubling their pleasure were Justin Timberlake, a Best Male Pop Vocal winner for “What Goes Around Come Around,” and Chaka Khan, whose Funk This was named Best R&B Album. Khan shared her second Grammy, for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, with her “Disrespectful” partner, Mary J. Blige.
While the majority of the 110 trophies are handed out before airtime, the aim of the game is always to see how many musical luminaries can be crammed onto one stage over the course of three hours—and in that respect, the Grammys’ golden anniversary didn’t disappoint.
From Beyoncé singing Tina Turner’s praises and then joining the diva for “Proud Mary” (that little dance never gets old) to Tom Hanks noting the Band’s Lifetime Achievement Award and introducing the Cirque du Soleil-Across the Universe tribute to the Beatles to Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban’s tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, the upcoming Oscars will be hard-pressed to top the 2008 Grammys in terms of star power and cultural impact.
Since the writers’ strike will likely be over by Wednesday morning, at least it’s now okay to look ahead to the 80th Annual Academy Awards.
And by the time they were trotting out 72-year-old Jerry Lee Lewis to bang out “Great Balls of Fire” and the bizarrely well-preserved Little Richard, who’s three years older than the Killer, to wail “Good Golly, Miss Molly,” it was just about time to cue up a movie, anyway.