LOS ANGELES — Newcomers, establishment stars and even a pair of French “robots” shared the spotlight at the 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony Sunday night, reflecting a changed music business in which top celebrities command constant attention yet a monster hit can come from anywhere.
Daft Punk, a French duo who hide their faces under robot-like helmets and have become elder statesmen of electronic dance music, won four prizes including album of the year for “Random Access Memories” and record of the year for “Get Lucky,” their ubiquitous hit with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, a hip-hop duo from Seattle who quickly went from the indie fringe to the top of the charts, were the biggest winners of the night with four awards, including best new artist and most of the Grammys’ rap categories, beating giants like Jay Z and Kanye West.
And Lorde, a 17-year-old New Zealander who in less than a year went from uploading songs to the Internet in obscurity to a nine-week run at No. 1, won song of the year and best pop solo performance for “Royals,” a stark and sensuous sendup of the fantasies of conspicuous consumption in pop. (Record of the year recognizes a recording of a song; song of the year is for songwriting.)
“Thank you everyone who has let this song explode,” Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, said when accepting the prize for song of the year. “Because it’s been mental.”
Yet the incumbent stars of the music world were also very much part of the show. It opened with Beyoncé and Jay Z performing a steamy version of “Drunk in Love” from Beyoncé’s new album. That album, “Beyoncé,” caused a sensation in the music business when it was released by surprise last month, instantly becoming a major news story around the world.
And in keeping with the Grammys’ focus on flashy live spectacle, the show included 21 performances, often in special or unusual combinations. Metallica played its classic “One” with piano virtuoso Lang Lang; Pink sang while performing acrobatics suspended above the stage; and Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton smirked their way through “Okie From Muskogee” and “Highwayman.”
In what Grammy organizers hoped would be a heartwarming showstopper, 33 gay and straight couples were officially married — by Queen Latifah, deputized by Los Angeles County — during a performance of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ marriage-equality anthem “Same Love,” which also featured Madonna.
The wedding segment led to some criticism from conservatives. On Sunday afternoon, after news of the weddings was reported by The New York Times, Bryan Fischer, the director of issue analysis of the conservative American Family Association, said on Twitter that the Grammys were featuring “sodomy-based wedding ceremonies.”
Among the other big winners of the night, Bruno Mars, whose rising pop profile will bring him to the Super Bowl halftime show next Sunday, took best pop vocal album for “Unorthodox Jukebox.”
Jay Z won his 19th Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration for “Holy Grail,” featuring Justin Timberlake. Accepting it, he said he wanted to thank God “a little bit for this award,” and, holding up the trophy, sent a message to his 2-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy: “Look, Daddy got a gold sippy cup for you!”
Vampire Weekend won best alternative music album for “Modern Vampires of the City,” and Imagine Dragons, a young alternative band that had one of the biggest hits of the year with “Radioactive,” won best rock performance for that song.
But in keeping with the Grammys’ reverence for older rock acts, most of the awards in that field went to graying heroes from decades ago. Led Zeppelin won its first Grammy ever for “Celebration Day,” a concert recording from its reunion in 2007, and Black Sabbath took best metal performance for the song “God Is Dead?” Best rock song went to “Cut Me Some Slack,” a jam between Paul McCartney and the surviving members of Nirvana.
Accepting the award, McCartney, described the origins of the song in a phone call from Dave Grohl.
“He said to me, ‘Come to me, come along and we’ll do a jam on “Long Tall Sally,”’” McCartney said. “I said: ‘No, we’ve been there, we’ve done that. We should just make something up.’ And this was it.”
The show was also drenched in Beatlemania as part of the music industry’s celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Ringo Starr, introduced by a blabbering Black Sabbath, sang his song “Photograph,” and later joined McCartney during his performance of “Queenie Eye.” Projects by McCartney won three more awards: best boxed set (“Wings Over America”), best surround sound album and best music film (both for “Live Kisses”).
As the music industry has struggled over the last decade, the importance of the Grammy ceremony has only grown, offering invaluable media promotion and an avenue for minting a new pantheon of young pop stars.
The performances also featured Imagine Dragons with rapper Kendrick Lamar for a hard-charging and surprisingly cohesive set that had stars in the audience like Steven Tyler singing along, and Taylor Swift dancing with awkward abandon.
Lamar, a rap protégé of Dr. Dre, was nominated for seven awards but shut out of them all. The night’s other big losers included Swift, who had been up for four awards, and Drake, who had been nominated for five.
Timberlake won three prizes, including best R&B song for “Pusher Love Girl” and two in conjunction with Jay Z. But while Timberlake’s comeback album, “The 20/20 Experience,” was last year’s biggest-selling album, he was shut out of the top categories.
Williams, who was a prominent guest on Daft Punk’s album — and acted as spokesman for the band in accepting most of its awards, calling them “the robots” — won producer of the year, nonclassical, for his work on records by Jay Z, Robin Thicke, Jennifer Hudson and Mayer Hawthorne.
All but 10 of the 82 awards of the night were given out in a nontelevised ceremony on Sunday afternoon, which was more glamorous than it has been in the past, but as ever was plagued with no-shows by many winners.Comment on this story
Still, records were broken and significant achievements were also made in the early segment. Terri Lyne Carrington became the first woman to win the best jazz instrumental album category for “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue,” based on a classic 1963 album by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach.
And in a twist, three classical categories were won by Maria Schneider, a composer renowned for her work in jazz. Her album “Winter Morning Walks” took best contemporary classical composition, best classical vocal solo (for the soprano Dawn Upshaw) and best engineered album, classical. (It was also cited as one of the projects by David Frost, who won producer of the year, classical.)
Accepting the composition prize, Schneider spoke passionately about how technology has both hurt musicians and given them new tools. She complained about the continuing piracy problem but also pointing out that her album, which cost $200,000 to record, was paid for with the help of crowd funding.
“We need a sustainable business so we can continues as music creators,” Schneider said.