It was just another night at the Grammy Awards in New York's Radio City Music Hall Wednesday night.
But though the faces were familiar, there were a few surprises that kept the 40th awards show interesting.Barbra Streisand ducked out because of the flu, foiling the plan for her and Celine Dion to sing the mushy duet "Tell Him." To make up for Streisand's absence, Dion went on solo and performed the only pop song of the evening that wasn't nominated for anything - "My Heart Will Go On," from the film "Titanic."
Speaking of fill-ins, Aretha Franklin demonstrated her versatility - though she could only go so far. Still, it went someplace between the surreal and wonderful.
Although the "Queen of Soul" made a glaring error during the chorus of her trademark hit "Respect" (dropping the "R-E-S" and singing only "P-E-C-T"), she astonished everyone by singing the aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" to fill in for an ailing Luciano Pavarotti.
While her voice is more geared for soul, Franklin gave the selection some of her trademark sassy personality, and yes, the audience gave her a predictable standing ovation.
And the surprises didn't end there.
After "Sunny Came Home" by Shawn Colvin was named Song of the Year, rap artist ODB - from the Wu-Tang Clan group - rushed the stage, grabbed the microphone from presenter Erykah Badu and proceeded to tell the audience how much better Wu-Tang was than Puff Daddy.
"Now I'm really confused," Colvin tactfully said when she was finally able to make her acceptance speech.
Later, some unknown guy with "Soy Bomb" written on his naked chest defied security, hopped on stage and twisted like a carnival contortionist while Bob Dylan sang "Love Sick."
Most surprising was the ridiculous amount of time it took for security to finally escort the stage-hopper to the sidelines (almost a full minute).
An accident at the beginning of the show gave the audience a feeling of uneasiness. Vanessa Williams was clipped in the legs, nearly causing her to fall, by a rising piece of scenery while she and Chris Rock walked on stage to present the Rap Solo award.
Another shocker came when Michael Greene, president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, failed to give his annual soapbox speech about the first amendment and music. (Although this was not an unpleasant shock.)
Aside from these "highlights," the only major award surprise was the fact that Jamiroquai nabbed the Pop Performance By a Duo or Group award, winning over the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, No Doubt and Hanson.
Kelsey Grammer served as the event's emcee and did his best to keep the audience entertained. But the only real blood-pumping reaction he got came after he quipped that no one would have to see schlock-rocker Marilyn Manson's naked and bony rear end during any part of the show.
As for the awards, the NARAS chose the safe and predictable road. As they did two years ago, the women once again made their mark.
Not only did Colvin win Song of the Year award but also Record of the Year. Sarah McLachlan took home the Female Pop Vocal Performance award for "Building a Mystery." Paula Cole took home the New Artist award. Janet (Jackson) won Music Video (Short Form) for "Got 'Till It's Gone" while Alanis Morissette won Music Video (Long Form), for "Jagged Little Pill, Live."
To be fair, the men got their share of attention.
Bob Dylan received the Album of the Year award for "Time Out of Mind." His son, Jakob (leader of the Wallflowers), also won the Rock Song trophy for "One Headlight," and James Taylor, who was absent because he was touring, was honored with the Pop Album award for "Hourglass."
Music veterans winning for the first time included John Fogerty (Rock Album for "Blue Moon Swamp") and the late John Denver for Musical Album for Children ("All Aboard").