Grammys Embrace Veterans Instead Of Youth


Monday, February 12th 2007, 6:15 am
By: News On 6


LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Clearly, the Grammys aren't concerned about bringing sexy back.

The Recording Academy embraced more serious fare by veteran artists on Sunday, showering the Dixie Chicks with five awards, including the rare trifecta of record, album, and song of the year. Mary J. Blige won three for her comeback record, ``The Breakthrough,'' the biggest mainstream success in her 15-year career. And four trophies went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for their hit album ``Stadium Arcadium.''

Meanwhile, Justin Timberlake _ a major focus of the show with two performances and four nominations, including for album of the year _ took home two trophies in little-noticed side categories. British singer-songwriters Corinne Bailey Rae and James Blunt, both newcomers nominated for multiple awards, were shut out. And two of the year's biggest hits, ``Hips Don't Lie'' and ``Promiscuous,'' didn't get any awards _ both lost out to a remake of Stevie Wonder's decades-old ``For Once In My Life,'' performed by Wonder and 80-year-old Tony Bennett.

There were many such ``Granny'' moments at the 49th annual awards show. Despite flashes of youth in performances by Timberlake, John Mayer and Chris Brown, the show had a definite VH1 Classics appeal, from the kickoff by the reunited Police _ who were not nominated for any awards and had no purpose except to draw audiences _ to the tributes that lovingly recalled the fading music industry's golden years.

Perhaps the only moment that seemed to have any cutting-edge element was the ``My Grammy Moment,'' in which three young women vied for a spot to sing with Timberlake. The winner, 19-year-old Robyn Troup, was determined by text messages and Internet votes. The contest was an obvious nod to ``American Idol,'' the TV talent competition which crushed the Grammys when it went head-to-head on a Wednesday night last year, prompting the Grammys to flee back to Sunday.

The Dixie Chicks won all five awards they were nominated for, including album of the year for ``Taking the Long Way,'' and record and song of the year for ``Not Ready to Make Nice,'' their defiant anthem penned songwriter Dan Wilson. It was sweet vindication after the superstars' lives were threatened and their record sales plummeted when feisty lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush on the eve of the Iraq war in 2003. Almost overnight, one of the most successful groups of any genre was boycotted by Nashville and disappeared from country radio.

With ``Taking the Long Way,'' the women relied on renowned producer Rick Rubin's guidance for an album that was more rock and less country. (Rubin, who also produced ``Stadium Arcadium,'' was honored as producer of the year.)

The standing ovations the Chicks received Sunday illustrated how much the political climate has changed regarding the Iraq war, and even Bush.

``That's interesting,'' Maines crowed from the podium after the country award was handed out earlier in the night. ``Well, to quote the great 'Simpsons' _ 'Heh-Heh.'

``Just kidding,'' added Maines. ``A lot of people just turned their TVs off right now. I'm very sorry for that.''

Bandmate Emily Robison noted, ``We wouldn't have done this album without everything we went through, so we have no regrets.''

All the trophies collected by the Dixie Chicks, Blige and the Chili Peppers contributed to the evening's old-school feel. Though the show featured a medley with bright new stars such as double-winner Mayer, John Legend and Rae, it relied heavily on the classics: Nominee Lionel Richie sang his '80s hit ``Hello'' and Smokey Robinson sang his Motown classic ``The Tracks of My Tears'' in a tribute to R&B. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Police, who split in 1984, reunited to kick off the show with their rendition of ``Roxanne.''

Even some of the more contemporary artists were relegated to singing songs that weren't their own. Christina Aguilera, a winner for female pop vocal performance, sang the late James Brown's ``It's A Man's Man's Man's World'' instead of her own nominated songs, while Carrie Underwood, the newcomer with one of last year's most successful albums, crooned The Eagles' ``Desperado'' and ``San Antonio Rose'' instead of her signature tune ``Jesus, Take the Wheel,'' which was nominated for song of the year.

But new artists were celebrated, a bit. The teenage Brown injected some hot-footed funk with his ``Run It,'' while Underwood was celebrated as the best new artist. And double winners included youngsters Underwood, Mayer, T.I. and Ludacris.

Blige was the overall nominations leader with eight. She won best R&B album for ``The Breakthrough,'' her double-platinum triumph, plus best female R&B performance and R&B song for ``Be Without You.''

A tearful Blige said her album ``has not only shown that I am a musician and an artist and a writer, it also shows I am growing into a better human being.''

``Tonight we celebrate the better human being because for so many years, I've been talked about negatively,'' said Blige, who during her 15-year career has often discussed her past substance and self-esteem problems. ``But this time I've been talked about positively by so many people.''