Unexpected duets breathe life into Grammys

The 48th annual Grammy Awards aired last week, and the show was packed with performances, tributes and a few surprises.

Though the “Biggest Night in Music” sometimes seems rather predictable and rehearsed, compared to recent years’ shows, this one was a slight breath of fresh air. Many huge names lit up the stage and provided not only memorable solo performances, but also surprising duets.

The show opened with a digital duet between cartoon alternative rockers Gorillaz and rap trio De La Soul. They performed Gorillaz’s single “Feel Good Inc.,” which won the award for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.

Madonna joined the animated performance dressed in a leotard and sang her No. 1 dance hit “Hung Up.” Kanye West, who won the award for Best Rap Solo Performance for “Gold Digger,” also put on a great show.

The lyrical mastermind was joined on stage by Jamie Foxx, two marching bands and a troupe of step dancers to perform the award-winning song.

Alicia Keys, not a stranger to the Grammys, joined legend Stevie Wonder for an a cappella arrangement of Wonder’s classic “Higher Ground” before handing out the award for Best Pop Vocal Performance.

The award went to Kelly Clarkson for last year’s favorite sassy break-up song “Since U Been Gone.” Clarkson gave an endearing and teary-eyed acceptance speech and later awed the entire audience while singing her most recent hit, “Because Of You.”

Clarkson also beat out Gwen Stefani and Fiona Apple for Best Pop Vocal Album with her vocals on the 2005 hit “Breakaway.”

In a less stellar performance, Mariah Carey roughly belted her way through this year’s broken-heart ballad “We Belong Together.”

Carey probably wasn’t too upset about her scratchy performance though, considering that she was awarded three trophies that night, including Best Contemporary R&B Album for this year’s top-selling “Emancipation of Mimi.”

One of the shining stars of the night was R&B soul singer John Legend, who not only performed an emotionally inspiring rendition of his piano-driven “Ordinary People,” but also grabbed two awards. He defeated fellow nominees Ciara, Keane, Sugarland and Fall Out Boy for the coveted honor of Best New Artist.

There was also a bonding of the young and the old as a slew of legendary acts hit the stage with some of today’s hottest artists. Christina Aguilera accompanied jazz pianist icon Herbie Hancock to perform the nominated duet “A Song For You.”

Paul McCartney performed twice during the show – once doing a rather long set of two of his personal pieces and then joining Jay-Z and Linkin Park in an interesting and slightly uncomfortable version of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”

Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and a very pregnant Stefani presented U2 with the award for Best Rock Album for “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.” U2 later won Song of the Year and Album of the Year as well.

Green Day was honored with the biggest award of the night, Record of the Year, for “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

The show honored several artists with the Lifetime Achievement Award, including David Bowie, Cream and comedian Richard Pryor. However, the biggest tribute of the night was given to rock ‘n’ roll pioneers Sly and the Family Stone.

A plethora of artists, including Legend, Ciara, Maroon 5, Steven Tyler, Joss Stone and American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino, came out on stage to do a medley of the group’s biggest hits.

Toward the end, Sly Stone himself came out and joined the mass of artists to complete one of the night’s most memorable moments.