Comeback Kids

Sorry, teen sensations. Music veterans such as Santana, Cher and Sting triumphed over bubblegum pop at this year's Grammys.

February 24, 2000

It was "generation gap" night at the Grammys last night, and guess what? The older generation won.

Carlos Santana, a Latin rock pioneer whose career stretches back over three decades, won eight awards, including Record and Album of the Year. Only Michael Jackson, with "Thriller" in 1983, ever won so many in a single night. "Smooth," which was written by Rob Thomas and Itaal Shur and recorded by Santana, won for Song of the Year.

"Long live John Coltrane," said the guitarist, accepting his Album of the Year award.

But Santana wasn't the only oldie who was suddenly a goldie.

Barry White won two Grammys, including Best Male R&B Vocal and Best Traditional R&B Vocal. Black Sabbath, the group that more or less invented heavy metal, won the Best Metal Grammy. George Jones, Emmylou Harris and Asleep at the Wheel won various Country Grammys.

So much for the teen pop boom.

No matter how many CDs Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and other adolescent idols might have sold, it counted for next to nothing on Grammy night. Indeed, the only "youth" act to win big was Christina Aguilera. "Oh, my god, you guys!" she gushed while accepting her Best New Artist Grammy. "Oh, my god! You guys! Oh, my god!"

We got the point.

That's not to say that all the big winners were baby boomers. TLC's three 20-something members picked up three Grammys, including best R&B Song and Best R&B Album, and performed a medley of hits suggesting that rumors of the group's demise are very much premature.

Rapper Eminem, whose scabrous, violent raps sparked complaints from women's groups and music industry conservatives, dominated the rap categories, taking the awards for both Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Album.

The Dixie Chicks were also double winners, picking up Grammys for Country Duo/Group and Best Country Album.

On the whole, though, older artists did incredibly well.

Sting, whose "Brand New Day" was a disappointment on the album charts, was a big winner at the Grammys, earning the platinum-tressed singer his 13th and 14th awards (for Best Male Pop Vocal and Best Pop Album).

Faces new and familiar

Jazz singer Diana Krall, who was almost unknown to pop fans before the Grammy nominations were announced, won two awards, for Best Jazz Vocal Performance and Best Engineered Album. And Cher, who was teased about her age by host Rosie O'Donnell -- "I don't want to say she's old, but she's calling everybody `Sonny' " -- won the award for Pop Dance Recording, the first Grammy of her career.

On the local front, violinist Hilary Hahn and conductor David Zinman, who recorded the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, lost out to pianist Martha Argerich and conductor Charles Dutoit for their performance of the Prokofiev piano concertos Nos. 1 & 2 in the Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra category.

Host Rosie O'Donnell generally weighed in on the conservative side of things, making jokes that were clearly geared for less-than-hip viewers.

She teased rocker Melissa Etheridge about having children through sperm donated by rocker David Crosby, joking: "David Crosby is my father. You notice the resemblance? Big tummy, double chin ..."

She also mocked one of the most persistent cliches in the artists' acceptance speeches. "I bumped into God backstage," she told the audience. "He said, `You're welcome.' "

As usual, the Grammy broadcast was big on performances, with artists pulling out all stops to make an impression. Will Smith opened the show with a cast-of-thousands medley of his recent raps, including a cameo by Baltimore native Sisqo in "Wild Wild West."

Whitney Houston, who looked more than slightly out-of-it, offered an equally well-populated run through several of her hits, and actually seemed to remember the words to most of them. Sting brought out Algerian rai star Cheb Mami -- who had most of America wondering "Who's that guy?" -- to help him through his onstage segment.

There was also a lengthy, self-congratulatory tribute to Latin music. Suggesting that it was Ricky Martin's appearance on last year's show that sparked the whole Latin craze, the set offered more glitz than music. Even so, there was plenty to enjoy on the sonic level, from Marc Anthony's fevered performance of "I Need to Know" to Buena Vista Social Club member Ibraham Ferrer's suave crooning.

Oddly, instead of picking up where he left off last year, Ricky Martin's special effects-laden performance suggested that he's hoping to join Cirque du Soleil.

Kid Rock rocks

It was Kid Rock who truly set off fireworks onstage. Starting off at the piano, he at first looked uncannily like Axl Rose with Guns 'N Roses.

But once his band, Twisted Brown Trucker, joined in, he was the bad-boy rock/rapper his fans have come to know and love, and his mildly ribald run through the Grand Funk oldie "We're An American Band" gave the Grammy show a much-needed kick in the pants.

Visually, the show looked very much like an arena show -- no surprise, given that it was staged at Los Angeles' newest arena, the Staples Center.

Some acts made the most of the staging, as when the Backstreet Boys joined Elton John for a larger-than-life rendition of "Philadelphia Freedom."

Other acts, though, seemed all-too-wedded to television. When the Dixie Chicks did "Goodbye Earl," their stage show was virtually upstaged by the video monitors, which offered excerpts from the song's music video.

It was great, except that by the final chorus you wound up wishing they'd cut away from those girls onstage and give us more of the video.

Then there was Jennifer Lopez, who appeared with actor David Duchovny to present the Best R&B Album Grammy. She may have said something while onstage, but it's unlikely anyone in the home audience noticed, distracted as we were by the mystery of how she kept her minuscule frock from falling off.

"And the winner for the Best Presenter's Outfit is ..."

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