LOS ANGELES — Grammy Awards voters gave their top honor to British roots music band Mumford & Sons for their album “Babel” on Sunday at the 55th awards ceremony.
“We figured we weren’t going to win because the Black Keys have been sweeping up all day — and deservedly so,” Mumford & Sons front man Marcus Mumford said after he and his band members strode to the stage at Staples Center in Los Angeles to collect the award from last year’s winner, R&B-soul singer Adele.
Pop culture historians may look back at 2013, however, as the year the Grammy Awards gave up its long fight against new forms of music dissemination, embracing songs and videos that consumers soaked up by way of YouTube and other Internet outlets as opposed to purchasing them.
“Somebody That I Used to Know,” the wildly popular collaboration between Gotye and New Zealand pop singer Kimbra, took the top award presented for a single recording upon being named record of the year, which recognizes performance and record production.
“Somebody…” not only was one of the biggest-selling singles of 2012 but also has notched nearly 400 million views on YouTube, powerfully demonstrating the increasingly vital role of the “broadcast yourself” video Internet phenomenon. Different YouTube posts of Ocean’s “Thinking About You” single have totaled nearly 60 million views.
New York indie rock trio Fun. was named best new artist, an acknowledgment of the good-time music the group brought to listeners and viewers last summer largely through its runaway hit single “We Are Young,” which has racked up nearly 200 million YouTube views. It also was named song of the year, bringing awards for the group’s songwriters, Jack Antonoff, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess, and collaborator Jeff Bhasker.
“Everyone can see our faces, and we are not very young — we’ve been doing this for 12 years,” Ruess said as they collected the award.
The song’s title could also serve as a theme for the evening, which was dominated by other relatively young acts in the most prestigious Grammy categories.
Singer, rapper and songwriter Ocean emerged the victor in the one category that pitted him directly against real-life rival Chris Brown, as his critically acclaimed solo debut album, “Channel Orange,” won the urban contemporary album award.
A few minutes later Ocean got a second Grammy with Kanye West, Jay-Z and the Dream in the rap-sung collaboration category for their single “No Church in the Wild.”
Ocean’s tuxedo covered all but his hands, but it appeared as he picked up the urban album award that his left arm remained in a wrist brace he’d exhibited Thursday at rehearsals for this year’s broadcast, a remnant of his scuffle last month with Brown over a parking space at a recording studio.
Los Angeles Police Department investigators said Ocean informed them that he would not press charges against Brown.
It was the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach who quickly built up steam as the front-runner to dominate this year’s awards, taking several statuettes barely an hour into the show, including producer of the year for himself and three with his group including rock performance, rock song and rock album for “El Camino.”
The Black Keys homed in on the fundamentals of rock ‘n’ roll — big guitar riffs, lustful lyrics and a bevy of musical hooks on “El Camino,” one of the best reviewed albums of the group’s career.
Auerbach picked up another award as producer of the blues album winner, Dr. John’s “Locked Down.”
Carrie Underwood grabbed the country solo performance Grammy for the title track from her album “Blown Away,” which also won the country song award for writers Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins earlier during the pre-telecast ceremony at Nokia Theatre, across the street from Staples Center.
The Zac Brown Band added to its growing place as a new-generation country powerhouse with a win of the country album trophy for its “Uncaged,” built on muscular Southern rock guitar riffs, elaborate multipart vocal harmonies and jam-band instrumental excursions.
Last year’s big winner, Adele, collected the first statuette of the night for her single “Set Fire to the Rain” in the pop solo performance category.
The show got off to an eye-popping start with a Cirque du Soleil-inspired performance by Taylor Swift of her nominated single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
The preponderance of youthful acts not broadly known to mainstream TV audiences heightened the use of cross-generational pairings.
Rising songwriter and singer Ed Sheeran shared the stage early with veteran Grammy darling Elton John, while Bruno Mars teamed with Sting and Rihanna in a Bob Marley tribute later in the show.
Several members of Americana acts, including Alabama Shakes and Mumford & Sons, sang alongside veterans John, Mavis Staples and T Bone Burnett in a salute to drummer Levon Helm of the Band.
But it was the young guns to whom the evening — and perhaps the future — of the Grammy Awards belonged.
The Grammys are determined by about 13,000 voting members of the Recording Academy. The eligibility period for nominated recordings was Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012.
The show aired on CBS live except on the West Coast, which gets a tape delay.
-Los Angeles Times