Color us shocked. We thought that after Janet Jackson's Super Bowl striptease got her barred from the Grammys, her fellow shock and rollers would pull out all the stops to keep CBS' censors on their toes. But last night's live broadcast of the 46th annual award ceremony was — gasp! — pretty darn classy. (It was so tame, in fact, that we didn't feel right calling it damn classy.) Read on, and see for yourself. There were:
Tasteful musical numbers. In recognition of the 20th anniversary of Purple Rain, Prince — who, we are pleased to report, kept his tush covered — performed three hits from his 1984 movie soundtrack with Beyonce, who, clearly forewarned about the skirt-blowing power of the wind machine, wore panties. Two hours later, the Destiny's Child vamp returned to bring down the house with a tour-de-force performance of "Dangerously in Love," complete with a cameo by a hungry dove that, we suppose, had escaped from the Paisley Park ranger's entourage. To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles' Ed Sullivan appearance, a prefab four comprising Sting, Pharrell Williams, Dave Mathews and Vince Gill did a reverential, if not exactly rousing, rendition of the Liverpool lads' "I Saw Her Standing There." In celebration of something or other (it's always something), busy Sting, clad in knee-high boots and a flasher trenchcoat, allowed Sean Paul to rap his way through the Police's hooker anthem, "Roxanne." For 11 long minutes, Earth, Wind & Fire, OutKast, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and George Clinton got funkadelic, and, though we can't say with any certainty whether the lyrics were rated PG or NC-17, we can say we were impressed: First of all, we sat through all 11 minutes despite the fact that we enjoy funk about as much as the root canal it occasionally sounded like; second, for the duration of the megamix, not a single crotch was grabbed. Finally, to close out the overlong program, OutKast took to the stage again for a spirited shoutout of "Hey Ya" with the USC Marching Band decked out like outer-space Native-Americans. (The dancers even emerged from a futuristic teepee.)
Whole outfits. Just when we thought there was nothing left that Christina Aguilera could do to surprise us, she belted out "Beautiful" — beautifully, we might add — not only fully dressed, but dressed in a pinstripe suit that could have been handed down by Avril Lavigne. (Later, the real Xtina resurfaced: The "Dirrty" girl changed into a gown so revealing that even she admitted she was having trouble not pulling a Janet.) Later, Sarah Jessica Parker turned up in a loaner from Barbara Bush; Hilary Duff ran in, apparently straight from preschool, still in her pinafore; and Madonna shone in a frock that was both modest and mod. (See, Christina? It can be done.) Our favorite ensemble, however, was worn by Evanescence's Amy Lee; it was part Matrix, part Morticia Addams, all cool. (Of the sexpots determined to vie for "breast in show," CSI's Marg Helgenberger, Paulina Rubio and Justin Timberlake's mother really, y'know, stood out. Mama T, did you learn nothing from halftime?!)
Wholesome speeches. You know change is in the wind when Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne start behaving like Ozzie and Harriet. After the missus said that they were happy to be in attendance, accident-prone Ozzy, still accessorizing with his neck brace, mumbled, "I'm just happy to be anywhere." Claiming a statuette on behalf of his fallen father, handsome Jordan Zevon said that he hoped pop Warren would be remembered as "an incredible father" as well as an inspired musician. In accepting the Beatles' president's award on behalf of John Lennon, an emotional Yoko Ono suggested that, were her late husband present, he "would have wanted to say again: Come together, give peace a chance, and love is all you need." ("So sweet," we lip-read Madonna declaring from her seat, and, as far-out as most of Ono's chatter was, we were inclined to agree.) Evanescence front woman Amy Lee took it in stride when also-ran 50 Cent couldn't relinquish the spotlight long enough for her to accept what we imagine he felt should have been his trophy — she even thanked him! Coldplay's Chris Martin dedicated his group's Grammy to a pair of Johns — Johnny Cash and "John Kerry, who hopefully will be you guys' president one day." Finally, Justin Timberlake used his moment at the dais to say that he was grateful to be receiving a Grammy instead of a... um, booby prize. Calling his game-day disrobing of Wacko Jacko's kid sis "completely regrettable," the 'N Sync alum said simply, "I apologize if you guys were offended."
One spectacular screw-up. During a tribute to the ailing Luther Vandross, "Celine 'Talented' Dion," as Patti LaBelle dubbed her, endured a false start of her number, the soul man's sentimental "Dance with My Father," then began warbling in earnest — with no sound! While viewers heard techies going understandably apoplectic, a stagehand brought out another mike for the songstress, who, accompanied by Richard Marx on piano, gamely started over, wowing her peers by making it through despite continuing sound problems and feedback monitors that proved beyond useless. We're no Celine fans, but, in this instance, even we have to give the diva her due.
For a complete winners list, click here.