While many past GRAMMY telecasts have turned into colorful coronations of artists who enjoyed larger-than-life years (Michael Jackson's eight GRAMMYs in 1983, Santana's eight in 1999, Beyoncé's six in 2009, and Adele's six in 2011), the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards spread the wealth among a crop of younger artists who set the stage for the century's second decade in music.
Rap stalwarts Jay-Z and Kanye West won three GRAMMYs each, all for their collaborations on Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song winner "N****s In Paris" and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration winner "No Church In The Wild" (featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream).
Then came more relative newcomers: Skrillex added three GRAMMYs to his three from last year; Gotye rode "Somebody That I Used To Know" (featuring Kimbra), which became the most idiosyncratic radio hit of 2012, to three awards, including Record Of The Year; Fun. won their first two GRAMMYs for Song Of The Year for "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monáe) and Best New Artist; and Mumford & Sons, one of the trailblazers for the new wave of acoustic roots artists, won Album Of The Year for Babel.
Some of the winning artists were so new, they took other winners by surprise.
"Miguel, I don't know who the hell you are, but we need to sing together," shouted Kelly Clarkson while collecting her Best Pop Vocal Album GRAMMY for Stronger, referring to Miguel's brief slow jam of his Best R&B Song winner "Adorn" (on which he teamed with Wiz Khalifa). "That was the sexiest damn thing I've ever seen."
It was more than a fresh breeze that blew over the 55th GRAMMYs, it was arguably a wind of change.
Still, the telecast remained music's biggest melting pot, with performances that brought innumerous ingredients to the stew, starting with one that was a virtual stew all on its own. With nose-thumbing clowns, a wheelchair-bound Mephisto and scary puppeteers, Taylor Swift turned in the most threatening "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" ever.
British singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran teamed with the head of his management company, Elton John, for a strong reading of the former's Song Of The Year-nominated "The A Team," the tale of a homeless addict.
Fun. brought drama to "Carry On," their song of perseverance, in the form of both their anthemic ambition and a rainstorm of real water that drenched their set.
Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, met under a large blue tree for intimate duets of her "Over You" and his "Home."
Mumford & Sons gave a jolt to the crowd with their endlessly energetic "I Will Wait." The way they attacked their acoustic guitars would have made Pete Townshend proud.
Breaking a seven-year hiatus from live music performance, Justin Timberlake hit a sepia-toned stage for a suave medley of his new "Suit & Tie" (on which he was joined by Jay-Z) and "Pusher Love Girl" from his 2013 album, The 20/20 Experience.
Rihanna was joined by Mikky Ekko for "Stay," a song he co-wrote and on which he is a featured vocalist. With Rihanna in a simple black dress on a no-frills stage, the song's message of passion over logic bore through.
The Black Keys wasted no time revving up "Lonely Boy." The rocker, which owes a debt to rockabilly, swamp rock and electric blues, was punctuated by the New Orleans piano of Best Blues Album GRAMMY winner Dr. John and a pinch of Dixieland from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Clarkson returned for a vocal salute to two giant female artists, both of whom received Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2013. First up was "Tennessee Waltz" in honor of Patti Page, followed by "A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)," co-written by Carole King.
The tributes continued with a nod to Bob Marley, who was the subject of the Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media-nominated Marley. Two of the performers, like Marley, hail from tropical islands: Bruno Mars from Hawaii and Rihanna from Barbados. Also joining was Sting, whose music with the Police owed a debt to reggae and ska. Mars began with his own "Locked Out Of Heaven" followed by the similar-sounding Police chestnut "Walking On The Moon." Rihanna emerged with Ziggy and Damian Marley for their father's "Could You Be Loved."
The Lumineers played a shortened version of their inescapable hit "Ho Hey" before introducing Jack White. The latter played "Love Interruption" with his all-female band the Peacocks. He then segued into the harder "Freedom At 21" with male backers the Buzzards. By the time he finished the tumult, he had thrown and stepped on his guitar, leaving a sonic residue of decaying feedback.
Hunter Hayes played a portion of his hit "Wanted" solo on piano before bringing out fellow country star Carrie Underwood for a stripped-down version of her Best Country Solo Performance winner "Blown Away." Underwood's awe-inspiring vocals were matched by her billowy dress, which doubled as a projection screen to depict the heartbreak of the song.
The 2013 In Memoriam segment was bookended by two memorable tributes. The first featured pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and sax player Kenny Garrett honoring the late Dave Brubeck with the timeless, and time-challenging, "Take Five" along with "Blue Rondo À La Turk."
Following the segment, an all-star cast including Zac Brown, T Bone Burnett, Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard, Elton John, Mumford & Sons, and Mavis Staples sang a gritty "The Weight" in honor of Levon Helm, who sang the original with the Band.
Juanes added a verse of español to the proceedings with a loving acoustic Spanglish rendition of Elton John's "Your Song," before introducing Frank Ocean. The first Best Urban Contemporary Album winner sang his elegiac "Forrest Gump" backed by running-sequence footage similar to the film of the same name.
After the show's most somber performance, the 55th GRAMMYs rode out on a burst of old-school rap energy, with GRAMMY host LL Cool J teaming with Chuck D, Travis Barker, Tom Morello, and DJ Z-Trip for his own "Whaddup" and a brief tribute to fallen Beastie Boy Adam Yauch with "No Sleep Till Brooklyn."