Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ unorthodox partnership yielded rich rewards on Grammy night, as the pair nabbed five Grammys for their haunting CD “Raising Sand,” including record and album of the year honors.
But their Grammy sweep was overshadowed by the shocking arrest of another nominee as the broadcast was taking place — teen heartthrob Chris Brown, who was in police custody for an alleged felony assault on an unidentified woman the night before. Police records showed he was held and released on $50,000 bail.
Brown and longtime girlfriend Rihanna, also nominated, were both slated to perform in different slots of the show, but separately dropped out at the last minute.
The pairing of the former Led Zeppelin rocker and Krauss, a bluegrass queen, may have seemed downright weird on paper, but the T Bone Burnett-produced album was universally acclaimed and highlighted Krauss’ unique talent of mastering different musical styles. Subdued but emotionally stirring, “Raising Sand” was an artistic triumph for both artists, and perhaps demonstrated why Krauss is the most decorated female artist in Grammy history.
Lil Wayne entered the evening with the most nominations with eight, and ended the night with four, including rap album of the year.
But it was Jennifer Hudson who provided the night’s most emotional moments onstage. The Oscar winner took her first Grammy award — for best R&B album — for her self-titled debut.
Hudson, 27, made no direct reference to the October killings of her mother, brother and nephew that kept her in seclusion until just this month. But while fighting back tears, she made it clear that her family was foremost on her mind.
“I first would like to thank God who has brought me through. I would like to thank my family in heaven and those who are with me today.
Hudson later performed “You Pulled Me Through,” a dramatic song about overcoming deep despair, with the lyrics: “When I was drowning, when I was so confused, you, you pulled me through.” As she sang the last note, she looked directly into the camera and dissolved into tears once again.
There were no tears as Krauss and Plant accepted their awards for their emotion-rich CD, “Raising Sand.”
Plant said “Please Read The Letter” was “an old song that me and Jimmy Page wrote together post Led Zeppelin, and it’s been given that Nashville touch, and it feels pretty good.”
The pair had already won a Grammy last year for “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” from the same album, bringing their total “Raising Sand” haul to six.
The Grammy telecast was filled with eye-popping and eyebrow-raising performances, from Radiohead’s collaboration with a college marching band to a televised black-and-white throwback performance from Jay-Z, T.I., Lil Wayne, Kanye West and a (very) pregnant M.I.A.
But the absences of Brown and Rihanna put a huge hole in the Grammy telecast. Rihanna was supposed to sing “Live Your Life/Disturbia” as the second performance of the night, Brown was later to sing “Forever.” Each was nominated in the pop collaboration with vocals category, Brown for “No Air” with “American Idol” champion Jordin Sparks; and Rihanna for “If I Never See Your Face Again” with Maroon 5.
Brown was also nominated for male R&B vocal performance for “Take You Down.”
Neither won a Grammy on Sunday, and the Recording Academy found able replacements for their performance slots in Justin Timberlake, Al Green, Boyz II Men and Keith Urban as they all sang Green’s classic hit, “Let’s Stay Together.” No mention was made on the broadcast about the switch.
With all the drama going on onstage and behind the scenes, the awards seemed almost like an afterthought — but the show went on. Lil Wayne won the first Grammys of his career for “Tha Carter III,” which took the 26-year-old rap veteran to from rap to pop MVP. Coldplay won three, included song of the year for “Viva La Vida.”
“We’ve never had so many Grammys in our life,” said lead singer Chris Martin, perhaps so excited he got confused (they had already won four over the years). “We feel so grateful to be here. I’m going to tear up.”
British singer Adele was also teary, as she beat the Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum, Jazmine Sullivan and fellow Brit singer Duffy to nab best new artist. It was her second award of the evening.
“Thank you so much. I’m going to cry. I want to thank my manager, my mom, she’s in London. And Duffy I love you. I think you’re amazing. Jonas Brothers, I love you as well,” she said, saying the last part with a devilish look, eliciting laughter.
It was Adele’s second award; she earlier won for best female pop vocal.
Lil Wayne was the nominations leader with eight, and won best rap solo performance for “A Milli,” rap song for “Lollipop” and rap/sung collaboration for “Swagga Like Us,” an all-star song featuring Jay-Z, T.I. and Kanye West.
But the prolific rapper won’t be going home with eight trophies; he was competing against himself in two categories that he won and lost another. He still has a chance to win the evening’s top prize, album of the year, for his best-selling disc “Tha Carter III.”