Indie Rockers Win Big at the Grammys

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Slate's Culture Blog
Feb. 11 2013 1:34 AM

Rock Lives On at the Grammys

Nate Ruess of fun.
Rock group fun. took home Song of the Year and Best New Artist.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It was a big night for rock at the Grammys, with folk- and indie-rockers Mumford & Sons, fun., and Gotye sweeping the night’s most coveted awards.

Mumford & Sons won Album of the Year for Babel, fun. won Song of the Year for “We Are Young,” and Gotye won Record of the Year for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” (Song of the Year recognizes songwriting, while Record of the Year rewards performance and production.) The awards capped off breakout years for the three artists, in which they toppled glitzier pop kings and queens to unexpectedly top the charts.

While it initially came as a shock when rockers Arcade Fire won Album of the Year in 2011—they beat out megastars like Eminem, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry—this year the win for folk-rockers Mumford & Sons seemed almost a given. In part this is because the Grammys have now established a trend towards recognizing the most old-fashioned albums from the youngest new artists. (Recall Adele's wins last year, or Taylor Swift's wins the year before Arcade Fire in 2010.) Babel has also proved an unexpected blockbuster, foot-stomping and banjo-strumming its way to platinum sales. (In October it scored the biggest debut week of 2012, beating earlier debuts from Justin Bieber and Madonna.)

Forrest Wickman Forrest Wickman

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

If the night felt a bit like last year, the sense of déjà vu set in with the very first award, for Best Pop Solo Performance, which went to Adele. Even Justin Timberlake’s triumphal return, perhaps the night’s most anticipated event, was broadcast in sepia tones to viewers at home. And though it was 2013, host LL Cool J apparently felt required to explain what it meant to use a Twitter hashtag. It seemed oddly in keeping with the evening when, after winning Best New Artist for hits like “We Are Young,” fun.’s Nate Ruess exclaimed “We’re so old!”

The critical favorite, 25-year-old Frank Ocean, came up empty in the major categories. However, he did manage to beat rival Chris Brown for Best Urban Contemporary Album, to just about everyone’s delight but Brown’s. The remainder of the R&B awards were split between Usher, Beyoncé, Robert Glasper, and newcomer Miguel, while Drake and the Throne (Jay-Z and Kanye West) took home the major prizes for hip-hop. In the dance categories, Skrillex unsurprisingly swept the field for the second year in a row.

Grammy did excel where it usually does, in its performances. While Taylor Swift once conquered the Grammys as a traditionalist, tonight she kicked the night off by returning with a white top hat and a bubblegum circus troupe. Who was she dressed as? Katy Perry? The important point is that the singer-songwriter was dressed up as a pop star. The night’s closing performance, and it's only big hip-hop number, came from LL, Chuck D, and Z-Trip, who also paid tribute to deceased Beastie Boys member Adam Yauch. It was a lively tribute, if at least 20 years too late.

Here are the winners in the top categories:

Album of the Year
The Black Keys - El Camino
Fun. - Some Nights
*Mumford & Sons - Babel
Frank Ocean - Channel Orange
Jack White – Blunderbuss

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Record of the Year
The Black Keys - “Lonely Boy”
Kelly Clarkson - “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
Fun. featuring Janelle Monae - “We Are Young”
*Gotye featuring Kimbra - “Somebody That I Used to Know”
Frank Ocean - “Thinkin Bout You”
Taylor Swift - “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

Song of the Year
Ed Sheeran - “The A Team”
Miguel - “Adorn”
Carly Rae Jepsen - “Call Me Maybe”
Kelly Clarkson - “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
*Fun. - “We Are Young”

Best New Artist
Alabama Shakes
*fun.
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
*Gotye featuring Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used to Know”
Florence & the Machine – “Shake It Out”
Fun. Featuring Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young”
LMFAO – “Sexy and I Know It”
Maroon 5 & Wiz Khalifa – “Payphone”

Best Rap Album
*Drake - Take Care
Lupe Fiasco - Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1
Nas - Life Is Good
The Roots - Undun
Rick Ross - God Forgives, I Don’t
2 Chainz - Based on a T.R.U. Story

Best Country Album
*Zac Brown Band - Uncaged
Hunter Hayes - Hunter Hayes
Jamey Johnson - Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran
Miranda Lambert - Four the Record
The Time Jumpers - The Time Jumpers

Best Rock Performance
Alabama Shakes – “Hold On”
*The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Coldplay – “Charlie Brown”
Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait”
Bruce Springsteen – “We Take Care of Our Own”

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
*Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream – “No Church in the Wild”
Flo Rida featuring Sia – “Wild Ones”
John Legend featuring Ludacris – “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)”
Nas featuring Amy Winehouse – “Cherry Wine”
Rihanna featuring Jay-Z – “Talk That Talk”

Best Urban Contemporary Album
*Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Chris Brown – Fortune
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream

Best Rock Album
*The Black Keys - El Camino
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
Muse - The 2nd Law
Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
Jack White – Blunderbuss

Best Rock Song
*The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Jack White – “Freedom at 21”
Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait”
Muse – “Madness”
Bruce Springsteen – “We Take Care of Our Own”

Best Pop Vocal Album
*Kelly Clarkson - Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Florence & the Machine - Ceremonials
fun. -  Some Nights
Maroon - 5 Overexposed
Pink  - The Truth About Love

Best Pop Solo Performance
*Adele - “Set Fire to the Rain” (Live)
Kelly Clarkson - “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
Carly Rae Jepsen - “Call Me Maybe”
Katy Perry - “Wide Awake”
Rihanna - “Where Have You Been”

Best Dance Recording
Avicii - “Levels”
Calvin Harris featuring Ne-Yo - “Let’s Go”
*Skrillex featuring Sirah - “Bangarang”
Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin - “Don’t You Worry Child”
Al Walser - “I Can’t Live Without You”

Best Dance/Electronica Album
*Skrillex - Bangarang
Steve Aoki – Wonderland
The Chemical Brothers – Don’t Think
Deadmau5 - >album title goes here<
Kaskade – Fire & Ice

Best Alternative Music Album
*Gotye – Making Mirrors
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
Björk – Biophilia
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Tom Waits – Bad As Me

Best R&B Performance
*Usher – “Climax”
Estelle – “Thank You”
Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Ledisi – “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)”
Luke James – “I Want You”
Miguel – “Adorn”

Best R&B Song
*Miguel – “Adorn”
Tamia – “Beautiful Surprise”
Trey Songz – “Heart Attack”
Anthony Hamilton – “Pray for Me”
Elle Varner – “Refill”

Best R&B Album
*Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio
Anthony Hamilton – Back to Love
R. Kelly – Write Me Back
Tamia – Beautiful Surprise
Tyrese – Open Invitation

Best Rap Song
*Jay-Z & Kanye West – “N****s in Paris”
Nas – “Daughters”
Wale featuring Miguel – “Lotus Flower Bomb”
Kanye West featuring Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz – “Mercy”
Drake featuring Lil Wayne – “The Motto”
Snoop Dogg & Wiz Khalifa featuring Bruno Mars – “Young, Wild & Free”

Best Country Song
*Carrie Underwood – “Blown Away”
Ronnie Dunn – “Cost of Livin’”
Eli Young Band – “Even If It Breaks Your Heart”
Alan Jackson – “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore”
Eric Church – “Springsteen”

Best Country Solo Performance
*Carrie Underwood - "Blown Away"
Dierks Bentley - "Home"
Ronnie Dunn - "Cost of Livin'"
Hunter Haytes - "Wanted"
Blake Shelton - "Over"

(* indicates a winner.)

For the rest of the winners, head to the Grammys' official website.

Previously
Grammys 2012: The New Traditional Vanguard

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