By Vinette K. Pryce
The 53rd annual Grammy awards take the prize for being one of the most unpredictable, entertaining, controversial and also most-viewed presentation in history.
Lauded for entertaining tribute performances, diversity, fashion, trend-setting innovations, dance routines, variety and presenters, the recent showcase scored highest with renditions from Barbra Streisand, Mick Jagger, Eminem and Jennifer Hudson.
Annually rebuked for rewarding unpopular finalists in the reggae category this year’s winner seemed the least likely to win due to his controversial drug-related trial.
However, instead of criticizing voters who named Buju Banton the best in the genre, reggae fans are now celebrating the prestigious music broadcast tribute they often berated.
Banton was among five reggae contributors – all acclaimed despite the fact their music was considered elusive to radio and club. Lee “Scratch” Perry won in previous years but was not considered a challenge in 2011. Many Jamaicans anticipated a posthumous win for four-time nominee Gregory Isaacs who died last year. Some also narrowed the choices to place Peter Tosh’s son Andrew as a possible winner. The fact no member of the Marley family contended for the prize, some calculated that Tosh would be a worthy choice due to his familial bond with the world’s best-known reggae configuration, Bob Marley & The Wailers. Others factored that musicians Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespear might claim one of the two nominations they garnered in the category. This year reggae music lovers were shocked, surprised and thrilled by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences who voted Buju Banton , the winner.
Perhaps most vociferous in dissent were fans of Canadian, pop sensation Justin Bieber who felt he was unfairly denied the best new artist winner. The fact he lost to a jazz singer, bassist and little-known native from the state of Oregon by the name of Esperanza Spalding, infuriated teenagers who believed the cute 16-year-old was unrivaled in the category. What many of them might not have known is that Spalding was hired as an instructor at the prestigious Berklee College of Music when she was just 20 years old. She is the first pure jazz artist to win the coveted Best New Artist award. On her 2008 album “Esperanza” Spalding sings in English, Portuguese and Spanish. She also performed at the inaugural celebrations for the first, Black president and twice at the White House.
At the invitation of President Barack Obama, she performed at both the Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony in Oslo, Norway, and also at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in 2009.
Along with Bobby McFerrin, she co-hosted the pre-telecast.
Rhythm & blues singer Fantasia opted to boycott the honors because she was angered and felt snubbed by organizers who did not include her in a tribute to the queen of soul, Aretha Franklin.
To her dismay and joy, Fantasia won her first-ever Grammy for “Bittersweet” in the best R&B vocal performance category.
Gospel great Mavis Staples cried openly when her name was called to accept her first-ever miniature gramophone. She accepted the award during the pre-telecast portion of the showcase held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Most controversial were outfits worn and in one case, the method of arrival Lady GaGa chose with bearers carrying her in the style of Egyptian royalty. The pop winner was partially hidden from view, inside an egg-shaped contraption. Unusual as her mode of transportation, Lady Gaga was named the first winner of the most-watched Grammy awards ever.
Here are some of the winners:
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance — Bad Romance – Lady Gaga
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance — Just The Way You Are – Bruno Mars
Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals — Imagine – Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No. 1, Jeff Beck & Oumou Sangare
Best Pop Instrumental Performance — Nessun Dorma – Jeff Beck
Best Americana – Mavis Staples – You Are Not Alone
Best Pop Vocal Collaboration with Vocals — Imagine – Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No 1, Jeff Beck & Oumou Sangare
Best Pop Instrumental Album — Take Your Pick – Larry Carlton & Tak Matsumoto
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album — Crazy Love – Michael Buble
Best Rap Song — Empire State Of Mind
Best Rap Solo Performance — Not Afraid – Eminem
Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group– On To The Next One – Jay-Z & Swizz Beats
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration — Empire State Of Mind – Jay-Z & Alici
Best Alternative Music Album — Brothers – The Black Keys (beating Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs)
Best Urban/Alternative Performance — F— You – CeeLo Green
Best Contemporary R&B Album– Raymond V Raymond – Usher
Best R&B Album –Wake Up! – John Legend & The Roots
Best R&B Song — Shine – John Stephens, songwriter (John Legend & The Roots)
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance — Bittersweet – Fantasia
Best Male R&B Vocal Performance — There Goes My Baby – Usher
Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals — Soldier Of Love – Sade
Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album — Still – BeBe & CeCe Winans.