LOS ANGELES — Notes from backstage at last night’s 49th annual Grammy Awards ceremony at the Staples Center in Los Angeles ...
When Dixie Chicks singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush at a 2003 concert in England, some questioned whether or not the act’s country fanbase would abandon the group. But after the Chicks swept their five nominated categories at the Grammys, any and all doubts were likely laid to rest.
Maines acknowledged that some Grammy voters may have been attracted to the political back-story surrounding the album ‘‘Taking the Long Way,’’ which addressed the fallout from her comments.
‘‘It’s hard to put into words, but I’m definitely aware we were up against a lot of great music,’’ she said backstage. ‘‘I love our record and think it’s the best one we made. I definitely think people had inspiration and motivation behind voting us to win five of five. It’s unbelievable, and I think people were using their voices.’’ Bandmate Emily Robison added, ‘‘Great music comes from inspiration. What happened to us really drove us to make an album that said a lot.’’
Going into the Grammys with a leading eight nominations, Mary J. Blige was more than happy to take home three awards. ‘‘It’s been an incredible night for me, a musical as well as a personal breakthrough. I’m just so happy my peers nominated me eight times. And these three awards are the icing on the cake,’’ she said.
As for the last-minute decision to release ‘‘The Breakthrough’’ album ahead of her greatest hits compilation (the original plan was to issue the hits album before ‘‘Breakthrough’’), Blige noted, ‘‘When all that was going on, some people were saying Mary’s washed up, finished. I had to do a lot of self-evaluation and find out what I was doing wrong. I wasn’t giving myself credit and beating myself up a lot. I wasn’t giving out enough in the places I needed to. In the valley is where you find out where you really are and that’s why I’m at this peak now. I got out [of the valley]. This is a celebration.’’
Prior to Sunday night, the Red Hot Chili Peppers had exactly one Grammy to their credit, from way back in 1992. But they strutted away with four Sunday, including rock song and album of the year. Backstage, singer Anthony Kiedis discussed his distaste with the current state of rock.
‘‘I think the genre has gotten kinda stale,’’ he said. ‘‘Rock bands don’t seem to be taking that many chances. Hopefully they will in the future, and it’s only a phase.’’ He added that the more innovative music is coming from the electronic and pop fields. Later, drummer Chad Smith commented that he thought the Recording Academy was ‘‘making a bit of a statement by having Dixie Chicks win everything.’’
The topic then turned to longevity and the band’s future. Said bassist Flea, ‘‘The music keeps us together; the music guides us.’’ But what about 20 years from now? Will the Chili Peppers emulate groups like the Stones and the Who and still be on the road? ‘‘No,’’ Kiedis said flatly. ‘‘No.’’ Why? ‘‘Because I think the vision right now is limited more to the present,’’ Flea said.
Double winner John Legend was asked what he thinks when people compare him to Marvin Gaye. ‘‘Some people got to slow down,’’ he said with a chuckle. ‘‘I got a long way to go. ... If you hear some influence, that’s because I stole it from him.’’ But he reminded folks not to go overboard with comparisons. ‘‘I’ve got a long career ahead of me — hopefully.’’ He’s beginning a tour April 3 with Corinne Bailey Rae, the British newcomer who performed with him during the show. ‘‘We’re gonna step it up, step up the production,’’ Legend said. ‘‘People are going to see the best performances they’ve ever seen from me.’’
Rapper T.I. was back on the red carpet after scoring two Grammy wins, one for best rap solo performance ("What You Know’’) and one for his collaboration with Justin Timberlake, ‘‘My Love.’’ He was eager to heap praise on Timberlake. ‘‘He’s at the top of my game, and it’s one of the best albums of his career and he should be acknowledged for it,’’ he said. T.I. says he’s in the midst of recording a new album, to be released by the end of the year, but refused to go into detail. ‘‘I can’t give any hints. OK, all I can say is me and Eminem? We’re speaking. We’re talking about getting something down. It would be phenomenal. It would be one for the record books, I assure you.’’
Singer/songwriter John Mayer is a Grammy veteran in his still relatively young career. The artist has been nominated for every project he’s released, which in 2007 included his new album ‘‘Continuum’’ and his bluesy effort with the John Mayer Trio, ‘‘Try!’’ Asked if Mayer’s the ‘‘new Sting,’’ in that everything he touches turns to Grammy gold, he replied, ‘‘Sometimes people call me a Grammy darling, and that makes me uncomfortable. It makes me think that I’m getting things I don’t deserve, and eking my way in through some other facet that I don’t see. But I like to think that if I put out a stinker it would not get rewarded.’’
Ludacris said Def Jam wanted to delay the release of his album ‘‘Release Therapy,’’ but he urged the label to bow it Sept. 26, four days before the Grammy eligibility deadline. Lo and behold, he walked away with two awards, including best rap album. ‘‘This is my fifth studio album,’’ he pointed out. ‘‘I’ve been nominated every year for the past five years, and this is my first time winning. And when I recorded this album I made it a point to say to myself that I was going to win a Grammy.’’
Meanwhile, the ‘‘Crash’’ co-star said his acting career is going ‘‘very well’’ but he’s being selective about scripts. ‘‘I’m trying to pick the right roles,’’ he said. ‘‘Luckily I have a music career to do while, you know, all the bad roles are coming. I’m blessed enough to have a second career until I get what I want [in films].’’ Mainly, he was just ready to celebrate. ‘‘This is pretty much the best night of my life tonight,’’ he said, adding later, ‘‘I cleared my schedule for tomorrow because I’m going to party hard tonight.’’
The Grammys took a page from ‘‘American Idol’’ this year with the fan-voted contenst ‘‘My Grammy Moment.’’ Winner Robyn Troup earned herself a performance with star Justin Timberlake, and says she almost didn’t enter the contest. ‘‘I was surfing the Internet one day, and it came up on a search engine. I thought it looked kind of cool, but I didn’t do anything,’’ she recalled. She says her sister talked her into it, and she got a video submitted on the last day. As for ‘‘American Idol,’’ yes, Troup says she tried out. ‘‘I tried out for this season, but I can’t really talk about it.’’ When prodded, she looked backstage, and repeated, ‘‘I can’t talk about it.’’
Rap star Chamillionaire won best rap performance by a duo or group for ‘‘Ridin,’’ and said the wheels that took him to the Staples Center in Los Angeles were borrowed. ‘‘I rode up in a [Rolls Royce] Phantom,’’ he said. ‘‘But only for today. It goes back tomorrow.’’ He said immediately after winning the award he started receiving text messages from cousins and family members he didn’t even know he had, as well as ‘‘everyone who didn’t want to sign me.’’