The tagline for the 55th annual Grammy Awards could've easily been "something old, something new."
After all, on a night packed with emotional tributes to performers like the late Patti Page and Levon Helm, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences saw fit to honor a new generation of musicians like fun., Gotye and Mumford & Sons. Caught somewhere in between were superstars like Justin Timberlake, whose last album was released six years ago, and who mounted a comeback Sunday night, previewing music from his forthcoming The 20/20 Experience.
The wealth was shared at the Staples Center, as fun. walked away with two of the night's biggest prizes -- best new artist and song of the year for We Are Young -- while Mumford & Sons won album of the year for Babel, a victory widely viewed as an upset over R&B wunderkind Frank Ocean, whose debut album, Channel Orange, was a favorite going into the evening. (Ocean's much-touted performance, of down-tempo track Forrest Gump, also fell flat.)
The Black Keys took home three trophies -- four if you count band member Dan Auerbach's win for producer of the year -- including a Grammy for best rock album, while Fort Worth-born pop star Kelly Clarkson won a Grammy for best pop vocal album.
One of the evening's highlights was her endearingly nervous acceptance speech, in which she managed to thank all of her fellow nominees, her manager, her fiance and even newcomer Miguel (who delivered a standout performance with Wiz Khalifa).
"I didn't know I was going to win, 'cause I ... was so excited to be in a category with fun.," Clarkson said.
Clarkson provided another show-stopping moment when she honored Carole King and the late Patti Page, performing a stunning rendition of the latter's signature Tennessee Waltz.
Clarkson wasn't the only artist with North Texas roots turning up on the broadcast Sunday: Fort Worth-bred musician/producer T Bone Burnett performed during a tribute to the late Levon Helm, and also shared a Grammy win with Taylor Swift and the Civil Wars for best song written for visual media ( Safe and Sound, the group's contribution to the Hunger Games soundtrack).
The performance-heavy broadcast, which ended promptly, leaned heavily on recycled visual ideas, whether it was Taylor Swift's acid-trip Alice in Wonderland getup, fun.'s rain-drenched run-through of Carry On or Timberlake's black-and-white-toned set piece. As Clarkson demonstrated, the best moments during this year's Grammys found a way to blend the best of something old, with the promise of something new.
Preston Jones is the Star-Telegram pop music critic, 817-390-7713