LOS ANGELES - Lady Antebellum was the big winner at the Grammys with five awards, including record and song of the year for the band's yearning crossover ballad "Need You Now," but rockers Arcade Fire won Sunday's biggest prize, album of the year, for their highly acclaimed "The Suburbs."
Arcade Fire's Win Butler was visibly stunned as the group accepted their trophy and then quickly rushed to perform the last song of the night.
Eminem perhaps had reason to be stunned as well. Though nominated for a leading 10 awards, including record, song, and album of the year, he took home just two - both in the rap categories, for best album and solo performance. It was the third time Eminem lost in the category, despite a critically acclaimed work that marked his resurgence after time out of the spotlight, a few sub-par projects and successful recovery from a prescription drug addiction.
While Arcade Fire's win was a surprise, it wasn't totally unexpected, as "The Suburbs" dominated many critic's best-of lists of 2010. The true upset, however, came as Esperanza Spalding - a jazz bassist and singer who sold a fraction of Justin Bieber's music and is perhaps best identified by her voluminous Afro - beat the perfectly coifed 16-year-old pop phenomenon, and also Florence & the Machine, Mumford & Sons and Drake for best new artist.
She is the first jazz artist to ever win the category.
"I take this honor to heart so sincerely and I'll do my damnedest to make great music for all of you. It's such an honor and God bless," said a shocked Spalding, who released her third album, "The Chamber Music Society," last year.
While Bieber-nation was in an uproar, the teen sensation himself was cheerful backstage after the loss - perhaps assuaged by the fact that he's sold millions and owns the nation's No. 2 movie with his documentary "Never Say Never."
"I'm really happy for her and I had a great night. We performed, I got to perform with my mentor which is amazing," said Bieber, who playfully jumped on Usher in the press room. "I'm really happy for her and hopefully she has a good year."
The evening's other top winners included Jay-Z, John Legend, and Lady Gaga, who each had three trophies; Muse, who won best rock album; and Train, whose "Hey, Soul Sister (Live)," one of the year's top songs, captured best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals.
Lady Antebellum's wins mark the second straight year a country crossover act was the night's top story; Last year, Taylor Swift captured best album among her wins.
The Grammys give out 109 awards - but most of those are doled out before the live telecast in a ceremony before the CBS show. Instead of focusing on the awards, the Grammy show emphasized performances for the year's most celebrated artists, along with emerging acts and true legends.
Lady Gaga entered the Staples Center, where the Grammys were held, in dramatic fashion, encased in an egg as dancers carried her to the stage. When she "hatched," she seemed to have turned into Madonna, circa 1987, as she sashayed across the stage to her new song "Born This Way."
But the singer, normally the most outrageous performer on any bill, was out-Gaga'd by Cee Lo Green, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jim Henson Co.'s puppets, who gave a hilarious performance of "Forget You" that would have done Elton John proud.
Decked out in feathers of seemingly every hue, Green - who was nominated for record and song of the year for the dirty version of the song, "(Expletive) You," crooned alongside a sassy gaggle of puppets and Paltrow, who performed "Forget You" on the Fox TV show "Glee." The actress, who recently played a singer in the movie "Country Song" and is slated to sing on the Oscars telecast, perhaps should seriously consider joining hubby Chris Martin of Coldplay as a regular recording artist.
It was easily the show stopper in a night of performances that included a tribute to Aretha Franklin, a retro performance from Bruno Mars, a dazzling number by newcomer Janelle Monae that was James Brown-esque, a collaboration with Mumford & Sons, the Avett Brothers and a very raspy Bob Dylan.