Will Smith, Ricky Martin, Whitney Houston Help Grammys Take Flight

As the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony headed into its final hour, teen phenom Britney Spears took front and center at the Staples Center for a medley of “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart” and “… Baby One More Time.”

Beginning with “From The Bottom,” Spears was kitted out in a turtleneck and a full tulle skirt while dancers surrounded her with enormous fans (which they arranged to resemble everything from wings to flower petals). The singer apparently chose to emphasize her vocal skills over her dance prowess, and she remained markedly still during the song — allowing the fan dancers to follow the number’s swaying and swooning mood.

Spears then took a few moments to shuffle into a form-fitting red rhinestone outfit (with side cutouts) and emerged onto a stage that resembled a set leftover from Michael Jackson’s “Captain Eo” musical short. As puppeteers controlled rows of robot-like henchmen, Spears popped and locked her way through a solid, if unspectacular take
on “… Baby One More Time.”

The next musical highlight came from Elton John who, upon being honored with the evening’s Legend Award in recognition of his thirty-plus year career, delivered the kind of assured performance one would expect from a music icon.

Joined onstage by the Backstreet Boys, who leaned against John’s piano and offered up some falsetto-laden backup vocals, the “Rocket Man” chimed though “Philadelphia Freedom,” a song he originally released back in 1975.

Another legend soon took the stage when, for the second time in two years, Santana took part in the final Grammy performance of the evening.

Last year, the Latin guitarist accompanied Lauryn Hill for a live version of “To Zion” from “The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill.” This time around Santana was the featured artist, as he and Matchbox 20 singer Rob Thomas riffed through “Smooth” following a brief instrumental intro by Santana.

Bridging divergent musical eras and cultures, Thomas and Santana
both seemed to get blissfully lost in the musical epiphany that helped catapult the “Supernatural” album to the top of the charts.

Shortly after the sustain from his guitar had died out, Santana was presented with the Grammy for Album Of The Year from the award’s two previous winners: Lauryn Hill, who won in 1999 for “Miseducation,” and Bob Dylan, who took home the honors in 1998 for “Time Out Of Mind.”

For more Grammy news, check out the MTV News Grammy Archive .