Echoing the rumblings that led up to the ceremony, Eminem and Dr. Dre made the most noise on Grammy night, but ultimately Steely Dan may have been the ceremony's big winners.
Em and Dre dominated the stage patter, the performances and the awards themselves, combining for five honors, but it was avant-jazz vets Steely Dan whose trio of trophies included a surprise win in the high-profile Album of the Year category for Two Against Nature.
Eminem also took home three awards, including Best Rap Album for his The Marshall Mathers LP and Best Rap Solo Performance for "The Real Slim Shady." He also picked up the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group Grammy for his work on Dr. Dre's "Forgot About Dre."
"I want to thank everyone who looked past the controversy and saw the album for what it was and what it wasn't," Eminem said, picking up the Grammy for Best Rap Album.
Even promised protests against Eminem and his perceived homophobic and misogynistic lyrics fizzled, with only three dozen protesters showing up to rally outside Los Angeles' Staples Center.
"We can't edit out the art that makes us uncomfortable," National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences President Michael Greene said in introducing the rapper's performance. "Remember that's what our parents tried to do to Elvis, the [Rolling] Stones, the Beatles."
Eminem then turned in the evening's most talked about performance, joining forces with the openly gay Elton John on Eminem's single "Stan." Em ended the performance by embracing John, and then raised his middle fingers to the crowd.
Eminem's cohort Dr. Dre finished the night with two awards, both of which came in the pre-telecast portion of the ceremony. In addition to sharing the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group award with Eminem, Dre also grabbed Producer of the Year, Non-Classical (see "Eminem, Dr. Dre, Faith Get Early Grammy Start").
The triple-win showings of Eminem and Steely Dan were matched by Faith Hill and U2.
Mainstream country darling Hill picked up Best Female Country Vocal Performance for "Breathe," Best Country Collaboration With Vocals for "Let's Make Love" (which she recorded with husband Tim McGraw) and Best Country Album for Breathe.
In addition to the Album of the Year Grammy, Steely Dan picked up awards for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for "Cousin Dupree" and Best Pop Vocal Album (besting Britney Spears, 'NSYNC, Madonna and Don Henley). Their album Two Against Nature also generated a production Grammy for the four-man team that engineered it.
"I thought that was weird," Steely Dan's Walter Becker said of the group's pop win. "Maybe we're in the wrong category or something. Think they'll take these things away from us, or make us give them back? I'm getting attached to mine."
"I think we're in real risk of losing our outsider status," his partner, Donald Fagen, joked.
Steely Dan, who made a name for themselves three decades ago, were not without their own lyrical controversy their "Cousin Dupree," from Two Against Nature, offers a tale of one man's incestuous lust for his cousin.
U2 scored the night's best batting average, turning their three nominations into three wins. Inspiring thoughts of "don't call it a comeback," the Irish rock veterans walked off with Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for "Beautiful Day."
"I don't remember wanting to win a Grammy like we wanted to win a Grammy tonight," U2 frontman Bono said. "It's a very particularly sweet kind of sensation."
Destiny's Child pulled a lower scoring percentage, but still managed to turn their five nominations into a pair of awards. The group's "Say My Name" was tapped as Best R&B Song and won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal.
The Foo Fighters and D'Angelo also went home with two awards apiece. D'Angelo won Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Album, while the Foo Fighters grabbed Best Rock Album and Best Short Form Music Video.
"The Best Rock Album is kind of a cool title," Foo frontman Dave Grohl said. "It's Best Rock Record, which sounds like it should say AC/DC next to it, but it's us, which is pretty much the coolest thing that's ever happened."
Country veteran Shelby Lynne took home Best New Artist honors, quipping that it took "13 years and six albums to get here."
Macy Gray picked up a Grammy early in the telecast, taking home Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "I Try."
Elton John, the Deftones, Radiohead, Creed, Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, Lenny Kravitz, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Hex Hector, Sting, Toni Braxton, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and the Baha Men all picked up Grammys in the pre-telecast portion of the ceremony.
Despite heading into the ceremony with three nominations and a show-opening live performance, Madonna went home without a Grammy. Her Music album, however, grabbed Best Recording Package honors for Kevin Reagan. 'NSYNC, Jill Scott, Aimee Mann, Joe, Sisqó and Brian McKnight all went home empty-handed, despite multiple nominations.
Grammys host Jon Stewart, who was tapped for the job just last week, brought a healthy dose of sarcasm to the ceremony, deflating the controversy that had surrounded Eminem's appearance.
"I don't understand the controversy. I met Eminem backstage, and I've got to tell you, he's really, really gay," Stewart joked.
And addressing lyrical responsibility, Stewart warned kids that "Saturday night's not all right for fighting."
Judging from the lack of an Eminem backlash, apparently Wednesday night's not a good night either.