BEVERLY HILLS, California — "Do we have any rednecks in the house?" "Redneck Woman" singer Gretchen Wilson asked as she kicked off Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party Saturday at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Luckily Kid Rock was at the bar. Otherwise the answer would have been a resounding no.
While the 29th edition of what is widely considered the must-attend celebrity party of the year gathered a diverse group of guests (from Diana DeGarmo to Diana Ross, Franz Ferdinand to members of Led Zeppelin), the concert portion had a profoundly R&B and soul feel, with Usher, Alicia Keys and a Ray Charles tribute from Jamie Foxx among the performance highlights. (Click here to see photos from the show.) And considering the record-label brass (including new Def Jam honcho Jay-Z and his lady, Beyoncé) and most of the celebrities came in their finest formalwear, it wasn't the most inviting venue for rednecks.
Davis, a music-industry legend who most recently founded J Records, typically uses his party to trot out his latest promising talent (Keys, Mario and Maroon 5 have had the honor in recent years), and on Saturday that spotlight went to "American Idol" winner Fantasia, who gave her pipes a workout on "Baby Mama" before being joined by Chaka Khan for George Gershwin's "Summertime."
Maroon 5 returned to celebrate their successful year with a performance of their smash "This Love," along with a cover of "Frontin' " — featuring a freestyling Mos Def and the Neptunes' Chad Hugo on keyboards — that gave the original a run for its money.
Foxx opened his segment with Charles' "It's Alright," which he spiced up with ad-libbed lines about the guests sitting near the stage. "There he is, Chris Tucker/ He's a funny mother----er," he sang. "Janet Jackson and Jermaine Dupri/
Do a menage a trois with me." Later, he grabbed a spotlight on the stage and moved it around the room until he found Mary J. Blige, to whom he serenaded, "Mary J., I'd be obliged to sing with you tonight."
Keys kicked off her set with "If I Ain't Got You" before welcoming "not an artist, but a supreme being" (that would be Carlos Santana) to sing a faithful version of "Black Magic Woman."
Usher, who is up against Keys for Album of the Year at Sunday's Grammy Awards, ended the night by bringing out another contender in the category, Kanye West, for their remix of "Confessions." By the time his short set of favorites from Confessions was finished, the stage was packed with guests, including Foxx, Ross, Fantasia and Nelly.
"The people in this room tonight have watched me grow up," Usher said between songs. "It's been an amazing year and I thank you for your support."
Before the show, as Davis walked Foxx and Fantasia down the red carpet, the dozens of famous partygoers mingled over cocktails.
Scott Weiland, Slash and the rest of Velvet Revolver, who backed out of performing at Davis' event to do a late-night rehearsal of their special Grammy performance (Gretchen Wilson was filling in for the group at the party), shared their excitement over covering the Beatles' "Across the Universe" with Bono, Stevie Wonder, Keys and others during the ceremony. "The best part is you can download the song afterwards on iTunes and the proceeds go to the tsunami victims," Slash said.
Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine was also looking forward to their performance, a medley with the Black Eyed Peas, Franz Ferdinand and others. "At first we were a little worried about how it would all work, but it came together nicely," he said.
As this year's Grammys approach, you can get all the latest news on the show, the scene and the nominees in our Grammy news archive. On the big night, February 8, be sure to tune in to MTV at 7 p.m. for our "All up in the Grammys" preshow. Plus check out videos of the nominees and more right here on mtv.com.