LOS ANGELES — If you were to believe various awards-show pundits (and yes, they do exist), there were only two storylines coming into the 48th annual Grammy Awards. First, would Mariah Carey top off an incredible 12 months by taking home her first Grammy in more than 15 years? And second, would Kanye West be able to top last year's hijinks, which included an over-the-top performance (that ended with him decked out in a white suit and angel wings) and an acceptance speech that left many with a bad taste in their mouths?
The short answers? Yes and, oh, Lord, yes.
Carey ended her decade-and-a-half Grammy drought by winning three awards during the night, for Best R&B Song, Contemporary Album and Female Vocal Performance. And West surprised everyone — and no one — with his wardrobe (shirt open to his navel, wraparound shades, inexplicable driving gloves), his relatively humble acceptance speech and a high-stepping performance that was equal parts college pep rally and pyrotechnic arena-rock spectacle. (For more outrageous fashions, see "Alicia, Kanye Go For Plunging Necklines, Stars Rock White On Grammy Green Carpet.")
But if Carey and West were the two big stories heading into the Grammys, they certainly weren't coming out of them. Rather, it was the impressive number of curveballs thrown at us by the Recording Academy that'll more than likely have people talking tomorrow.
Like U2, who at the end of the night walked away with more awards — five, including the big one for Album of the Year — than anyone else. Or John Legend, who tied with Carey and West with eight nominations, and took home three gramophones, including one for Best New Artist. Kelly Clarkson scored two wins and pretty much proved herself the anti-Kanye with her humility and her blubbering, strangely sweet acceptance speeches. (Who did Kelly call to share her joy with? See "Christina's Lip-Licking, Adam Levine On Those Jessica Rumors: Grammys Behind The Scenes.") Or Green Day, who somehow took home the Record of the Year award for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams."
There were also unexpectedly somber (and great) performances from Bruce Springsteen, who concluded his acoustic version of "Devils & Dust" with a defiant "Bring 'em home" (a not-so-subtle plea to get our troops out of Iraq); and Legend, who brought the crowd to its feet with an orchestral version of his hit "Ordinary People."
But the biggest curveball of them all was the "will-he-or-won't-he" appearance by the reclusive Sly Stone. While the notoriously eccentric artist was receiving a musical tribute during the show for the groundbreaking music he made with Sly and the Family Stone in the 1960s and '70s — a dynamic fusion of rock, funk and soul that has informed and influenced all three genres ever since — his career largely dissipated in a whirl of substance abuse and erratic behavior. In fact, mere hours before the live telecast began, Grammy organizers weren't even sure he'd show. But when he did — dressed in a gold lamé suit and sporting a mile-high platinum Mohawk — and performed (er, sort of performed) alongside artists like Fantasia, Maroon 5 and the Black Eyed Peas' Will.I.Am, it was a weird, wonderful moment.
Of course, this being the Grammys, there were also some completely expected moments that delivered big time. Carey's soulful medley of her hits "We Belong Together" and "Fly Like a Bird" packed a powerful vocal wallop, increased 30-fold by the addition of a full-blown gospel choir. Linkin Park and Jay-Z were joined onstage by a somewhat bewildered Paul McCartney (who, in his unbuttoned dress shirt and white undershirt looked somewhat like a high schooler unwinding after his senior prom), and U2 and Mary J. Blige earned a much-deserved standing ovation with their version of "One."
Topping last year's death-and-resurrection performance/melodrama would be tough, but, joined by Jamie Foxx (and a marching band) for a medley of "Gold Digger" and "Touch the Sky," he managed to at least equal his previous effort. The whole thing was dubbed the "Grammy halftime show" and started off with West and Foxx — dressed as bandleaders representing "KW State" and "JFU," respectively — leading their bands onstage for a fabulous pep-rally/step-show that somehow managed to end in pyro (as all pep rally/step-shows ought to).
But at the end of the night, not even West's fiery performance and faux humility (earlier in the telecast, while accepting his Best Rap Album award, he produced his "first-ever" thank-you list — though the gesture was somewhat lessened by the fact that the list had "THANK YOU LIST" printed in giant letters on the back) could help him take home the much-coveted Best Album Grammy. When U2 were announced as the winners, West lowered his head into his hands, and when the Irish stalwarts stepped up to accept the award, they looked at him and promised him that "next year, it's yours."
And all Kanye could do was smile. After all, when an awards show is this unpredictable, there's not much else you can do besides grin and bear it.
The show's over, but there's still plenty of Grammy goodness right here on MTVNews.com. Check out photos of the hottest green-carpet and onstage moments, find out what went down at the celeb-packed parties, and share your thoughts on the performers, winners and losers. Plus watch videos of all the nominees on MTV.com and check out exclusive video footage from the big night on Overdrive.