BEVERLY HILLS, California — It was the ultimate good-girl-meets-bad-girl moment. On the red carpet of Saturday's Pre-Grammy Gala at the swank Beverly Hilton Hotel, Grammy favorite Taylor Swift ended up shiny-dress-to-shiny-dress with the new, new kid on the block, Ke$ha. After the two were introduced, they hugged it out in one of those double-take moments that can only happen at one of the music world's biggest weekends.
And they weren't alone, as Ne-Yo was humbled by meeting guitar god Carlos Santana, "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson gave a bear hug to producer Rodney Jerkins, and fellow judge Kara DioGuardi embraced season-eight winner Kris Allen. What most people were talking about, though, was the expected landslide on Sunday night by the three leading ladies of this year's Grammys: Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, who between them have 23 nominations.
"I think that Lady Gaga ... she's visually very appealing, she's done something completely out of the box, different, but on top of it, she's done some of the best songwriting in the last few years, if not the last decade," DioGuardi offered. "I think she's that great as a songwriter. She has these great melodic hooks but they are interesting. They come from a different point of view, and she's a phenomenal performer. So, based on the criteria of her fashion and performance and her songwriting and her singing, she's kind of an all-rounder."
Allen had to agree, saying that Gaga has won him over. "What Lady Gaga has done is so incredible," he said. "You know, she's very creative, incredibly talented. Her songs get shoved into your head and never get out. I think she's an amazing artist. I really feel like she's one of the better one's out there."
Perhaps he's biased, but OneRepublic leader Ryan Tedder, who wrote the hit "Halo" for Beyoncé, said he's pulling for B. "You know how certain artists do one or two things at a 10 out of 10 level?" said Tedder (who bragged about saving money by not using a stylist on the carpet this year, as he showed off his vest over a black-and-white checkered shirt, black tie, dark pants and not-so-expertly mussed hair). "Everything she does, she does 10 out of 10. When you excel that much at every aspect, singing, performing, interviews, being who she is, being real, she's 10 out of 10. Very few artists have that triple threat."
There were also those moments you can only get on the carpet, as when MTV News correspondent Sway Calloway sang the hook of "Tik Tok" to a very appreciative Ke$ha, who said she was trying to do everything she could not to fall down in her heels on the carpet of her first Grammy-related event. Then came her hug with Swift, during which the pair got momentarily snagged on each other's spangly dresses, giving the voracious photographers some eye-candy shots.
Ke$ha also continued to give good quote, batting her eyes playfully and praising the strength of the women nominated for Grammys this year. "I like that we're all strong, independent, mouthy bad-asses, and I really like being involved in that category," she said " I'm excited to do what I can do to contribute to that category of strong, independent, successful, beautiful women."
Try as he might, Sway just could not get anyone to tell him who Taylor Swift would be singing with at Sunday night's big show. (Reports that it would be Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks emerged during the Grammy gala event.)
"You know already!" Swift said sweetly.
When Sway wasn't discussing essential oils with a very sweet-smelling India.Arie, he was puzzling over Ting Tings singer Katie White's blue purse, which was attached to her blue leather glove with a snap. As they chatted, they were sandwiched between former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash on one side and Ricky Martin on the other, with Santana lingering just behind.
Ne-Yo couldn't pass up the chance to meet Santana, giving a humble head bow to the guitar virtuoso. Bunched up right behind Ne-Yo were "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest, who did a few joint interviews before breaking off to say hello to members of the Black Eyed Peas and other music-industry dignitaries schmoozing with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
And then there was Hurricane Perry-Brand. While Sway attempted to talk to Usher, a thunderous eruption of shouting and gesturing welled up from the far end of the carpet as the couple of the moment, Katy Perry and Russell Brand, posed for pictures in one of their first major public outings together since their engagement. Brand was grand, wearing silver boots with a skinny black suit accented by a scarf covered in skulls, while Perry rocked a body-hugging silver-and-gold lamé dress that left very little to the imagination.
The pair joked about their blissful love affair, and Russell jumped up on a stool to do an interview from a 7-foot vantage point and jokingly threatened to get into a fistfight with Sway after Katy revealed that she'd gotten roses from Calloway last Valentine's Day. Brand answered a query about whether rumors of Perry's alleged pregnancy were true with an off-color joke about his own failed pregnancy. Perry just shrugged and said blissfully, "This is how it is!"
One of the latecomers to the event was Rihanna, who missed the 2009 Grammys after being assaulted by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown on the way home from last year's gala. She stood on the red carpet briefly to pose for photos in a sea-foam green dress that looked like a cloud of cotton candy, but she did not answer any questions.
Stick with MTV News all week for our coverage of the 2010 Grammy Awards. We'll have reports on your favorite nominees, party photos, behind-the-scenes video and much more leading up to and during the big show Sunday (January 31) at 8 p.m. ET.