Decked out in black leather, rapper/actor Will Smith and Dru Hill singer Sisqo kicked off the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards with a performance of Smith's "Wild Wild West" (RealAudio excerpt) that featured a troupe of dancers and closed with an explosion of green and red fireworks.
Making their own noise, TLC emerged as the first winners of the night at the televised ceremonies, winning the Best R&B Album award for Fanmail.
The trio, accompanied by producer Dallas Austin, seemed giddy, giggling as Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas gave an acceptance speech. She responded to an earlier joke by host Rosie O'Donnell, who said God had told her backstage to tell the winners He said, "You're welcome."
"He said, 'Don't forget to thank me when you get up there,' " said Thomas, who, like other TLC members Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins, wore an elaborate black outfit.
The group was somewhat upstaged by presenter Jennifer Lopez. The singer/actress wore a floor-length aqua-green dress with a wide cut down the middle, drawing a cheer from the crowd as she arrived onstage.
The Dixie Chicks took the stage next. Lead singer Natalie Maines, wearing a black dress and sporting platinum hair, looked plaintive as the group performed "Goodbye Earl" (RealAudio excerpt). The group followed up the performance by winning the Best Country Album award, prevailing over efforts by such stalwarts as George Jones (Cold Hard Truth) and the trio of Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton (Trio II).
A Latin-music medley featured performances by Marc Anthony, who hit the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 with "I Need to Know" (RealAudio excerpt); Buena Vista Social Club singer Ibrahim Ferrer; and last year's breakout Grammy performer Ricky Martin.
Martin's performance found the heartthrob spinning in place as he stood in a ring of fire, and it featured a woman twirling fire sticks.
The dapper Martin wore black leather pants and a form-fitting white shirt.
"Who is cuter than him? No one looks better in leather pants," O'Donnell said.
Sting stole some of Martin's thunder immediately afterward. The former Police singer/songwriter won the award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his song "Brand New Day" (RealAudio excerpt), besting Martin's "Livin' la Vida Loca."
O'Donnell, decked out in a red, satiny outfit, opened the show with a monologue that poked fun at Cher, Lopez, Madonna, Tina Turner, Sean "Puffy" Combs and others.
She was particularly tough on Combs, who earlier Wednesday was indicted in New York on charges of bribing his driver to claim ownership of a 9 mm handgun following their arrest on weapons charges in December. She joked that Combs would be starring in a Broadway musical called "Puffy Get Your Gun." The soundtrack to "Annie Get Your Gun" won the award for Best Musical Show Album prior to the televised portion of the ceremony.