LOS ANGELES -- For Lauryn Hill, it may have felt like a dream, but when she wakes up Thursday morning (Feb. 25), the hip-hop songstress will have to face reality: namely, five Grammy awards on what was arguably the biggest night of her career.
"It's a beautiful thing, I can't even tell you. It's like I'm still dreaming," the elegantly dressed artist said backstage, after receiving the final and perhaps biggest award of the night for Album of the Year for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
If Hill hadn't already entered the minds of music fans worldwide, the 41st Annual Grammy Awards Wednesday undoubtedly secured that.
Hill, who had been nominated for 10 awards, also was named Best New Artist. And she scored the Grammys for Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, the latter two for "Doo Wop (That Thing)" (RealAudio excerpt).
By nabbing five of the world's most prestigious music awards in one day, Hill set a record for female artists on a night dominated by women.
Madonna, who opened the show with a performance of her current single, "Nothing Really Matters," dressed in a red Geisha costume, nabbed four awards, including Best Pop Album for Ray of Light and best dance recording for the "Ray of Light" (RealAudio excerpt) single.
Before Wednesday, the pop diva had never taken home a Grammy for her music, though she won Best Long Form Music Video in 1991 for "Madonna: Blonde Ambition World Tour Live."
"I've been in the music business for 16 years, and this is my first Grammy," Madonna said backstage. "Actually, I won four tonight. You know, worth the wait."
Celine Dion received two awards, including Record of the Year for her "Titanic" movie hit "My Heart Will Go On." The soaring love ballad also won its songwriters, James Horner and Will Jennings, the Song of the Year award.
Hill eschewed the grandiose acceptance speeches and detailed thank yous, preferring to let her music speak for her. With a performance of "To Zion" (RealAudio excerpt), she demonstrated her mastery of a multi-genre sound that has inspired the critics and her colleagues.
The song began with Latin rock legend Carlos Santana picking a classical guitar and segued into a collage of jazz, hip-hop and R&B as Hill delivered her soulful vocal.
Performers and music industry bigwigs praised her talents and achievements throughout the night. "I was incredibly delighted that Miss Lauryn Hill won Album of the Year," said Michael Greene, president/CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which administers the awards. "Let's leave it at that."
Upon accepting her award for Best Rock Album, for The Globe Sessions, Sheryl Crow announced she wanted Hill to produce her next album.
The afternoon began with the traditional red-carpet walk by the hundreds of artists who accepted a Grammy invitation.Thousands of fans lined Jefferson Avenue in 80-degree temperatures and blue skies to cheer for their favorite performers, some peering into binoculars, others waving signs that read simply "Madonna!" or "I Love Billy." Shrieks erupted at the sight of a familiar face outside the massive white palace-like hall.
Cameras flashed like strobe lights, hands holding microphones reached over barriers and security milled about the walkway.
Meanwhile, the energy was building inside the auditorium.
The Grammy show included performances by Dion, Crow, Alanis Morissette, country singer Vince Gill, former Menudo member Ricky Martin and famed opera singer Luciano Pavarotti.
Gospel artist Kirk Franklin was joined by U2 singer Bono, R&B performers R. Kelly and Mary J. Blige and gospel singer Crystal Lewis for a rendition of his ballad "Lean On Me," which lost in the Song of the Year category.
Veteran rockers Aerosmith performed their #1 hit "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," and won a rock performance award for another song, "Pink." Backstage, they confirmed they will perform at the Oscar film awards.
Morissette and Lenny Kravitz won for Best Female and Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Uninvited" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Fly," respectively. "Uninvited" also scored Morissette a Grammy for her songwriting, winning in the Best Rock Song category.
Swing artist Brian Setzer -- the former Stray Cats frontman -- won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal for his "Jump Jive An' Wail" (RealAudio excerpt), along with Best Pop Instrumental Performance for "Sleepwalk."
Standing on the red carpet before the show, Setzer said he's not sure he should take the credit for pioneering the swing revival. "I mix it all into rock 'n' roll and whatever comes out, comes out," he said.
Jay-Z, who wasn't at the ceremony, won the Best Rap Album trophy for Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life.
In the other two rap categories, the Beastie Boys won Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for "Intergalactic" (RealAudio Excerpt) and Will Smith won Best Rap Solo Performance for "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" (RealAudio excerpt).
"I expected not to win," Smith said backstage. "I was like, 'There's no way I'm gonna win this year. I won last year [in the same category, for 'Men in Black']; the odds are against me ... Life is just damn good."
Former Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant won the Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy for "Most High," while Metallica won Best Metal Performance for "Better Than You."
While country superstar Shania Twain's "You're Still The One" won for both Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song, country trio the Dixie Chicks beat her out for Best Country Album with their Wide Open Spaces.
"We thought for sure Shania got it -- I mean, she just performed," said Dixie Chick Martie Seidel. Several of the night's winners heard their names announced immediately after performing.
Other winners included Los Super Seven, Lucinda Williams, the songwriting team of Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, Brandy and Monica, Stevie Wonder and Eric Clapton.
Award presenters included Beck, the Backstreet Boys, Foxy Brown, Whitney Houston, Smashing Pumpkins singer Billy Corgan, Garbage singer Shirley Manson and Sting.
Artists nominated for multiple awards who left empty-handed included rockers Hole, Garbage, Goo Goo Dolls and the Dave Matthews Band and R&B singer Maxwell.
Sheryl Crow used her Best Rock Album speech to comment on the recent merger between Polygram and Universal Records, which has resulted in artist cuts and massive layoffs. She said her label, A&M Records, had been gutted.
"A&M had a real history as a label that develops its artists," Crow said to an approving crowd.
Lifetime Achievement Awards were given to soul and R&B greats Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Smokey Robinson, as well as to crooner Mel Torme, country singer/songwriter Johnny Cash and jazz pioneer Duke Ellington. Ellington was posthumously serenaded by trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, singer Natalie Cole and former Ellington trumpet player Clark Terry.
As diehard fans waited outside the Shrine Wednesday night hoping for a last chance to see the stars, one special Grammy guest made a clean getaway. "It was nice, real nice, but now I'm going to find my car," laughed "Star Wars" director George Lucas, who walked across the street virtually unnoticed.
(SonicNet's Lisa Garibay contributed to this report.)