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RAPPER KANYE WEST & AMY WINEHOUSE STILL THE GRAMMY SHOW

 

The 2008 Grammy Awards were all about performances.  Fittingly, rapper Kanye West and Amy Winehouse provided two of the night's emotional highs during their live sets.

 

Tabloid magnet Winehouse performed live via satellite from Riverside Studios in London in the midst of a stint in rehab that makes the title of her breakthrough single, "Rehab," sadly ironic. Taking the stage with her big band, Winehouse looked fit in a frilly black cocktail dress. The sometimes-iffy live performer delivered proof of her Grammy worthiness while tossing a shout-out to her jailed husband, Blake Fielder-Civil. She shouted, "My Blake!," in the middle of a hip-grinding "You Know I'm No Good," which mixed classic Motown soul with some hip-hop swagger.

 

Winehouse gave another nod to her hubby during her performance of "Rehab," which had her alternating between smirking knowingly and standing defiantly in the face of what must have been enormous pressure to leave an actual rehab facility for her first Grammy appearance. That perseverance paid off moments later when a stunned Winehouse won the Record of the Year Grammy, for "Rehab."

 

Looking genuinely shocked, Winehouse grabbed a bandmember and gave him a big hug, then embraced both her parents and walked sheepishly to the microphone as the London crowd shouted, "Amy, Amy!" Collecting her thoughts, Winehouse said, "For my Blake incarcerated, and for London. This is for London!" Although the singer received last-minute visa approval to enter the United States, she could not make the trip to Los Angeles in time.

 

Already a multiple Grammy Award winner before the televised ceremony started airing, Kanye West lit up the show with a future-shock performance that was part swagger and part humble tribute to his mother. Wearing a jacket with flashing LED lights and light-up shades, a clearly hyped Kanye electrified the show with a flashing post-apocalyptic take on "Stronger," surrounded by a colored-steam-belching set that looked like a Martian moonscape. At one point, the giant pyramid onstage opened up to reveal Daft Punk, the techno source of the song's sample, dressed as two neon-lined spacemen manipulating computers. It was the long-running duo's first-ever TV performance in a career that has lasted almost 15 years. His voice cracking with emotion, West — who shaved the word "mama" into the hair on the back of his head — then took it down as he crooned the lines, "Last night I saw you in my dreams/ Now I can't wait to go to sleep," during an emotional performance of "Hey Mama," an homage to his mother, Dr. Donda West, who died late last year.

 

With his jacket still flashing, West provided one of his signature uncomfortable-award-show moments when picking up the prize for Best Rap Album. "It definitely feels good to be home here at the Grammys. You know, we snuck in about four, five years ago, and now we basically made this our new place of residence," West said.  "A lot of people said hip-hop is dead — not just Nas ... a lot of people said the art form wasn't poppin' like that anymore. I wanted to cross the genres and show people how we can still express ourselves with something fresh and new, because that's what hip-hop has always been about: coming out with new sounds and stuff."

 

And Kanye being Kanye, after expressing annoyance at being played off when his speech went long offered another shout-out to his mother. "I appreciate everything, and I know you're really proud of me right now," he said, convincing the show's producers to cut the music. "And I know you wouldn't want me to stop and you want me to be the number-one artist in the world. And mama, all I'm going to do is keep making you proud."

 

Beyoncé, again proved her ability to stand toe-to-toe with giants during a ripping short set with R&B/soul legend Tina Turner.  The songstress introduced the collabo with a bit of spoken word that paid tribute to great female singers from Diana Ross to Janet Jackson, which gave way to a smiling Turner, in a silver top and matching pants singing her signature hit, "What's Love Got to Do With It." Then, matching dancers likely half her age with some impressive moves, the 68-year-old reclusive legend bit into "Better Be Good to Me" before being joined by Beyoncé for a stellar performance of "Proud Mary," during which the master and pupil were perfectly matched note for note and step for step.

 

Alicia Keys opened the ceremony in a long emerald green gown singing a duet with a virtual Frank Sinatra on the swinging "Learning the Blues."  Keys later performed “No One” with her new BFF, John Mayer.

 

Winehouse and Keys were big winners early, with the former winning Song of the Year and Best New Artist, and the latter grabbing Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, for "No One." Kanye landed a pair of victories before the televised ceremony started, grabbing Best Rap Solo Performance for the hit single "Stronger" and Best Rap Song for "Good Life." A pair of R&B legends won awards as well, with Prince nabbing the Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Future Baby Mama" and Chaka Khan taking Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for "Disrespectful" (featuring Mary J. Blige); Khan also won Best R&B Album for Funk This, which denied buzzed-about singer Ledisi one of her two potential Grammys. Gerald Levert, who passed away in late 2006, won Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for his tune "In My Songs." Lupe Fiasco made his pal Kanye proud with a Best Urban/Alternative Performance for "Daydreamin' " from his 2006 debut, Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor.

 

Other early winners included Keys for Best R&B Song ("No One"), Ne-Yo for Best Contemporary R&B Album (Because of You) and Common for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group ("Southside"). 

 

See a full list of winners. 

 



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