The Grammys opened this year’s ceremony with what is arguably the oldest and most successful group that is still actively performing and recording, U2. They ended up with three Grammys, including Record of the Year.

The evening the started on a rollercoaster of a performance ranging from art to crap.

Some of the high points of the night included Nelly Furtado singing a thoughtful re-interpretation of “I’m Like a Bird” accompanied by guitar legend Steve Vai and a medley of songs from “O Brother Where Art Thou.”

The “O Brother” medley was a nice showcase of truly American music who’s heritage and influence is often ignored. It was nice to see bluegrass getting the exposure its musicians deserve.

At the other end of the spectrum from art there was more to choose from. One of the lower points was when Nelly entered his remixed self into a surprisingly charming acoustic rendition of *NSYNC’s “Gone,” a song I normally don’t like. Some misplaced rap and *NSYNC dancing on the set from the happy version of Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome that sucked that up though.

Worse was President and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Michael Greene’s stirring attack on “the insideous virus of illegal music downloading?” I really can’t tell, although Greene was pretty melodramatic about it.

After rambling on about the connection between the artists and the fans he leapt into explaining how three college students had been commisioned to sit and download songs from the internet for a few days to show how big online music trading is.

After claiming the biggest danger was posed to the lesser-known artists, he introduced Joshua Bell and his exceptional medley from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.”

He nicely oversimplified an complex issue, painting the recording companies as on the side of the artists and their relationship with the fans.

My immediate reaction was an urge to go illegally download the music of some “artist” who doesn’t deserve my money, like Uncle Kracker, Alicia Keys or Dolly Parton, who won Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

Somewhere in between were more strange pairings of musicians that led to mediocre results.

Destiny’s Child sang back up to Spanish sensation Alejandro Sanz. Being the stupid American that I am, I’ve never heard of him and thought they were singing something about “what’s the easiest quesadilla?” I’m probably wrong though.

As for Alicia Key’s unfortunate sweep at the expense of the superior India.Arie? Music columnist Nasser Al-Qatami exclaimed “Not fair!”

A weird medley of her singing her songs over tango rhythms made that painfully clear. I suppose her receiving the Grammy Kiss of Death(?), i.e. Best New Artist, is some consolation for a far too long evening of crappy musical acts.

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