- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

If that didn’t do the trick, then the industry’s in even worse shape than everyone thinks.

Recorded music claims an ever-smaller slice of the American public’s entertainment budget, and the annual broadcast of the Grammy Awards has similarly taken a ratings hit: In recent years, regularly scheduled shows such as “American Idol” and “Desperate Housewives” have garnered bigger audiences than the Grammys.

But Sunday night’s broadcast from Los Angeles’ Staples Center featured even more heavyweight performers than is typical for the prestigious Grammys ceremony, including Irish rockers U2, Paul McCartney and last year’s top-selling artists Coldplay and rapper Lil Wayne.

Coldplay, the British quartet, performed its hit “Viva La Vida” and won Grammys in the best rock album and song-of-the-year categories.

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Singer Chris Martin joked that the band’s sound was less “heavy” rock than “softer like limestone - but still as charming.”

The group was edged out for both record and album of the year by the evening’s big winners, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Please Read the Letter.” (Because of eligibility rules that don’t follow the calendar year, the unlikely duo earned a Grammy last year for the same project.)

Mr. Plant and Miss Krauss won another pair of Grammys on Sunday in country music categories.

“Forty years after landing in this town, it’s all different,” said the former Led Zeppelin frontman. “It’s fantastic. This project has been spectacular all the way through.”

The duo was later joined onstage by producer “T-Bone” Burnett on a medley of songs from the “Raising Sand” album.

The Grammys ceremony has been without a master of ceremonies since 2002 - the better to make time for more live performances.

This year, the show’s producers banked on the appeal of cross-genre and cross-generational collaborations: Rapper Jay-Z briefly joined Coldplay. Stevie Wonder was joined by tween idols the Jonas Brothers on the R&B legend’s hit “Superstition.”

Paying tribute to the late Bo Diddley, blues-guitar eminences B.B. King and Buddy Guy were joined by country’s Keith Urban and pop singer-songwriter John Mayer.

The acclaimed experimental rock band Radiohead shared the stage with the University of Southern California marching band.

Ex-Beatle Mr. McCartney, who lost to Mr. Mayer in best male pop vocal performance, was backed on drums by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters for a rendition of the Beatles classic “I Saw Her Standing There.”

An early duet - Justin Timberlake and the Rev. Al Green singing the Memphis soul legend’s “Let’s Stay Together” - was a last-minute substitute for a slot that had been scheduled for R&B singer Rihanna, whose boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, reportedly was involved in a domestic incident earlier Sunday.

The majority of Grammys are awarded before the prime-time telecast.

Winners in major categories included Adele, the alternative-pop singer from Britain. Sugarland took home the best country performance for its ballad “Stay.”

Jennifer Hudson’s self-titled record won for best R&B album. A fitting moment arrived early with Miss Hudson, three of whose family members were slain last year, performing “You Pulled Me Through” with a gospel choir.

“I first would like to thank God, who has brought me through,” she said while accepting the award. “I would like to thank my family in heaven and those who are with me today.”

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