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Daft Punk Leads Grammys as Industry Supports Gay Marriage

Daft Punk Celebrate in Los Angeles
Winners for Best Record Of The Year "Get Lucky" Daft Punk celebrate their award on stage for the 56th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Photographer: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Daft Punk, the electronic music duo from France, won five Grammy awards including album of the year, while Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took home four trophies and led an industry show of support for gay marriage.

Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories,” released last year, won awards for best album, best electronica album and engineering at the event, telecast yesterday from Los Angeles on CBS. Their collaboration with Pharrell Williams, “Get Lucky,” won record of the year and best pop/duo performance.

The awards, even with performances by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, were upstaged by the on-air marriage of 33 couples, including same-sex partners, in a ceremony presided over by Queen Latifah. Macklemore & Lewis performed their Grammy-nominated song “Same Love,” joined by Madonna, and the gesture brought many in the audience to tears.

“When we saw those wonderful marriages and ‘Same Love,’ that’s the height of fairness,” Paul Williams, a producer of Daft Punk’s album, said from the stage as the helmeted duo received the award for best album. “The power of love is the most powerful combination of all.”

No Label

Macklemore, a rapper from Seattle, and his producing partner Lewis won awards for best rap performance and best rap song for “Thrift Shop,” and best rap album for “The Heist,” self-released after the duo decided not to sign with a record company. They also won for best new artist.

The album produced two No. 1 records last year, “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us,” the first time an unsigned act had accomplished the feat in the 50 years Nielsen SoundScan has been keeping track. Lisa Loeb was the last unsigned act to reach the top with any song, with “Stay” in 1994, according to SoundScan.

“Same Love” last year threw the industry into the U.S. debate over gay marriage, with its support for same-sex couples and its criticism of homophobic lyrics prevalent in rap music. At the show, its performance drew a standing ovation from the crowd, and performers including country star Keith Urban were visibly moved.

‘The Norm’

“I look forward to the day that presiding over a historic ceremony like this is just the norm,” Latifah, who was sworn in by Los Angeles County officials to perform the ceremony, told reporters backstage. “To me, it’s special for all the couples out there tonight and I look forward to dashing off to sign all of their wedding certificates.”

Daft Punk, who started out in 1993, is riding the resurgent popularity of electronica music with “Random Access Memories,” released in May and distributed on Sony Corp.’s Columbia label. The duo is made up of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter, who wore their signature robot-helmets to the show and didn’t give acceptance speeches.

“Get Lucky,” featuring producer Williams, was a top-10 played song on radio this year, according to SoundScan. Their prior studio album, “Human After All,” was released in 2005.

New Talent

“It still really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Nile Rodgers, a veteran composer and guitarist who worked on the album, told reporters backstage. He said the duo was in shock. “This is an amazing night.”

The awards, a celebration of the industry’s achievements, are also a showcase for new talent. Blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. and 17-year-old New Zealand newcomer Lorde were among the night’s performers who won awards. A Grammy can lead to higher music sales, said David Bakula, a senior vice president at researcher Nielsen.

“The people we saw win weren’t household names yet. The big, big names were nominated but the ones who walked to the stage are on their way to becoming household names now,” Bakula said.

Fast Rise

Lorde won song of the year for “Royals,” and Kacey Musgraves was honored for best country album, for “Same Trailer Different Park,’ and best country song for ‘‘Merry Go ’Round.”

Lorde, born Ella Yelich O’Connor, broke through with the album “Pure Heroine,” released in September through Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group.

“Ella and I originally did this song to give it away so to be standing here tonight is pretty amazing,” Joel Little, Lorde’s songwriting partner, said from the stage.

“Royals” explores the disconnect between the luxury lifestyles portrayed in many hip-hop songs and the way most people live. It sold 4.42 million copies in 2013, the year’s fifth-best-selling song, according to SoundScan. The hit was the first for a female artist on the rock charts since Tracy Bonham in 1997, according to SoundScan.

Finding Nirvana

McCartney and Starr paid tribute to the Beatles, marking the 50th anniversary of their 1964 appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” A 13-disc boxed set of the band’s music issued in the U.S. went on sale last week from Capitol Records, a label owned by Universal Music.

Starr performed “Photograph,” a song he wrote with George Harrison after the band broke up, and joined McCartney onstage for “Queenie Eye.” Harrison died in 2001. Yoko Ono, the widow of John Lennon, who died in 1980, helped present the night’s final award.

McCartney added to his Grammy total, winning the award for best rock song for “Cut Me Some Slack,” made with former Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear.

“I didn’t really know who these guys were,” McCartney, 71, said backstage. “I overheard them say, ‘We haven’t played since Nirvana.’ I found myself in the middle of a Nirvana reunion and that made me very happy.”

Beyonce, Jay Z

The show attracted 28.5 million viewers, an increase from 28.4 million last year and the most since the 2012 Grammys, following the unexpected death of Whitney Houston, according to a statement today from CBS.

The ceremony opened with Beyonce performing “Drunk in Love” with her husband, Jay Z, who was nominated for nine awards, the most for any artist. Rapper Kendrick Lamar performed a mashup with rock band Imagine Dragons of their song “Radioactive.”

Jay Z, born Shawn Carter, had 17 Grammy awards going into the evening. The 44-year-old rapper’s duet with Justin Timberlake, who won for best music video, took home the award for best rap/sung collaboration.

‘The Heist’

Macklemore & Lewis stand to gain from the night’s events, according to SoundScan’s Bakula. Their role in the marriage ceremony will bring them more attention from fans than from any of the awards, he said.

“Before there was any media, before there was any buzz, before there was even an album, there were fans,” Macklemore said from the stage. “We thank you. We made this album without a record label, we made it independently and we appreciate all the support.”

Macklemore, whose given name is Ben Haggerty, and Lewis released their album, “The Heist,” in October 2012 and last year sold 2.46 million copies, the third-most after Timberlake’s “20/20 Experience” and Imagine Dragons’ “Night Visions,” according to SoundScan.

Album Sales

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was 2013’s top-selling single with 6.5 million copies, according to SoundScan. “Thrift Shop” follows with 6.1 million copies and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” came in with 5.5 million units.

Timberlake, who led album sales last year, released “The 20/20 Experience” ahead of a summer tour and a second album with the same name few months later.

The industry is down to three major record companies. Universal Music acquired EMI’s recorded music business in 2012. An investor group led by Sony Corp., owner of Sony Music Entertainment, acquired EMI’s publishing business. In 2011, billionaire Len Blavatnik acquired Warner Music Group.

Artists who released albums between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, were eligible for the 56th Grammy Awards.


* “Random Access Memories” - Daft Punk

* “Get Lucky” - Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams

* “Royals” - Joel Little & Ella Yelich O’Connor, songwriters

* Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

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