The Best (and Worst) of Grammys '07

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  1. Entertainment Weekly

    Most Inspired (and Inspiring)
    Christina Aguilera
    Everyone knows Aguilera's got pipes — but probably not even her most devoted fans could've imagined her channeling James Brown with the magnetic fervor she displayed tonight. Crouched on the floor, clutching the mic stand, and belting full-throttle from beginning to end, Xtina didn't so much sing ''It's a Man's Man's Man's World'' as she did unleash it on her mesmerized audience. This is the 2007 Grammy performance to remember; the Godfather of Soul would be proud.

    Simplest Pleasure
    The Police ''Ladies and gentlemen, we are the Police, and we're back!'' shouted Sting as he, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland opened the Grammys with a low-key rendition of their 1978 classic ''Roxanne.'' Nope, there wasn't a medley of hits, nor was there an orchestra, or any theatrics to speak of, really. But considering the band has only performed together a handful of times over the past 20 years, we'll take what we're given.

    Worst Camerawork
    Justin Timberlake
    Regarding JT's decision to sully an otherwise fine performance of ''What Goes Around'' by rising from his piano, grabbing a hand-held camera, and finishing his performance in super-extreme close-up (inset): Dude, not even a chart-topper like you has the pop-cultural clout to bring nose hair back.

    Most Triumphant
    Dixie Chicks
    ''Can't bring myself to do what it is you think I should,'' sang Natalie Maines during the Dixie Chicks' rendition of ''Not Ready to Make Nice,'' about the backlash they faced in the wake of her public anti-Bush comments. Up on stage, however, the Chicks did exactly what was expected of them — rocking the Grammy house with a performance that crackled with equal parts pain, anger, and defiance. (The tune, by the way, went on to win Song and Record of the Year.)

    Most Dramatic
    Mary J. Blige
    Some artists wear their hearts on their sleeves. Others rip them right out of their chests and leave them pulsing on the stage... artistically speaking, anyway. With her slowed-down, extravagant medley of ''Be Without You'' and ''Stay With Me,'' Mary J. Blige once again placed herself in the latter group. Sure, the Oprah-lite therapy-speak (''There was a time in my life when I couldn't love myself enough to love anyone else'') and references to herself in the third person are over-the-top, but it's a style that works for the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul — and now she's got multiple Grammys to prove it
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  2. Most Disappointing Collaboration
    John Legend, Corinne Bailey Rae, and John Mayer
    Memo to the usually entertaining artists named above: The Grammy Awards should not be confused with the Sleepytime Easy-Listening Hour. Seriously, their group outing on ''Like a Star,'' ''Coming Home,'' and ''Gravity'' went down like a triple-dose of tranquilizers, and we only woke up at the end, after we realized we'd drooled on our pillow.

    Most Unexpected
    Carrie Underwood True confession: I've never been a fan of American Idol's season 4 champ. But her beguilingly retro ''San Antonio Rose'' and heartfelt ''Desperado'' — respective tributes to Texan songwriters Bob Willis and Don Henley — were enough to convince even this long-standing holdout that Underwood is worthy of her breakaway successes. Not that she needs any props from a wayward critic: After all, she is Grammy's Best New Artist of 2007.

    Most Suited for Mothballs
    Performances by Shakira and James Blunt
    Quick! Which song are you sick to death of hearing: ''You're Beautiful'' or ''Hips Don't Lie''? Not to worry, music fans, we've got a Grammy-night two-for-one special that allows you to choose both! We bet even James Blunt's mother wouldn't mind if she never heard his drippy hit ballad again; and if you didn't detect an air of weary embarrassment as Shakira shimmied and Wyclef Jean back-flipped through their ubiquitous duet, well, you should have. Bottom line: The Grammys is music's biggest party. Why would these artists wanna go and bring leftovers?

    Least Gracious Winners
    Natalie Maines and Ludacris
    So you've just won a Grammy, and high on your list is... thumbing your nose at your nemeses? Well, alrighty then, Natalie Maines and Ludacris, if that's how you guys wanna play it! Indeed, the Dixie Chicks' lead singer — who, moments earlier, had made a graceful artistic statement during her band's powerful performance — quoted The Simpsons' meanie Nelson with a ''HA-ha!'' as her band picked up the Best Country Album trophy; presumably, she was laughing at country radio stations and fans who had ostracized the Chicks. Ludacris, meanwhile, referenced public beefs with Oprah Winfrey and Bill O'Reilly when he name-checked the media titans in his acceptance speech for Best Rap Album. Then again, at least these winners weren't painfully dull at the podium — like pretty much everyone else.

    Most Touching Tribute
    The Grammys honor James Brown
    It may have been a woman's woman's woman's night — with the Dixie Chicks, Mary J. Blige, and Carrie Underwood snagging so many big trophies — but one man loomed large over the telecast: soul legend James Brown, who passed away last Christmas. Indeed, decades-old footage of Brown performing ''Night Train,'' shown during the roll call of late performers, proved more compelling than many of the live acts on the bill. And by the time Danny Ray, James Brown's longtime emcee, quietly draped the late superstar's cape over a mic stand, leaving it basking in the spotlight, the Grammy crowd was on its feet.
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