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At the Grammys

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It’s usually a bad sign when the year’s biggest music event opens with a nine-month-old song touting last summer’s lamest movie, but Will Smith’s Wild Wild West medley sounded just the right chord. At the 42nd Annual Grammys, held Feb. 23, music voters again demonstrated their love for everything old, with awards to Sting and Cher and props to that musical Methuselah, Clive Davis.

Though the night went ”Smooth”-ly for Carlos Santana and matchbox 20’s Rob Thomas, teen-pop titans were sent packing — except for Christina Aguilera. She walked away with Best New Artist, upsetting rival Britney Spears. ”I forgot to thank my sister and brothers,” said the stunned winner. ”I hope they’ll forgive me, I feel awful.” So did the viewers: The show’s performances were flatter than Rosie O’Donnell‘s jokes. Ricky Martin couldn’t top last year’s breakthrough, despite surrounding himself in a ring of flames. ”[The show] seemed very Vegas,” said Sarah McLachlan, who won Best Female Pop Vocal. ”Bright, shiny, and all decked out.”

Speaking of decked out, music’s favorite moll, Jennifer Lopez, upstaged all with her barely-there Versace dress. ”It was the most left-of-center thing that’s ever been on CBS,” said MTV’s Carson Daly. ”I’m sure the Touched by an Angel fans were freaking out.”

If the Grammys fell short, it must’ve been because everyone was already partied out. There were no fewer than five pre-events, including MTV’s Rock the Vote. The most luminous shindig was hosted by Arista’s Clive Davis at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Given the 66-year-old’s roller-coaster year — plotting the Santana comeback and staving off bosses at BMG trying to replace him — everyone turned out. ”It’s the who’s who party,” said TLC’s T-Boz. ”It’s the whole big shebang bang!” Surrounded by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, and Neil Diamond, Thomas, who also performed ”Smooth” here with Santana, was awed: ”It’s pretty special to know you’ve got your finger in there. I’m a 28-year-old musician!” Which is still pretty young for a Grammy winner.

(Additional reporting by Carrie Bell and Chris Willman)

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