Women take lioness's share of Grammys

The awards shows endeavours to treat everyone equally but isn't the real attention just lavished on the women?

Even before the mini-Gramophone trophies were doled out, it was ladies' night at the 52nd Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday. Beyoncé, who led the field with 10 nominations, made Grammy history as the most decorated woman by taking away six awards in all - including Song of the Year for Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It). In close pursuit was her young adversary Taylor Swift, who notched up eight nominations in total and carried home four shiny trophies, including the coveted Album of the Year for Fearless. And happily, she was allowed to witter through her various acceptance speeches without any interruption from the floor. Well done, Kanye West, for keeping it buttoned this time.

Lady Gaga took away two awards by the night's end, having been nominated for five. She also opened the show, with a performance of Poker Face in the shy style we have become accustomed to. It takes gutsy stage presence to match the flamboyance of Elton John, who duetted alongside her, but it anyone could pull it off, it was our Gaga. Other big winners included the Black Eyed Peas, who took away three trophies including recognition for last year's Boom Boom Pow in the Best Short-Form Video category. A trio of trophies, too, for Kings of Leon, whose Use Somebody won Record of the Year.

When the nominations were announced in December, there was some surprise in the music world that few oldies or alternative names had made the cut. The three most prestigious categories - record, song and album of the year - were dominated by the kind of artists whose songs have been relentlessly chalking up radio airplay in recent months. Beyoncé's Halo, the Black Eyed Peas' I Gotta Feeling, Kings of Leon's Use Somebody and Swift's You Belong with Me were all given a nod. You can perhaps hear them in your head now.

Missing out were several rock lions of old, and those who dared to churn out music that doesn't have mass appeal, the theory being that the Grammy powers wanted to recognise the biggest sellers in these troubled times for the music industry. There were a few exceptions to the rule. AC/DC were awarded their first Grammy, clinching Best Hard Rock Performance for their song War Machine. And Neil Young was given his first Grammy for Best Art Direction on a Boxed or Special Limited-Edition Package.

But really, given the myriad categories (this year there were 109), does anyone care about these lesser awards? Best Historical Album? Yawn. Best Album Notes? Snore. Give us Beyoncé in studded leather or Lady Gaga in an Armani solar system outfit and we're happy. Bigger news, this year, was a much more significant event, for what recent music gathering could be complete without another Michael Jackson tribute? To address this appropriately on Sunday, the Grammy organisers decided on a 3D rendition of his single Earth Song at the telecast just before the ceremony itself. Unlike Thriller, Beat It and Billie Jean, this is a Jackson track that had never been recognised by the Grammys previously.

But no matter. A slightly mixed bag of musical names was cobbled together to perform it - Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood, Smokey Robinson and Jennifer Hudson. Afterwards, Jackson's eldest two children - Prince Michael and Paris - appeared on stage to accept a lifetime achievement award for their father. "Daddy was supposed to be here. Daddy was going to perform this year - thank-you. We love you, Daddy," said Paris to the emotional onlookers at the Staples Center.

Worst-dressed performer of the year is, sadly, not a category included in the Grammys. But if it were, Britney Spears would be up there for her appearance on the red carpet in a sheer lace Dolce & Gabbana number. Stiff competition was presented by Jennifer Lopez, who pulled on a chain-mail mini dress by Versace paired with a long, white chiffon overlay. The couple of the moment, Katy Perry and Russell Brand, were also there. Does the man own more than one pair of skin-tight, black trousers? Who knows, but gossips noted that the pair bickered after Brand cracked inappropriate gags on the red carpet. Perhaps Perry should have thought about that compulsion of his before she heeded Beyoncé's advice and put a ring on it.