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The folk-rock quartet Mumford & Sons won album of the year for Babel and The Black Keys dominated the rock category at the 55th Grammy Awards on Sunday night. In a ceremony that ricocheted between appreciations for iconic musicians and performances by celebrated but not-yet-proven acts, the winners reflected both the diversity of pop music in 2012 and the lack of consensus about the music that defined the year.
Rock bands dominated the big awards — not all of them inspired by early 20th century blues or folk traditions. Gotye and fun., two groups that would sound at home on best-of-the-'80s compilations, each won multiple awards.
Unlike last year, when Adele's six wins, including the trophies for album, song and record of the year, felt like a foregone conclusion, this year's Grammy presentation had no obvious storyline. Before Sunday night, a number of scenarios were conceivable: Would fun. be the first act in 34 years to win all four major categories (record, song, album of the year and best new artist)? Would the three enormous singles of the summer (fun.'s "We Are Young," Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" and Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know") divvy up the major categories? Would they split the vote and give The Black Keys an opening to dominate the night? Would the night be a coronation for critical favorite Frank Ocean?
For a moment, just after the show began, it looked like the scenario the Grammys wished would play out was a rerun of last year's show. Adele won the first award of the evening, beating Kelly Clarkson, Jepsen, Katy Perry and Rihanna to win best pop solo performance for a live recording of the song "Set Fire to the Rain." (Bet on her Live at the Royal Albert Hall album to do brisk business in the coming week.)