By Mary Milliken and Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Two unconventional acts, French electronic music DJs Daft Punk and New Zealand teen Lorde, took home the top Grammy awards on Sunday in a night that rewarded robots and newcomers, and recognized marriage equality.
In a first for the Grammys or any big U.S. awards show, thirty-three couples, both same-sex and straight, were married by singer Queen Latifah, to the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis gay rights anthem, "Same Love." Madonna emerged in a white suit and cowboy hat to conclude the singing ceremony with "Open Your Heart."
The music industry’s glamorous gathering also saw the two surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, come together for a rare joint performance coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the British group’s breakthrough on American television.
The quirky robotic duo, Daft Punk, scored the double win of album of the year for "Random Access Memories," and record of the year with the summer dance hit "Get Lucky," featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.
Rodgers praised the French DJ duo for creating their electronic music album using live music recorded on to analog tape, calling it "a labor of love."
"The fact that they decided to put this much effort into the music and bringing in musicians, they had this incredible vision and they believed they achieved something greater by doing that," Rodgers said backstage.
Formed in the early 1990s by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Daft Punk were pioneers of the electronic dance music phenomenon that has recently swept the U.S. mainstream pop industry.
It was impossible to know what the two masked musicians thought about their big win because they choose not to speak as part of their act.
Lorde, 17, won the Grammy for song of the year with her breakout hit "Royals," sharing the award for songwriters with Joel Little. They triumphed over the writers behind Katy Perry’s "Roar" and Bruno Mars’ "Locked Out of Heaven," among others.
"Thank you to everyone who has let this song explode because it has been mental," said Lorde, whose real name is Ella Yelich-O’Connor, known for a gothic esthetic that goes against the sexy, scantily clad norm of young pop artists.
HIGH DRAMA AT THE ALTAR
The Recording Academy also anointed Seattle-based rapper-producer newcomers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis with the Grammy for best new artist and three other awards in rap categories.
"Before there was any media, before there was any buzz about us, before there was a story, there was our fans and it spread organically through them," said Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, as he accepted the best new artist award.
With their homage to marriage equality, the duo also presided over the biggest dramatic moment of the night, the ceremony in a cathedral-like setting, an initiative that Queen Latifah hoped would be emulated across the rap genre.
"I hope this is inspiration to all the rappers out there and hip hop artists out there that they can continue to tackle any subjects you want," Queen Latifah, said backstage, before her power to marry in California expires at midnight.
The 56th Grammy Awards, the music industry’s top honors handed out by the Recording Academy across 82 categories, also rewarded a crop of newcomers in several genres.
Kacey Musgraves, 25, won best country album with "Same Trailer Different Park," while alt-rockers Imagine Dragons won best rock performance for "Radioactive."
"This last year has kind of just blown up," said Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, dusted in the red powder from the band’s high-octane performance with rapper Kendrick Lamar.
BEATLES 50TH ANNIVERSARY
There was also 71-year-old McCartney, who teamed up with former members of grunge rock band Nirvana, including Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, to win best rock song for "Cut Me Some Slack."
"It was magic for me playing with these guys," said McCartney, adding "I found myself in the middle of a Nirvana reunion and I was very happy."
On Monday, the Recording Academy’s "The Night that Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles" will pay homage to the Fab Four’s February 1964 performances on the "Ed Sullivan Show," which is credited with launching rock music’s so-called British Invasion.
With McCartney at the piano and Starr at his drums on Sunday night – in a surprise reunion – the two played a new song, "Queenie Eye," a catchy tune that hearkened back to the Beatles’ trademark hits. It was only the fourth time they had performed together on stage since a 2002 concert to honor the late George Harrison. John Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, and son Sean Lennon were in the crowd dancing along on Sunday.
Kicking off the three-and-a-half-hour show, Beyonce and rapper husband Jay Z sang "Drunk in Love," her first public performance since her self-titled album in December, a game-changer in the music industry for its stealth release.
The final performance by Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Grohl and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham hit a sour note as CBS rolled the end credits over the music.
Nine Inch Nails lead Trent Reznor later sent out a tweet with the words "Music’s biggest night … to be disrespected."
(Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Sandra Maler)