7 p.m. "Ladies and gentlemen, we're The Police, and we're back." It's "Roxanne," to the surprise of no one, and it sounds perfect. Sting looks not only happy but as if he's been working out; how else to explain that black vest with no shirt on underneath?
7:04: Would someone please tell Jamie Foxx he's not funny?
7:05: Tony Bennett and Stevie Wonder beat out more, um, contemporary artists to win Best Pop Collaboration. Stevie gets us choked up about the death of his mother. Then Tony thanks Target, and the moment is gone.
7:09: Joan Baez quotes Woodie Guthrie in her introduction of "three brave women"--the Dixie Chicks. Cue up a rousing version of "Not Ready to Make Nice" that has the crowd cheering in the middle of the song.
7:14: During the last 14 minutes, about 20 notices of awards given before the telecast have been flashing at the bottom of the screen so quickly that it's impossible to comprehend them. I think Gnarls Barkley may have won something, but I can't be sure. (Of 108 trophies, 97 were awarded before the telecast.)
7:18: Prince! In ginormous sunglasses, he says three words: "One word: Beyonce." She's in torch-ballad mode, engaging in vocal acrobatics that let us know she's nervous Mary J. Blige is scheduled to perform later.
7:21: Best R&B Album goes to Mary J. Blige. Yawn. Somewhere, Chan Marshall is cheering. Mary J. thanks about 75 people as the play-off music gets deafeningly loud.
7:26: Queen Latifah announces an unsigned-talent contest, introduces each of the three female hopefuls, then urges folks at home to vote on who gets to sing a duet with Justin Timberlake later in the broadcast. It's like a reality show within an awards show! How meta!
7:33: Justin kills, as usual, on "What Goes Around ... ." Bonus points for wearing a shirt under his vest. Subtract points for the creepy handheld camera shots.
7:38: T.I. and Pink present a lifetime achievement award to The Doors. Who decides who gives these things out? OK, now they're giving out the Best Female R&B Performance, which makes more sense. Shocker: It's Mary J. Blige again.
7:41: Slayer and the Flaming Lips won awards, according to our bottom-screen updates.
7:46: Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and John Mayer engage in a songwriters' circle of sorts. It's official: We've got ourselves a bland-off.
8:04: Apparently, in 2007, Shakira and Wyclef Jean no longer need an introduction. If I never hear "Hips Don't Lie" or have to watch Shakira engage in that completely unsexy, forced hip-gyrating again, I could die happy. Wyclef barely clears his backflip.
8:08: Burt Bacharach and Seal give a lifetime achievement award to Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert, complete with a voiceover miscue--the most dangerous thing that's happened so far. "Not Ready to Make Nice" wins Song of the Year, and the Dixie Chicks are feeling feisty.
8:18: Symbiosis! Two actresses from a CBS sitcom give a lifetime achievement award to the Grateful Dead before introducing Gnarls Barkley. Clad in airline-pilot garb, they reinvent "Crazy" yet again, this time as gospel-inflected old-school R&B. This song is so damn good, it should win every award for which it's nominated.
8:23: Kanye West and Common give the award for Best Rap Album to Ludacris, who calls his own album a "masterpiece" before thanking Oprah and Bill O'Reilly.
8:33: I just don't get Mary J. Blige. Sure, she's got a great voice and all, but will she please stop talking incessantly about her recent life changes? Like she's the only one who's been to rehab. These vocal histrionics make Beyonce sound like Calvin Johnson.
8:39: Mandy Moore, LeAnn Rimes and Luke Wilson give the award for Best Country Album to--another no-brainer--the Dixie Chicks. Rick Rubin gets thanked for the 34th time.
8:48: Reba McEntire gives honorary awards to two Texans, Bob Wills and Don Henley, then introduces a tribute to both by Carrie Underwood and Rascal Flatts. Carrie does just fine with "San Antonio Rose," but then we're forced to listen to three Eagles songs in a row. The injustice! Rascal Flatts doing "Hotel California"?
9:00: Ostensibly paired because their names share a syllable, Natalie Cole and Ornette Coleman (who also gets a lifetime achievement award) give the statue for Best New Artist to Carrie Underwood.
9:07: Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci give lifetime achievement awards to Smokey Robinson and Lionel Richie, who then take turns performing a song, along with Chris Brown. Smokey's had so much work done on his face that he resembles Max Cannon's Bug-Eyed Earl character. Brown arrives in a mask, in front of a wall of fire, slides down a ramp, then goes into an impressive stepping routine before singing his mediocre song. Biggest ovation of the night.
9:17: Christina Aguilera pops through the stage to perform James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," registering a respectable 8.2 on the Mary J. Blige Vocal Histrionics Scale.
9:28: The "In Memoriam" section, which is always bittersweet. James Brown's cape is draped over an empty mic stand with a single spotlight on it.
9:38: Rihanna and David Spade (who cracks, "David Bowie and Iman couldn't be here tonight ...") introduce Ludacris, who's performing with Earth Wind and Fire and, you guessed it, the inescapable Mary J. Blige. Give it a rest, woman!
9:43: James Blunt launches into "You're Beautiful." Makes me wish I had a blunt instrument.
9:50: Prince bought airtime for a commercial thanking us for watching his halftime show? Our pleasure, li'l dude.
9:52: Appropriately, Jennifer Hudson announces the winner of the My Grammy Moment competition. Winner Robyn duets with Justin on Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and Timberlake's "My Love," acquitting herself quite nicely.
10:08: Chris Rock introduces the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who have been rewriting the same three songs for the last 15 years. This was hardly "the performance everyone will be talking about tomorrow," as promised by the announcer.
10:13: Al Gore and Queen Latifah give out the Best Rock Album award to--another no-brainer--the Chili Peppers. Rick Rubin gets mad props for the 84th time.
10:23: After a full 10 minutes of commercials, we're back with Person of the Year Don Henley and Scarlett Johansson, who give the award for Album of the Year to the Dixie Chicks, who are by now so excited, they're downright mopey. Rick Rubin is thanked for the 89th time.