Ryan Lewis, left, and Macklemore arrive at the 56th annual Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Los Angeles. Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press
Rap newcomers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and veteran dance-electronic act Daft Punk are the front-runners Sunday night at the 56th annual Grammy Awards.
The awards, dubbed "music's biggest night" by organizers, are celebrating the past year's most popular North American music.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took four trophies early on, including a trio of awards — best rap album for The Heist along with best rap performance and rap song for the catchy Thrift Shop — at the pre-telecast ceremony, which was hosted by singer, songwriter and compser Cyndi Lauper.
The hit duo also picked up the first award of the evening's live telecast: best new artist.
"I want to thank our fans: the people who got us on this stage, before there was any media, before there was any buzz about us, before there was a story, there were our fans, and it spread organically through them," Macklemore, whose real name is Ben Haggerty, said onstage.
"We made this album without a record label. We made it independently and we appreciate all the support."
Meanwhile, French duo Daft Punk was close behind with a trio of Grammy wins: best electronic/dance album and best engineered album for Random Access Memories and best pop duo/group performance for Get Lucky, featuring producer-performer Pharrell Williams.
Another of this year's top nominees, Justin Timberlake, earned a pair of early Grammys as well: best R&B song for Pusher Love Girl and best music video for Suit and Tie (an award that goes to director David Fincher).
A pair of Canadians were also among the early evening winners: B.C. crooner Michael Bublé and Vancouver-born, Montreal-based Jennifer Gasoi. Bublé nabbed his fourth Grammy in the best traditional pop vocal album category for To Be Loved, while jazz artist and children's entertainer Gasoi won best children's album for Throw a Penny in the Wishing Well.
A host of Canadians lost out in the earlier ceremony, where more than 70 categories are awarded, including rapper Drake, rocker Neil Young, composer Mychael Danna and singer-songwriter Deric Ruttan.
Other top nominees still in contention tonight include rap heavyweight Jay-Z, New Zealand teen singer Lorde, rising U.S. hip-hop star Kendrick Lamar, singer Robin Thicke and emerging country artist Kacey Musgraves.
Nominees in central categories include:
- Album of the year:The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles; Random Access Memories, Daft Punk; Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar; The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis; Red, Taylor Swift.
- Record of the year (for performance): Get Lucky, Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams; Radioactive, Imagine Dragons; Royals, Lorde; Locked Out of Heaven, Bruno Mars; Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams.
- Song of the year (for songwriting): Just Give Me a Reason, Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess; Locked Out of Heaven, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars; Roar, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter; Royals, Joel Little & Ella Yelich O’Connor; Same Love, Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis.
Over the past week, the U.S. Recording Academy, which administers the Grammys, has held a series of events honouring nominees and special award winners. Celebrations included a producers and engineers ceremony saluting Canadian icon Neil Young on Tuesday and a Friday gala celebrating the 2014 MusiCares Person of the Year: influential singer-songwriter Carole King.
In recent years, the Grammys broadcast has become known for unconventional or unlikely musical pairings, which have the potential to become memorable match-ups (for better or worse).
In keeping with tradition, this year's tag-team performers include metal icons Metallica performing with classical pianist Lang Lang, rapper Kendrick Lamar with alt-rockers Imagine Dragons, R&B singer Robin Thicke with Chicago and soul legend Stevie Wonder with dance hitmakers Daft Punk.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Lorde, Pink and surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are also performing during the televised gala.
The festivities continue Sunday evening at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with the televised Grammy gala — hosted by performer LL Cool J — beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The broadcast will air on CBS and Citytv.