Grammys: Kanye West, Aretha Franklin hold court

Two years ago, Kanye West’s Grammy afterparty was a booze-filled, late-night affair with 3 000 screaming guests, bikini-clad women—and his mother, Donda, in the house.

He was more subdued at this year’s party, celebrating four Grammy wins on Sunday night in tribute to Donda West, who died last year, and he even left earlier than most—but it was still a boozy, celeb-filled event.

The rapper, with his black jacket stitched with stripes of gleaming blue lights, accepted a steady stream of hugs and congrats at the packed Entertainment Weekly bash at West Hollywood club STK honouring Antonio “LA” Reid, chairperson and CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group.

“This is a new day, a new era and a new me,” West told the VIP crowd, which included his father, as he introduced the debut of his new, Spike Jonze-directed video for Flashing Lights, a single off last year’s Graduation.

Other parties around town drew the likes of Kid Rock, Aretha Franklin and Cyndi Lauper.

West’s album snagged an award for best rap album at Sunday’s Grammy awards, with West also picking up wins for best solo performance, best rap song and best rap performance by a duo or group for his collaboration with Common.

West and his sizable entourage left at 12.30am, but the champagne flowed freely and the party kept going.

Beyoncé Knowles, who lost out to Amy Winehouse for record of the year, stayed past 1am. Decked out in a gorgeous yellow gown with a plunging back, she sat laughing and sipping bubbly next to her former Destiny’s Child bandmate Michelle Williams, a few feet from her beau Jay-Z.
R&B heartthrob Usher joined the mix, hugging Reid and Quincy Jones.

Nearby was Rihanna, who also lost out to Winehouse for record of the year, plus song of the year, but did snag a win with Jay-Z for rap/sung collaboration for her ubiquitous hit Umbrella.

Other celebrities at the party included Janet Jackson; her boyfriend, Jermaine Dupri; new parents Joel Madden and Nicole Richie; and Star Jones.

Even actor Owen Wilson, who has mostly stayed away from the spotlight since his hospitalisation for a reported suicide attempt last August, showed up, seated in a booth next to tennis star Serena Williams.

Sony soiree

Across town, at the posh Sony BMG soiree at the Beverly Hills Hotel, floor-to-ceiling white drapes showcased photos from the Sony archives, from a wailing Janis Joplin to a guitar-playing John Mayer.

Attendees included Grammy winners Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Chaka Khan.

With its heat lamps and airy cabanas, an outdoor patio housed the likes of Tony Bennett and Mayer, who was noticeably alone, save for handlers, unlike last year’s appearance with then girlfriend Jessica Simpson.

But the party’s biggest draw was queen of soul Aretha Franklin, who settled on to a divan in the middle of the room and nibbled on mini burgers, bopping her head to a spot-on cover band pumping out tunes such as Winehouse’s Grammy hit Rehab and Knowles’s Crazy in Love.

Celebrity admirers, from rapper Lil Mama to singer and voracious dancer Chris Brown, flocked to Franklin.

“I have a camera in my bag, so I’m going to take a lot of pictures,” said wide-eyed singer Brandy.

Others gushed about their own idols.

“The ultimate icon for me is Tina Turner,” said Knowles, who performed with Turner at Sunday’s awards show. She was gracious when asked about Winehouse’s Grammy wins: “I thought she was wonderful. It was a great year for her.”

Earlier in the evening, Warner Music Group’s afterparty drew revellers including Kid Rock and Cindy Crawford to former cathedral Vibiana in downtown Los Angeles.

At the official Recording Academy Grammy celebration at the Los Angeles Convention Centre, red-and-gold curtains and dangling crystal chandeliers lent an elegant air while fire dancers performed on elevated platforms. Cyndi Lauper took the stage for an animated set.

Not all guests felt fully at home within the resplendent venues.

“I feel like a plumber in a flower convention,” Glen Hansard, star of Oscar-nominated alt-musical Once, joked at the Sony bash.—Sapa-AP

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