"Obviously, in my case, that hasn't been true," she said of "Idol" backlash. "I think tonight kind of proved that 'American Idol' can transcend the talent-show stereotype it has. It's just great talent on the show that couldn't get discovered doing what they were doing. It certainly worked for me."
The other subject proved more uncomfortable, when one reporter asked what she felt about the Dixie Chicks not just winning big Sunday night but "giving the finger" to the country-music world, much of which had rejected them after their 2003 criticism of President Bush for the war in Iraq.
Underwood scrunched her face up a little and said, meekly, "Next question, please. I don't like talking about anyone giving the finger."
Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith was a bit torn about losing to the Dixie Chicks for album of the year: He played on the country trio's winning album.
"I was hoping they wouldn't win for this album, because the guys would be mad at me," he said, turning to his three bandmates backstage.
But singer Anthony Kiedis also confessed that he would rather have lost to Gnarls Barkley. "We've been on tour with them and have gotten to know them and they're fresh and interesting," he said. "It would have been cool to lose to them."
Mary J. Blige elaborated on her remarks from the stage about having been in a valley before reaching her peak, discussing the initial desire of her record company to release a greatest hits album rather than this one of new material. That was a real low point for her. "In the valley, that's where you find out where you really are. That's why we have a peak right now."
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Any doubts that she was in a thankful mood were banished when she won the first award given out on the telecast. Rushing as the music played, she acknowledged 55 people by name. "I did two days of trying to remember everyone," she said.
Irma Thomas, whose "After the Rain" was named best contemporary blues album of the year, told reporters that she shared the award with the people of her hometown, New Orleans. "They were pulling for me," she said. "When I win, they all win."
She wasn't even put out that, after nearly five decades of acclaimed blues and R&B performances, it took disaster to draw the attention of the Recording Academy her way.
"I don't care what it took!" she said. "I got one! I am just pleased and tickled, and you don't understand how it is when you work.... This is my 49th year and I've been at it a long time — and though I didn't have to have it, after all that work, [to say] I am a Grammy winner, it's a wonderful thing."
After his performance and win for best pop vocal album, John Mayer changed back into the tux he'd worn for the red carpet arrival. But he did away with a lot of formalities in his chat, responding lightheartedly to questions, including addressing his reputation as being an ideal Grammy-appeal artist for his traditional music leanings, guitar dexterity and, of course, good looks and charm.
"That would entail externalizing in a way I don't like to do any more," he said, refusing to analyze that status. "I've managed to make better work because I've managed to shut down the radar as to why. That stuff is none of my business. I live a quieter life in my head. I don't try to get into other peoples' heads any more."
Resplendent in a lavender sequined suit that Prince might kill for, Ike Turner stood with son Ike Jr., discussing his first Grammy in more than three decades and first for anything done without ex-wife Tina — "Risin' With the Blues," produced and engineered by the younger Ike.
Though known in the past for confidence bordering on arrogance, Ike Sr. confessed that he had trepidations about being up for this award in the category of best traditional blues album.
"It means a lot to me, but I was afraid," he said. "It's not that I didn't want to win. I was just really nervous."
As for the suit, he smiled and said he got it at "the pawn shop."
There was an odd study in contrasts when quartet Third Day was in the press room discussing its win for contemporary gospel album and Lewis Black was seen and heard (on headphone only, fortunately) accepting his comedy album award on the pre-telecast segment being sent by closed circuit — with a few well-placed expletives.