"Ahh, this is album of the year," a breathless Swift said, as she took the stage to collect the night's big award at Los Angeles's Staples Center. "Oh wow! Thank you so much. I just hope that you know how much this means to me – that we get to take this back to Nashville."
"This is for my dad," Swift said, still beaming from the win. "Thank you for all those times you said I could do whatever I wanted in life. And to my mom, you're my best friend."
In addition to album of the year, Swift, an eight-time nominee, went home with three other trophies, including best country album (for Fearless) and best country song, which she accepted in pre-telecast ceremonies.
Beyoncé's Big NightThe night's biggest winner, though, was another leading lady: Beyoncé, who claimed six of the 10 Grammys for which she was nominated, including song of the year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," and best female pop vocal performance for "Halo." Winning six trophies in a single night earns her a place in Grammy history – no other female artist has accomplished that feat.
Among the other big winners: Nashville rockers Kings of Leon, whose surging ballad "Use Somebody" netted them the prestigious Grammy for record for the year; the Black Eyed Peas won three awards, including best pop vocal album for The E.N.D. And country group Zac Brown Band was named best new artist.
Lady Gaga's Glittering Opening
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Lady Gaga brought the glitter, showmanship and Elton John in a high-concept opening number. Emerging in a severe leotard on a factory-themed set, the pop star began belting out her record-of-the-year-nominated hit, "Poker Face," backed by a fleet of dancers. Soon, though, Gaga was dropped into a fiery pit, only to return seconds later seated at a piano – and facing Elton John. "Take my picture, Hollywood. I want to be a star," she bellowed, before pounding out the opening notes to her ballad "Speechless," which she blended with John's classic "Your Song."
Other high-octane performances included best rock album winner Green Day's stately "21 Guns," which featured the cast of their Broadway-bound musical American Idiot and Pink, who glided into the air during a rousing rendition of "Glitter in the Air," before dipping into water. And Taylor Swift shared the stage with rock legend Stevie Nicks for a run-through of "Rhiannon" and a stripped-down "You Belong with Me."
Perhaps the night's most touching moment came during a tribute to Michael Jackson. In addition to an all-star, 3-D performance of his tune, "Earth Song," his eldest children Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11, took the stage to spread his message of love.
See all the Grammy winners and nominees here.