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This time, West keeps his cool

[THE GRAMMYS] | BACKSTAGE

February 14, 2005|Steve Hochman | Special to The Times

Given Kanye West's outburst after losing to Gretchen Wilson as the best new artist at the American Music Awards in December, a lot of attention was directed toward the rapper's reaction when pop-rock group Maroon5 beat him in the same category at the Grammy Awards on Sunday.

West appeared to be sulking in his seat even as the winners' singer, Adam Levine, praised the rapper from the stage. But after the show, West said he was anything but upset.

"I love Maroon5," he said in the backstage media room. "That's why me and Adam were talking about it before they went up. With awards, they try to make it seem there's one winner, but we're all winners because we're here."

Levine furthered the mutual appreciation backstage.

"It was very shocking," he said. "Everyone in the room expected him to win, and when it was us it was unreal. The first person I wanted to thank was him. He deserves it as much as us and we very much wanted to share it with him."

And if anyone thought some resentment might have fueled West's fiery performance of his song "Jesus Walks" on the telecast, West said that wasn't the case either.

"God inspired me, the opportunity to perform, help deliver his message and perform at the Grammys," he said. "That's what was inspiring."

West also said he apologized to Wilson for his American Music Awards remarks at the Grammy nominations news conference last month, but he pointedly stated that he had no apology to the awards show and its producer, Dick Clark.

Steve Earle, whose politics-heavy "The Revolution Starts ... Now" was named best contemporary folk album, hoped the awards might provide some validation for his and other artists' left-wing activism that they didn't get in the November election.

"Even going by the traditional Grammy criteria, if Green Day doesn't win tonight then something's wrong," he said backstage, referring to the rock band's politically charged "American Idiot" (which won best rock album but lost to the late Ray Charles for album of the year).

While he said he was "discouraged" by November's election results, he added, "I'm not prone to pessimism."

Earle has also seen validation in some negative reactions to his stances.

"I made a record like less than two years before with a song about John Walker Lindh on it," he said, alluding to the so-called American Taliban. "So if I'm not [irritating] the New York Post and Fox News, I'm not doing my job."

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