The Grammys finally showed Mariah Carey a little love - with an emphasis on "little."
Though Carey, 2005's biggest pop success, had a leading eight nominations and the chance to make history with the most Grammys won by a woman in a single night, she went home with just three trophies Wednesday. She lost in all of the major categories she was nominated for, including record, song and album of the year.
Instead, U2 got the glory, as the perennial favorites captured five Grammy awards for "How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb," including album of the year.
"We have to go through certain things in order to appreciate life and learn lessons," Carey told the TV show "Extra." Asked how she was doing, Carey replied, "I'm just in a really good, comfortable, happy place."
It was the second time U2 had won for best album since 1987, when it won for "The Joshua Tree." It was their 20th Grammy and the eighth for the album, which was released in late 2004 and also won three last year.
"If you think this is going to go to our head, it's too late," U2 frontman Bono said after the group won song of the year for "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." After winning the night's big award, album of the year, Bono told Carey, "You sing like an angel."
Carey won three Grammys in the pre-telecast ceremony, including best R&B album. But the evening still seemed bittersweet for Carey, who had the year's best-selling album with "The Emancipation of Mimi" and its most popular song in "We Belong Together." She was nominated for album of the year, and song and record of the year among her other nominations, but won nothing during the televised ceremony.
"I think winning three is a huge achievement," said British soul singer Joss Stone. "I think winning eight is a ridiculous thing. I can't imagine winning half a Grammy let alone three. She went through a lot, and everybody knew it. She's come back on top."
The wins marked Carey's first Grammys since she was a fresh-faced ingenue in 1990, winning two awards that year, including best new artist. Since then, Carey has more than lived up to the promise of that trophy, becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time.
But personal and professional stumbles a few years ago made many wonder if she would ever be a blockbuster artist as she had in the 1990s. Carey proved her doubters wrong with her stunning comeback.
Besides losing album of the year to U2, Carey lost best female pop vocal performance to Kelly Clarkson's triumphant "Since U Been Gone," song of the year to U2 and record of the year to Green Day. Clarkson also won the award for best pop album.
"I'm sorry I'm crying again on national television," said the former "American Idol," tearful and shaking as she held her first Grammy. "Thank you so much, you have no idea what this means to me."
John Legend won three awards: best new artist, best R&B album for his debut, "Get Lifted," and best male R&B vocal for the piano ballad "Ordinary People." His mentor, Kanye West, also won three, including best rap album for "Late Registration."
"I had no idea, I had no idea," West said in mock shock as he pulled a huge sheet of paper that read "Thank You List."
A highlight was the appearance of Sly Stone, the mercurial, psychedelic soul-rock pioneer who hadn't performed in public since 1993.
Toward the end of a sizzling all-star tribute to Stone, the man himself emerged, sporting a blond Mohawk against his 61-year-old brown scalp, and made his way through "I Want To Take You Higher." Though the tribute was planned, many didn't expect Stone to show up.
"I think we just got upstaged," said Keith Urban, who was standing backstage and saw the performance begin playing on a nearby monitor. "Everything pales in comparison."
Former Beatle Paul McCartney was featured in the night's most intriguing mash-up, walking onstage to sing "Yesterday" with rockers Linkin Park and rap mogul Jay-Z.
Alison Krauss & Union Station also had three awards, including best country album, while Stevie Wonder, who released his first album in a decade last year, had two.
A brief, impromptu performance by Wonder and Alicia Keys was the first to energize the crowd. Wonder pulled out his harmonica and the two soulfully sang his classic "Higher Ground" as a tribute to Coretta Scott King, whose funeral was Tuesday.
"Let's keep trying to reach that higher ground," Keys said. "I forever want to reach that higher ground."