BEYONCE became the most decorated female on a Grammy night as she collected six trophies, including song of the year for her anthem Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), but it was another diva -- Taylor Swift -- who nabbed the top honour: album of the year, for her bestselling Fearless.
Swift, who won a total of four awards, jumped around like the 20-year-old woman that she is when she beat Beyonce, the Dave Matthews Band, Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas to the honour.
"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," said Swift, whose Fearless was last year's bestselling album of any genre.
"Oh my God, our families are freaking out in their living rooms," she added. "My dad and my little brother are losing their minds in the living room right now."
And Ireland was represented on the big stage too, as Dubliner Imelda May performed a tribute to guitarist Les Paul along with Jeff Beck.
Beyonce, who in 2004 won five Grammys on the strength of her debut album Dangerously In Love -- a mark tied by the likes of Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Lauryn Hill, Amy Winehouse and Alison Krauss -- reached that milestone again en route to the new record. She is the first to reach that mark twice.
She shared the song of the year trophy with three writers for Single Ladies and also won best R&B contemporary album for I Am ... Sasha Fierce.
"This has been such an amazing night for me and I'd love to thank the Grammys," Beyonce said after winning best female pop vocal for Halo.
The Kings of Leon were a bit more entertaining when they picked up their record of the year trophy, the family quartet's third of the night.
"I'm not going to lie, we're all a little drunk. But we're happy drunks," said lead singer Caleb Followill.
Lady Gaga won two Grammys during the pre-telecast ceremony but didn't get a chance to show her multitude of outrageous dresses during the primetime show, losing out on record, song and album of the year.
But she made her presence felt when she kicked off the night in a sequinned green leotard with massive shoulders as she sang her Grammy-nominated hit Poker Face, then brought out Elton John as they melded her song Speechless and his classic Your Song together in a performance that featured duelling pianos and glitter-painted faces.
Swift, who was second to Beyonce in Grammy nominations with eight nods, also won best country album among her other awards.
The victory capped an amazing run for Swift, as Fearless is only her second album.
Her self-titled debut was a platinum success but Fearless, with songs such as You Belong With Me, took her into the superstar stratosphere, as she won accolades across genres.
Another country act to take a top award was the Zac Brown Band, which won best new artist.
The Black Eyed Peas also had three trophies, as well as Jay-Z, who won for best rap solo performance and two awards for Run This Town with Rihanna and Kanye West.
Rihanna -- who was forced to bow out of last year's awards as a performer after being assaulted by then-boyfriend Chris Brown -- accepted the trophy along with Jay-Z and with Beyonce's young nephew in tow.
West -- who has kept a relatively low profile since his dust-up with Swift a few months back -- was a notable no-show.
Maxwell, up for six awards, also won his first Grammys: best R&B male vocal for the ballad Pretty Wings and best R&B album for Blacksummers' Night. The album marked the R&B crooner's return after an absence of eight years from the music business.
Many participants in the programme wore red cross buttons in support of Haiti earthquake relief.
Mary J Blige joined Andrea Bocelli in a rousing rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water, which was not only designed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the song's big Grammy wins, but to raise money for the people of Haiti.
The performance, introduced by Haitian native Wyclef Jean, will be available via iTunes.com/target, with the funds going to earthquake relief.
The show also included a special 3D tribute to Michael Jackson featuring a video clip he made of Earth Song as Usher, Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson sang along.
Jackson's young children, Prince and Paris, accepted a lifetime achievement award for their late father.
"Through all his songs his message was simple: love.
"We will continue to spread his message and help the world," Prince said.