LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Lady Gaga came into the Grammys hidden in an egg but she hatched a winner -- she captured three trophies by mid-evening, including best pop vocal album for "The Fame Monster."
But while she emerged as one of the evening's early leaders, the singer -- normally the most flamboyant performer on any bill -- found herself out-Gaga'd by Cee Lo Green, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jim Henson Co.'s puppets, who gave a hilarious performance of "Forget You" that would have done Elton John proud.
Decked out in feathers of seemingly every hue, Green -- who is nominated for record and song of the year for the dirty version of the song, "(Expletive) You," crooned alongside a sassy gaggle of puppets and Paltrow, who performed "Forget You" on the Fox TV show "Glee" and perhaps should seriously consider joining hubby Chris Martin of Coldplay as a regular recording artist.
It was easily the show stopper in a night of performances that included Gaga, a tribute to Aretha Franklin, a retro performance from Bruno Mars, a raspy Bob Dylan and Justin Bieber getting upstaged by 12-year-old Jaden Smith.
The performances overshadowed the evening's early winners. Jay-Z, John Legend and Lady Antebellum joined Gaga with three trophies, making them early winners.
Train, who had one of the year's top songs with "Soul Sister" but found themselves shut out of contention for song or album of the year, got a major consolation prize Sunday as they took home a trophy for best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals for the live version of their ubiquitous song.
"Thanks, Justin Bieber, for not being a duo or group," said joked frontman Pat Monahan ("Soul Sister" was ineligible for contention in other categories because it had been released in advance of the eligibility requirements.)
Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, best new artist nominee Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine, and gospel singer Yolanda Adams gave their soulful, riffing best in an ear-popping tribute to a recovering Aretha Franklin that kicked off the show.
The Queen of Soul, who had surgery for an undisclosed ailment late last year, made her first televised appearance before a national audience and thanking well-wishers: "I wish that I could have been with you all tonight, but since I couldn't, next year."
That performance was followed shortly afterward by a typically over-the-top one by Gaga, who debuted her new anthem "Born This Way" by being "born": She appeared out of an "Alien"-looking cocoon and seemed to transform into Madonna, circa 1987, as she pranced through the uptempo song, the first off her upcoming album.
Eminem was the leading nominee with 10, but his chance of a huge Grammy sweep was diminished as he lost five of the awards in the pre-telecast ceremony. He still picked up one -- best rap solo performance, for "Not Afraid."
Eminem still had a chance to win the top awards of the evening, including the elusive (for him) album of the year category. But the gifted and twisted rapper might get tripped up by some fierce competition, including a song that rivals him for coarseness -- Green's "(Expletive) You," which is in competition with Eminem's "Love The Way You Lie," featuring Rihanna, in the record and song of the year categories.
Eminem's "Recovery" was 2010's best-selling album and a favorite to win in the album category. It marked a major comeback for the rapper, considered one of the greatest but who had been addled by a prescription drug addiction and critical malaise in recent years. It is the third time he's been nominated for album of the year; he's lost twice before.
But he also faces tough competition in the category, from the likes of Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" and Lady Gaga's "The Fame Monster." Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" and Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" are also nominated.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)