LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A popular and eye-popping mix of stars like Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga drew a TV audience of 25.8 million Americans to the Grammy Awards -- the biggest TV audience for the telecast in six years, according to preliminary television ratings on Monday.
The 3-1/2 hour music awards show on CBS on Sunday enjoyed a 35 percent increase on last year and was the most-watched Grammy telecast since 2004, according to early date from Nielsen.
Last year, 19.05 million Americans watched the performance and awards show from Los Angeles.
Sunday's show saw R&B singer Beyonce take home six Grammys while 20-year-old country sensation Taylor Swift -- whose "Fearless" was the biggest-selling album of 2009 -- won four and became the youngest artist to win the coveted Grammy for album of the year.
In a televised ceremony heavier on performances than award handouts, outlandish newcomer Lady Gaga paired up with equally flamboyant pop veteran Elton John, while Michael Jackson's children Prince Michael, 12, and Paris, 11, made a rare public appearance to accept a lifetime achievement award for the "Thriller" singer who died in June.
The big TV ratings brought some cheer to the recording industry which is fighting a losing battle to maintain traditional sales in an era of legal and illegal downloads and the rival attractions of video games and social networking.
Jon Pareles of The New York Times said the Grammy's "got lucky" this year with a range of top nominees "who barnstormed arenas last year."
"The Grammys have found the right balance of performance and award, which is to say, the awards are strictly a sideshow. A recording business desperate for sales wants to expose as many items as possible, and most performers were introduced along with their song titles in case anybody wanted to download them immediately," Pareles wrote.
Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Cynthia Osterman