The Grammys were nuts this year…but is that a compliment?
As a music blogger, it’s almost mandatory that I offer a few thoughts about the music industry’s biggest event, so I will do my duty that is best.
I must caution you that these views are all mine and are somewhat subjective. I take responsibility for them and some readers are bound to disagree with them.
And that’s all okay, because that’s what blogging is all about. I want to hear your views as well. Please feel free to comment at the end of the article.
So here goes:
Obligatory Moment of the Night:
Taylor Swift’s opening performance of “Out of the Woods.”
I’ve lost count of how many awards shows Ms. Swift has opened in the past year – heck, in the past five years. And this one almost seemed like the producers just wanted to get it out of the way. To answer her musical question: no, we’re not out of the woods yet…not until you’ve exhausted all of the songs from your 2014 album, 1989, which, by the way (expectedly) took Album of the Year honors. And for those who are counting, that’s six songs down, ten to go.
That would go to the duet of country music’s rising star Sam Hunt and veteran Carrie Underwood. His “Take Your Time” is the best country song in eons and one of the best songs of last year in any genre. He sang it in a slightly higher register – likely to accommodate Underwood’s vocals, but the pairing of the two was a sizzler nonetheless.
Worst Introduction of the Night:
Uh, that would be Ariana Grande’s intro of former duet partner The Weeknd.
She actually called it when she announced that the next performer had received seven Grammy noms because, “get ready for the worst pun of the evening” she quipped, “he ‘earned it’.” Then she launched into a bar of “Earned It” before The Weeknd took the stage. She was right, it was the night’s worst pun.
Most Unusual Collaboration:
R&B singer Andra Day and Electro-pop artist Ellie Goulding’s mash-up of “Love Me Like You Do” (Goulding) and “Rise Up” (Day).
It was short and sweet, and it was too bad Day had to share the stage with Goulding during the former’s coming-out party. Something tells me that Day’s post-Grammy sales benefit will be somewhat muted by that fate. But at least a larger part of the populace now knows the name of that lady who sang “Someday at Christmas” with Stevie Wonder and family members during those Apple commercials over the past holidays.
About that Lionel Richie Tribute:
Were you as perplexed as I was about R&B singer Tyrese capping off the tribute by singing “Brick House”? Don’t get me wrong, it was a good performance by Tyrese, as good as those of any of the other artists who were part of the celebratory medley of Richie’s hits.
But “Brick House” wasn’t technically one of Richie’s hits. Lionel didn’t sing the Commodore’s big top-five hit from 1977. That honor went to group member Walter Orange who had funkier chops than Richie.
It was an admirable tribute, nonetheless, topped by Richie himself joining the others onstage for his signature tune, “All Night Long (All Night).” It was also fun watching Dave Grohl in the audience singing along to “All Night Long (All Night).” Other Richie tribute performers: John Legend (“Easy”); Demi Lovato (“Hello”); Luke Bryan (“Penny Lover”); and Best New Artist Meghan Trainor (“You Are”).
Most Awkward Ten-Minute Segment:
The Maurice White tribute followed by the Glenn Frey one.
Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix performed a very short version of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “That’s the Way of the World.” Then Wonder – clad in a camouflage suit – announced the Song of the Year nominees and winner, Ed Sheeran.
After that came the Eagles’ tribute to the late Glenn Frey. The band that needed no introduction didn’t get one. It was an awkward sequence at best, with a video interview of Frey abruptly cutting off the acceptance speech for Ed Sheeran’s Song of the Year win. And then the band’s performance of “Take it Easy” awkwardly cutting into Frey’s video. It all seemed rushed.
But at least the Eagles didn’t disappoint. It was good seeing the surviving four members of the legendary band (especially Don Henley banging away at the drums) on stage with fellow ’70s veteran Jackson Browne.
That was immediately followed by another awkward transition as the audience heard the announcer begin to make a statement and CBS quickly cut to a commercial. Apparently what TV viewers missed was the Eagles finally accepting their 1978 Grammy award for “Hotel California,” since they had refused to attend that year’s ceremonies.
By the way, the second-most awkward moment might have been that instance when we all realized that the Gwen Stefani music video was actually a “live video” and not a TV commercial. (Good song, though.)
Best Non-Tribute Performance:
Kendrick Lamar’s medley of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright” from his Album-of-the-Year-nominated collection, To Pimp a Butterfly.
Any artist – rapper or otherwise – who can maintain his cool while performing in heavy chains or in front of a raging bonfire deserves props. The fact that he didn’t win in any of the major categories (Song of the Year, Album of the Year, etc.) for which he was nominated shows that his messages may still be too harsh for the still-conservative Grammy community.
Second-Best Non-Tribute Performance:
The Broadway production of Hamilton.
If the Grammys can do for hit musicals what it does for record sales, expect the theatrical production of Hamilton, which is a re-imagining of the impact of one of the country’s Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton (whose face is on that $10 bill in your wallet) to sell out for months to come. Hamilton later won Best Musical Theater album with its soundtrack. Yeah, I expect the album to be near the top of next week’s Billboard charts.
Did Adele just spell the end of second single “When We Were Young”?
With that song languishing on the Billboard charts at a disappointing #22 peak (disappointing by Adele standards), and the world still coming down from her recent #1 smash, “Hello,” Adele gave a lackluster performance of what will likely be the third single from 25, “All I Ask.” Despite it not being her best performance, the post-Grammy sales bump will go to that song, relegating “When We Were Young” to flop status, again only by Adele standards.
I thought I’d seen it all when I witnessed Madonna strumming a six-string during her Rebel Heart tour last year. Apparently, what’s good for Madge is also good for the Biebs as he played a standard set of chords to go with his performance of the recent #1 song “Love Yourself” before joining collaboration partners Skrillex and Diplo on their superior Grammy-winning single, “Where Are Ü Now?.” “Love Yourself” relinquished the #1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 a week ago. I expect it’ll be back at the top after this exposure.
A Tribute Fit for a King:
Bonnie Raitt, a legendary blues-rock artist herself, introduced and then joined rising country star Chris Stapleton and Gary Clark, Jr. in a performance of “The Thrill is Gone,” with images of blues legend B.B. King, who died last year, displayed behind them. It’s amazing how little the blues genre is appreciated by music fans – both in the audience and at home – as it is the music form that was the granddaddy of all those on display at the Grammys.
I was thrilled by the rousing hard-rock performance of 67-year-old former shock-rocker Alice Cooper and his Hollywood Vampire cohorts (Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Johnny Depp – yes, that Johnny Depp). While one of my friends observed that Alice Cooper could use a neck lift, I slightly disagreed and thought he looked as good as he ever did. Of course it was hard to tell under all that makeup, but at least he looked as good with the makeup as he did with makeup 30 and 40 years ago. How about that for a compliment?
Best Performance of All:
Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie.
It’s been a good month to be Lady Gaga as she continues to build her legend with performance after head-turning performance. It’s clear the producers had time to think about Bowie’s tribute (more so than the others’) as it was easily the most fulfilling one of the night, with Gaga faithfully singing a medley of at least eight of his classic tunes. She seemingly paid homage to former Bowie collaborator Nile Rodgers during the “Lets Dance” part, when she turned and embraced the legendary guitarist and producer as he sang along.
Now that’s respect.
Kendrick Lamar’s losses.
It’s apparently still too early folks. (Think Taylor Swift was happy that Kanye West wasn’t in the audience when she beat out Lamar and others for Album of the Year?)
Overall, the show gets a C+. There were some compelling moments, but its hurried nature with bad transitions and too-short performances detracted from it a lot.
What did you think about this year’s show?