Guys, everybody’s tired of the Grammys, even the Grammys itself. This year the venerable awards show basically threw in the towel, opting to just give every award to Adele (who deserved them all, but still) while also carting out a bunch of old white dudes your dad used to be really into. You know something’s wrong when the Foo Fighters somehow represent the modern state of rock and roll, and they’re even allowed to play twice (THREE times if you count Dave Grohl backing up Paul McCartney). And didn’t Bruno Mars play last year also? “Let’s bring that guy back, have him sing basically the same song but let’s omit that wildly untalented Janelle Monae this time.” Perfect! And I probably don’t even need to mention a certain walking piece of garbage who got to perform TWICE. You’re doing it wrong, the Grammys.
Now that I’ve gotten that grumpy introduction out of the way, here’s a shocker: Reasonably entertaining things DID happen. They were scattered throughout the entire, maddening THREE-AND-A-HALF-HOUR show and some were essentially Easter Eggs or accidents, but still. There were highlights. Let’s round ’em up!
The evening kicked off with a pretty rousing performance by some old guy named “The Boss” and his band from E Street. It was obviously a new song because Bruce Springsteen has an album to promote and this show is nothing if not just an elaborate business transaction among millionaires, but it WAS pretty rousing and fun. Plus Kathy Griffin was REALLY shredding up there:
Then host LL Cool J came out and got immediately down to some serious business, which I’m really in no mood to crack jokes about.
Probably the biggest question on anybody’s mind was how the Grammys would handle the last-minute tragedy of Whitney Houston’s passing, and so it was admirable that producers addressed it right off the bat. I’m not sure reciting an Our Father was necessarily the most universal way to mark this massive loss, but it was something, you know? Sufficiently humble and understated without being too devastating. Plus it definitely touched me to see everybody bowing their heads:
LL’s quick prayer was followed by a short video of Houston performing “I Will Always Love You” at the Grammys and it received a standing ovation.
So yeah, ultimately the Grammys acknowledged the elephant in the room and better yet, emphasized that Whitney should be celebrated and not mourned. I definitely appreciated the lack of heavy-handedness, particularly because the evening’s biggest winner, Adele, could be considered an heir apparent to Houston—at least when it comes to glamour and bombast—so to celebrate Adele was to celebrate Houston’s influence. Credit where credit’s due: The Grammys were a surprisingly tasteful operation.
Onto more ridiculous things! All the hottest celebrities were in attendance:
Like most awards shows, 80 percent of the entertainment value came from crowd reaction shots. This particular pairing never ceased to make me laugh:
I love that Nicki Minaj’s outfit was so big it actually encroached into Taylor Swift’s personal space, but Swift seemed too polite to say anything.
There was something especially sad about Lady Gaga and her beaded fishnet veil just sitting there all night not winning any awards or being allowed to take the stage at all. If a theatrical pop star falls in the woods, does it make a sound?
Bruno Mars came back, not sure why. To his credit, I did love when he commanded the audience to “get up off your rich asses!” Still though, last year Janelle Monae stole the show right out from under everybody so I couldn’t help but miss her this time. Oh well, maybe next year they’ll ask her to play THREE times.
Speaking of Janelle Monae… Cool style, Alicia! Anyway, this was nice: What I’m guessing was originally meant to be a tribute to Etta James was now a tribute to Etta James and Whitney Houston, and Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt were a charming pair. Obviously they are great performers, but it was especially cute when they first started playing and Keys whispered to Raitt “I’ll start.” Aw, they were just like little-girl besties up there (despite the 135-year age difference).
At this point Adele’s winning streak was just getting under way, and the best part was how short and practical all her speeches were. She used this first one to thank the doctors who helped her get her voice back after she suffered a ruptured vocal chord. I mean, it’s a given that Adele’s music achieves that rare mainstream success that’s also pretty high quality, but I just plain like Adele because of how she looks and talks. All glamorous on the outside but with the attitude of a schoolyard brawler. She just seems fun is what I’m saying. None of that fakey stuff.
Then the zombie apocalypse began.
Then Reba McEntire came out and she looked GREAT and also reminded me of how much I love Tremors.
So then Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson came out and shouted a song at each other. Toward the end of the song (during the shouting-in-unison climax), Aldean’s mic cut out and he awkwardly struggled with it while Clarkson continued screaming. I don’t know what must’ve been running through his mind at the time, but I know what was running through mine: “One mic down, one to go.” I did not enjoy that duet!
Outside Jack Black was making some kind of introduction for the Foo Fighters and it involved the repeated use of the phrase “indie cred.” As in, the Foo Fighters have unimpeachable indie rock cred. Which is what made this visual so funny:
And then they sang that song they did at the VMAs a hundred thousand years ago. I don’t know, maybe it’s a good song? It sounded like fairly standard power chords and verse-chorus-verse type stuff that an exhausted set of cool dads might deliver to a label 15 years into their career, but what do I know? Eff nothing, that’s what.
I know that THIS made me laugh:
That is just a good way to start off any performance but especially at the Grammys. Get well soon, Rihanna!
Actually, did anybody notice just how EARLY NINETIES Rihanna’s performance was? With that mesh top and Courtney Love wig plus background dancers straight out of The Grind? I’m not complaining, it was just pretty remarkable is all.
Speaking of remarkable, I may not have enjoyed this Coldplay song “Paraparaparadise” but I was really into their blacklight-themed stage. I know that’s more or less their touring stage (and they did up the SNL stage like that last fall) but it just looked really interesting to me. So yeah. Congratulations, Coldplay. “The stage looked interesting.” —Price Peterson
Then Pauley Perrette came out with two of the New York Giants and one of them did a “salsa” dance that he does in the end zone sometimes? I don’t know, I missed the Super Bowl because I was eating a sandwich. Who ended up winning that? M.I.A.?
The best part about Foo Fighters winning Best Rock Performance was the expression on Pat Smear’s face when they walked up to accept it:
This was probably because Pat Smear is the best part of Foo Fighters.
On paper Dave Grohl’s speech WAS pretty inspiring. It was mostly meant to encourage young upstarts not to get too perfectionist or insecure or reliant on artificial technologies. The problem was when he boasted that their new album was recorded entirely in his garage on a tape deck. Oh, really, Dave Grohl? What kind of garage does a multimillionaire rock musician have, anyway? Is it, by any chance, a garage with a very expensive recording booth in it? Oh well, it’s the thought that counts. At least he gave producer Butch Vig his propers. The man produced Nevermind and Siamese Dream and is a MEMBER of Garbage. Give HIM that Grammy. Anyway, it was at this point that Dave Grohl’s speech got cut off in the most brutal way. That outro music (which was the same kind of awful techno he’d just been railing against) was SO LOUD. He attempted to shout over it and everything but no dice.
So then Ryan Seacrest came out and told us that the Beach Boys were about to reunite on stage for the first time in a long time, and to kick things off Maroon 5 and Foster the People were going to toss their falsettos into the ring as backup.
I’m no Adam Levine diehard, but he definitely handled “Little Surfer Girl” with aplomb. I’d swivel around in MY chair for that.
Aside from looking slightly terrified, the lead singer of Foster the People ALSO sounded great, but my favorite thing was how Foster the People was dressed: matching shirts, sports coats and highwater pants. Everybody was so handsome! Congratulations all around.
And then the actual Beach Boys came out and I was REALLY feelin’ what Mike Love was throwin’ out there.
That hat! Those fine jewels! The Beach Boys were BACK!
Brian Wilson was there, and let’s face it, that’s why this thing was billed as a reunion. Without him these dudes would have been singing “Kokomo” at some casino. Anyway, they pretty much nailed “Good Vibrations” and it ended up being pretty fun. BRB, I need to go listen to Pet Sounds RIGHT NOW.
This is what Stevie Wonder decided to wear, just FYI.
So, this is juvenile, but throughout the broadcast microphones kept glitching out and during Paul McCartney’s extremely quiet rendition of whatever he was singing, a microphone made a glitching noise that sounded EXACTLY like someone breaking wind. It was just absolutely hilarious. I’m sure you had to be there, but man alive! Simple pleasures, you know?
Here’s something I never thought would happen: I really enjoyed Taylor Swift’s performance! I guess I always just thought she was a country lady Bieber, but for this performance she busted out a banjo and descended a Dust Bowl-themed stage and just performed the heck out of “Mean.” Don’t get me wrong, that song is still as juvenile and Level-1 creative as it gets, but she still nailed it in a mature and artistic way.
Unfortunately she had to go and ruin everything with her trademark “They are clapping for ME?” face:
Cut it out, lady! Yes, they are clapping for you. And don’t tell me it’s because you suddenly realized how big the crowd was. You’ve played the Staples Center a hundred times by now. Just accept the compliment and don’t be a liarface about it.
Neil Patrick Harris was there, so that was definitely something for the plus column.
This guy was the man behind Adele’s mega-selling album. Just FYI.
So then Katy Perry “performed.”
Um, first of all an impostor came out and pretended to be Katy Perry up until the mics cut out (which was pretty plausible at this point) and THIS a-hole descended from the ceiling:
I mean what was even going ON during this thing? Was there any kind of unifying idea, or was it just randomly assembled bits of weirdness meant to imply that Katy Perry is creative and outrageous rather than just manufactured and auto-tuned?
Cool ice sculptures, though! Even if it DID seem like there was supposed to be a fourth one that didn’t make it on stage.
Lady Antebellum won another Grammy and they were like, “Okay, fine, we’ll take it, but we assure you we have plenty already.”
In my opinion the best performance of the night happened during the commercial break when LL Cool J rapped about the CBS primetime schedule. Question: When will iTunes let me download this hot track?!?
Then Gwyneth Paltrow came out to introduce Adele, and though she didn’t explicitly say it, it seemed pretty clear that Gwyneth Paltrow believes she is responsible for Adele’s success.
So then Adele blew the roof off the joint with a perfect performance of “Rolling in the Deep,” which was regarded as a bit of a comeback performance seeing as she’d been rehabbing her vocal chords for the better part of a year. It was honestly just a great, powerful performance and the resulting standing ovation was SO deserved:
Taylor Swift, take note: THIS is how you should look when an audience claps for you:
Lovely. The cameras lingered on Adele long after she’d finished, which was the big tip-off that not only was she about to win every award under the sun, but this moment was meant to cap off one of the most famous personal narratives in the music industry. Hers is a terrific fairy tale, really, and a fairly excellent one for the Grammys to have latched onto for the night.
The Band Perry came out to pay tribute to a soon-to-retire singer and they did a great job! They are a very likeable band, aren’t they?
Also surprising to me (I am very ignorant about country music), Blake Shelton’s rendition of “Southern Nights” was another high point of the evening. Just so understated and cool. Shelton and The Band Perry then teamed up to sing “Rhinestone Cowboy” along with its original singer (who shall remain nameless; lady abusers won’t be making appearances in this recap), and the best part was the standing ovation they all got. Well, it was a standing ovation from everyone but THESE two jerks:
Haha busted! Now the world knows you are awful!
People who are not awful:
Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood sang a nice duet. I don’t know. If you’re into that sort of thing.
Then Justin Vernon of Bon Iver accepted the award for Best New Artist and mumbled something about how it was hard for him to accept the Grammy because he’s not in it for the Grammys and what about everybody else and whatever. He’d already famously declined to perform live here, so this was just him being consistent. Fair enough. Bon Iver makes pretty music, but how weird was it to hear his song playing at the Staples Center? Oh well. Sorry, Justin Vernon. Feel better?
Then the President of the Academy came out and gave his annual Most Boring Speech Ever speech. This was about some kind of industry-funded healthcare system for former musicians? I don’t know, I couldn’t pay attention due to the crazy-looking lady staring intensely at his elbow.
But then things took a chilling turn!
Oh my God!!! What doe she want from me?? BRB calling 911!!
The In Memoriam montage was as sad as you’d expect; it ended with this one:
Then Jennifer Hudson was tasked with singing “I Will Always Love You.”
Obviously Jennifer Hudson was not going to sing it as well as Whitney Houston, and she definitely didn’t, not by a long shot. But you know something? It worked. Jennifer Hudson is a great singer, so to see her fall so short of Houston’s version was a pretty moving reminder of just what we’ve lost.
Almost as an afterthought, LL Cool J and ?uestlove gave a shout-out to recently deceased Soul Train mastermind Don Cornelius, which I guess was a pretty nice thing to do seeing as he was mysteriously left out of the In Memoriam segment. But then they weirdly tied it in with some kind of dance music mash-up featuring David Guetta, Deadmau5, and Foo Fighters (?) among others.
Like, ugh, more Foo Fighters? And then they were mashed up with Deadmau5, thereby undermining everything Dave Grohl was trying to claim about rock ‘n roll’s analog integrity?
I’m not a dubstep expert, and it’s clear to me that much of dubstep is nightmarish, but I thought the inclusion of Deadmau5 was pretty inspired on the part of the Grammys. It kind of sucked that they forced him to DJ in some tent in the parking lot, but at least it was something different to liven things up a bit.
This guy knows what I’m talking about:
Okay, so then Nicki Minaj performed.
It was one of the weirdest, most baffling, ugly, and entertaining things I’ve seen in a long time!
It included an intro, a short film, and then a balls-out Catholicism-desecrating on-stage exorcism freakout complete with dancers in midriff monk robes and writhing lady demons.
And it all culminated with Nicki Minaj LEVITATING over the stage. Oh and she was actually rapping the entire time! Not just lip-synching like many of the previous performers.
The bad news is that the song she performed was total garbage. But the good news is that Nicki Minaj (who is kind of the best) is moving into a full-fledged, self-indulgent megastar mode and it should VERY interesting to behold. Lady is crazy AND hilarious, so it’s no wonder this trainwreck was one of my favorite things of the night.
Whoops, I spoke too soon… This JACKET someone in the audience was wearing might’ve been my favorite thing of the night. Here let’s zoom in:
I’m guessing that’s supposed to be Michael Jackson? I don’t know, I don’t care who it is, that is one elegant jacket. Can’t make out the website, so publicity stunt is a failure, but oh well. Nice try and NICE JACKET.
Then Diana Ross joined LL Cool J on stage to present the Grammy for Album of the Year. Any guesses who won? Come on, just guess! Just take a wild guess. Okay, I’ll tell you, it was Adele.
Leave it to the biggest award of the night to make her actually get emotional at the mic. Her speech was a great one, touching on the backstory that caused her to record the album (“a rubbish relationship”) and she even charmed the crowd by having an inadvertent snot incident while talking. As you can see, another standing O.
I see you, Kathy Griffin.
To conclude the show, they carted Paul McCartney back out and he sang something from Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but enlisted the assistance of Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl to help him shred out a few wicked guitar solos for what felt like 45 minutes.
And then, my favorite moment of the show: MY DVR cut off the very end! Phew! That was that! I don’t know what happened beyond the cut-off, and I’m sure I don’t care. Three-and-a-half hours is a lot to put up with, especially when only about 25 minutes were worthwhile.
So! In conclusion: C+ for effort, the Grammys. Adele, I hope you’re working on getting your heart broken again so you can record a new album. And Whitney, I hope you’re singing “How Will I Know” to all of the angels.
… Who was your favorite Grammy performer?
… Did Adele deserve her Grammy haul?
… Who is the Grammys even FOR?
… Do you think [MUSIC DROWNS OUT]