The Grammy Awards telecast was one of the best I’ve seen in awhile.
For the most part.
It took a while to get going, but the last hour or so was electric, from Jack White kicking out the hard jams to LL Cool J and his buddies showing that “NCIS: Los Angeles” hasn’t drained him of all his talent.
I was happy to see that Gotye won Record of the Year and, though I thought White was the better choice, I’m fine with Mumford & Songs winning Album of the Year. (A lot of people say they don’t “get” Mumford, and I don’t really “get” that. It’s pretty easy to see why their brand of Americana is appealing even if you don’t like the band.)
I also predicted the top three categories (Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year) as well as Best Rock Performance and Best New Artist, which are the top categories for me.
Overall, it was good to see the Grammys rewarding some newer, younger talent than they have in a long time. The awards, seen as pretty stodgy and generally rewarding past accomplishments over current work, seem to be moving in the right direction.
With my Grammy predictions, I was correct on 12 out of 20 categories, which is better than my average. (I usually bat about .500.) I did the worst on categories where Fun. was nominated as I expected that the band would win almost everything for which they were nominated. They did not. I also struck out in the country categories.
I also expected the Grammy voters to go for some established or favorite artists, but they mostly didn’t. Young, hip artists won a lot of awards, which is very encouraging for the future of the awards.
After watching Sunday night’s show and our little live chat (which you can replay), I took a look at the best and the worst, as well as the thoroughly average moments that the awards show could take a minute to review and greatly improve their show.
Levon Helm tribute: Of course they did “The Weight,” which isn’t the most original choice, but it’s also the most recognizable. Anyway, the assembled musicians were all-stars, but just different enough to make some memories (up to and including Mavis Staples’ finishing vocals). The crowning moment, for me, was Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes taking Levon Helm’s verse in the song and absolutely crushing it. What a performance.
The Black Keys and Dr. John & the Preservation Jazz Hall Band: This is the kind of stuff I love: Take two groups that you might never think to join and throw them together. They were just different enough that it made “Lonely Boy” — a song we’ve heard over and over — sound completely fresh and different.
Kelly Clarkson’s acceptance speech: She made a nod to Adele, Pink, Miguel, Fun. and her fiance and she was just pretty adorable while she did it. (It even forgives her referring to Zac Brown as “Zach Braff” later in the show.)
LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Travis Barker and Z-Trip: First off, I loved the shout-out to MCA of the Beastie Boys. Second, it was an impressive display and a pretty cool way to play a new song, “Whaddup.”
Jack White’s performance: White showed how good he really is by performing two songs: the ballad “Love Interruption” followed by the screamer “Freedom at 21.” He rocked it with both his all-female and all-male bands.
Prince and Gotye: As a presenter, Prince was pretty excellent. As a winner, Gotye delivered an excellent speech. It was a neat moment.
Justin Timberlake’s performance: I don’t really like his new single, “Suit & Tie,” but I really, really like “Pusher Love Girl,” the second song he played. And he’s incredibly talented. I wish I was as good at any one thing as he seems to be at everything. Plus his cameo during Recording Academy president Neil Portnoy’s speech lent the normally lame speech some legitimacy.
Taylor Swift: What in the heck was all that?!
Frank Ocean: I don’t get why everyone thinks he’s so amazing. He’s talented, sure, and there are some good moments on his album, “Channel Orange,” but his performance of “Forrest Gump” on Sunday was pretty lame. The song was a bad choice if you’re trying to make a big impression in front of millions of people. I think there was a lot of head shaking.
Bob Marley tribute: In short, there was no reason for it. It was a pretty obvious pull for eyeballs with a tribute to a classically popular artist containing currently popular artists. During the tribute, they played exactly three songs and only one of them was a Marley tune. Lame tribute.
Chris Brown: He didn’t perform. But he was on camera a lot looking angry at not winning anything. Then there was the shot of Brown as the only person not standing when Frank Ocean won for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
“Great Grammy Moments”: LL Cool J and the faceless female announcer continually referred to past performances (that were average) as “great Grammy moments” and kept calling performances that had not yet happened “great Grammy moments.”
3.5 Hours: Trim the fat. There’s a lot of stuff we don’t need, up to and including LL Cool J reading tweets. (We get that the Grammys are big on social media, but reading social media on TV kind of defeats the purpose, right?)
THE THOROUGHLY AVERAGE
Regular, Plain Performances: Carrie Underwood, Ed Sheeran & Elton John, Miranda Lambert & Dierks Bentley, Fun., Kelly Clarkson and some of the other performances were just so... well... uninspired. I’m all about having good artists on the Grammy stage, and there was nothing necessarily wrong with what these people played (most of them were great). But a lot of them were another straight-ahead performance of a song that we’ve already heard a bunch of times. The appeal of Grammy performances are doing something awesome or something different. Putting different artists onstage together to see what they can pull off or assembling an all-star band (see the Levon Helm tribute) are great ways to create interesting (and memorable) situations.
Where were the awards? They only gave out 10 awards on Sunday. There are 81 total categories. They need to give out a few more on TV. I don’t think it would be a good idea to give out all 81 in a three-hour ceremony, but handing out a few more awards (especially a few more of the dance, rock, R&B and alternative categories) wouldn’t take up much more time and would expand interest in genres they’re not grabbing right now.