Anyway, Grammy is back. Grammy is dead. Long live Grammy. Or whatever, I don't care. Here's what happened:
Horrible ad soundtrackers Train won Best Pop Duo/Group for their appalling song “Hey Soul Sister,” a repulsive slice of sound doodoo. Next!
Gaga! New song! Premiere! I really like the idea of Lady Gaga. I like her attitude, her confidence, her insistence on challenging the structure of celebrity. But I do not care for her music. At all. Dig it: if your whole thing is raging against the music industry machine, you should probably actively pursue a distinctive musical path, not regurgitate the sleek, blank dance pop of the past two decades. Maybe it’s all part of her big statement. Or maybe, probably, she’s just not that talented, or that bright. And maybe the industry’s using her even more than she’s using it. And so on, and so on, and down the rabbit hole we go…
Oh my shit, do I hate that freaking Muse song. Who does that band think it is? It’s not. “I’ll bet they win something tonight,” I thought angrily to myself, already bitter and sort of exhausted a measly half-hour into the program. More wine? Yes, please, and keep it coming.
Atlanta reared its talented head early on in the ceremony, with a B.o.B/Janelle Monae/Bruno Mars collab segment that pretty much represented why I haven’t yet lost all faith in mainstream music. Seriously, this was the jam times ten. The pared-down, orchestral version of Bobby Ray’s “Nothin’ On You” that the trio performed was understated and nice, and Bruno Mars’ old-timey soul shtick is, at the very least, a lot of fun. And though she only got to perform a verse or so of the wonderful “Cold War,” Janelle crowd-surfed! At the Grammys! I love her.
Zac Brown of Atlanta’s Zac Brown Band presented the award for Best Female Vocal Country Performance, which went to Miranda Lambert, whose breasts looked nice. Great job, Miranda!
Time for Usher, Justin Bieber, and a bunch of ninjas. Sort of weird at the beginning, with Usher being all, “I made this kid,” like some creepy daddy figure. Oh, Usher. Also, I can’t really put my finger on it, but dude doesn’t really have it anymore. Something’s missing. Also, J-Bieb is ridiculous, but he sort of showed Usher up on the dance floor. And then there was Jayden Smith, who, just…no. Don’t.
Best Rock Album! Jeff Beck was nominated. What? Is it 1976? So was Tom Petty. And my man Neil Young, who was actually there, and superbly sideburned. But guess who won? Yes. It was Muse. Tears streaming down my face, I reached listlessly for the bottle of wine and dolefully sang along: “We…will…be…vic…tooooooorious.”
Lady Gaga won something, defeating a cool, dapper-looking John Mayer. She thanked Whitney Houston, for some reason. Dave Letterman delivered a Grammy-specific Top Ten, which, like most of his Top Tens, wasn’t very funny. Then, some band called Mumford and Sons played a song that I recognized from the radio, before The Avett Brothers, who performed some Avett Brothers-y tune. But it was all a lead-up for a living legend: Bob Dylan, whose vocal cords sounded like they’d been hacked to shreds with a rusty cleaver. Seriously, what was up with that voice? Also, was he drunk? Questions. Anyway, it was Dylan, and either way, he’s eternally indelible. Neil Young stood up and gave ol’ Bob a smiling salute, which was fun to see.
Lea Michele of “Glee” introduced Lady Antebellum as Grammy “wimmers,” which is almost a word. They paid trimmute (see what I done?) to the late, great Teddy Pendergrass with a brief, chorus-only version of “If You Don’t Know Me by Now,” but quickly segued into one of their own songs and then another. Maybe it was the wine talking, but I actually found Lady Antebellum’s music to be quite toothsome. What have you done to me, Grammys? Immediately afterwards, the group won for the single “Need You Now.” I feel like that song is at least three years old, but I guess not.
Cee-Lo time! Say “fuck!” Say “fuck!” He didn’t say “fuck.” Rather, his Roly-Polyness, decked out in full Mardi Gras peacock regalia that put Gaga’s Batgirl getup to shame, performed the categorically more castrated “Forget You” alongside some muppets and “Glee” guest star Gwyneth Paltrow, who is now a singer, what with Country Strong and all. But she didn’t forget it up too badly, and she even did a sexy little piano-top slither. Get it Gwyn-Gwyn!
Mr. Nicole Kidman himself, Keith Urban, along with the button-cute Norah Jones and the aforementioned Mayer — who’s looking quite Johnny Deppish these days — did a surprisingly tasteful rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” It was good! They then introduced the Song of the Year award, which had better go to Cee-Lo, couldn’t not go to Cee-Lo, but nope, it was Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” once again. Careful, Lady Antebellum. No one likes a showoff. I reckon a song called “Fuck You” is a hard sell for the Academy, which I imagine consists of a bunch of middle-aged, coke-faced white guys in a boardroom somewhere listening to Achtung Baby and dreaming up ways to continue including Steely Dan in each year’s ceremony.
Sometimes those dudes will surprise you, though, and so it was that jazz-pop chanteuse Esperanza Spalding won the coveted Best New Artist award, beating out Bieber (poor winless Biebs!) and Drake in an upset that proved the willingness of the sales-obsessed Academy to recognize the occasional obscure outlier, or at least its desire to maintain some sort of “look at us, we’re cutting edge” facade. Still, kinda cool, if unconvincing.
But, ugh. This thing was getting old fast. A Grammy guy came out and gave a Grammy guy speech about how music will never die or some such. I sort of zoned out, but I’m pretty sure nothing was said about how silly and irrelevant the Grammys have become. Maybe next year?
Dead people montage time! Some people died this past year. We saw pictures of them. Sad, but not too sad. (And how could they forget Guru? Long live Gang Starr!)
Whoa time! Mick Jagger showed up to remind everyone that he is, in fact, not dead, and still shockingly agile. Put it this way: he looked and seemed much more vibrant and vital than many of the half-his-age celebs the cameras spotted in the crowd — namely, the rough-hewn Cyndi Lauper. Yikes. The Jags rocked the hell out of his Solomon Burke tribute and delivered, hands down, the most exciting, energetic performance of the evening. Who’d’a thunk it?
Continuing the anachronistic theme (the Grammys stay ‘70s) Kris Kristofferson introduced Barbra Streisand, who did a little number dressed like a California Raisin. Nicki Minaj and Will.i.am - apparently allowed back in public a mere week after the Black Eyed Peas’ catastrophic Super Bowl thingamajig — introduced the Best Rap Album award, which went to Eminem. Dumb. Never mind that Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy weren’t even nominated. But Recovery over Thank Me Later? Not happy about that one. But wah, wah, wah. The Grammys are meaningless; life is unfair.
Drake is great on record, but not so captivating live, and his brief duet with Rihanna fell flat despite all the smoke and fire. And the sexy sex-dancing. Bring back Jagger! No dice, though — just new Paula Abdul Jennifer Lopez and hubby Marc Anthony, who announced the winner of Record of the Year. Come on Cee-Lo Cee-Lo Cee-Lo aaaaaaand OK LADY ANTEBELLUM NOW I HATE YOU. Congrats!
I guess it says something that the headlining spot for this year’s Grammy ceremony was reserved for The Arcade Fire. Right? 2011 saw indie rock’s elite ascend to the top of the charts on a relatively consistent basis; whether or not it speaks more to the confused state of the industry as a whole or a mainstream embrace of more interesting music — or both, or neither — seemed irrelevant as I watched the Arcade Fire’s riveting, raucous performance. I don’t even really like them all that much, but it was pretty neat to see a band like that killing it on such a grand stage. The biggest surprise of the night, however, came right afterwards, when the band’s The Suburbs took home Album of the Year honors. Huh? What? The band, visibly shocked, gave an endearingly deer-in-headlights acceptance speech and rushed back up on stage to perform another song.
And so it was that the Arcade Fire’s moody, rollicking “Ready to Start” closed out a strange new edition of the Grammy Awards, which, despite the sporadic lapse into coherency, is increasingly dull, increasingly vague, increasingly confused. The soothsayer in me thinks that it cannot sustain itself much longer. The music industry cannot sustain itself much longer. This world cannot sustain itself much longer. And the Grammys, bloated and insecure, are a perfect, sad symbol of these strange times. But, also, that could just be the wine talking.
See the full list of winners here, if you even care.
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