Recap: The 55th Annual Grammy Awards
Welcome to the 55th Annual Grammy Awards!
The night began with Taylor Swift’s performance, where she sang her hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” where she was the ring leader of a black, white and red freak show circus. She got to push an average joe-looking guy down, and we were forced to listen to the auto tune fail to play over her mediocre “country” voice.
A round of applause greeted the host of the night: LL Cool J. Wait, didn’t he present last year? Is he somehow more relevant now than then? A Wikipedia search reveals that he’s releasing a new album this spring, so there’s the answer to that. He began his speech by pointing out that when he hosted last year, the music world was reeling from the very recent announcement of Whitney Houston’s death.
So this year, he decided to continue on the nostalgia route, by pointing out that each artist has come from a different background, and has had different moments in music history that brought them here today. He also felt the need to point out that he’s received two Grammy’s… SO FAR. Wow, nice one. He got even cheesier by saying things like “this show is ours” and “each Grammy is a dream come true.”
Then he introduced the next duo of performers: Ed Sheeran on his guitar, accompanied by Elton John on the piano. I knew it was coming, but nothing could have prepared me for this incredible moment. I’m a huge Ed fan, and though his hit “A-Team” (which was nominated for “Song of the Year”) isn’t my favorite of his songs, hearing him and Elton sing it together was absolutely breathtaking. Their high-five after was really cute as well.
Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull were the first to present an award. JLo used the moment to point out that she “read the memo” (CBS sent out a notice that attendees were to cover up all of their private regions adequately, which would make the infamous cleavage-bearing green dress Jen wore a number of years ago against protocol this evening) which brought a laugh and a compliment from Pitbull that she “inspired the memo.”
Then they announced the nominees for Pop Solo Performance of the Year: Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake,” and Rihanna’s “Where Have You Been?” The award went to six-time winner Adele, making this her seventh Grammy in two years. She called JLo her “good luck charm,” thanked all of her fellow female nominees, and said good night.
Next up was actor Neil Patrick Harris, who began with a quote from Katherine Hepburn (supposedly), and introduced fun. for their performance. While I’m not a particularly huge fan, I do really enjoy the singer’s voice, and I saw them open for a favorite band many years ago and loved their live presence. They performed their latest single “Carry On,” and it was unremarkable on most accounts, but well done. I most liked the rain and fake city backdrop. They’re up for a number of awards tonight, so I think we’ll probably see them again.
Bonnie Raitt and John Mayer were the next odd pairing to take the stage. John congratulated Bonnie on her win for Best Americana Album tonight, which was announced before the show. They were on stage to introduce country singers Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley. Miranda began singing her hit “Over You,” and Dierks joined her to add in his song “Home” immediately following. I’m not much of a country fan, but I can appreciate talent when I see. That being said, there was nothing particularly talented about their performance, and I was underwhelmed.
A video clip of LL Cool J being interviewed by Dick Clark was played to introduce the former remembering the latter posthumously. He quickly transitioned into announcing Miguel and Wiz Khalifa, who sang a quick snippet of their “Adorn” remix. I’ve only ever heard Miguel’s original, and I really enjoyed the rap element to the sultry R&B hit.
The two black & white clad gentlemen then announced the nominees for Best Country Solo Performance: Dierks Bentley’s “Home,” Eric Church’s “Springsteen,” Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost of Livin’” Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted,” Blake Shelton’s “Wanted,” and Carrie Underwood’s “Blown Away.” The award went to the only female, Carrie, who thanked God, Sony, CAA, her fans, her family, her “amazing, perfect husband,” and more.
LL Cool J continued to plug Twitter while wishing everyone back east to stay safe due to the storm. Then the ultimate country couple, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, took the stage to announce the nominees for Song of the Year: Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team,” Miguel’s “Adorn,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” and fun.’s “We Are Young.” The award went to fun., who apparently have a lot of support from Girls’ “Lena Dunham (another search showed that she’s dating a member of the band, shows how much I know). The singer made a joke about how they aren’t actually young, as the song says, and thanks the fans, their families, and a number of random people in the audience, apparently.
One of the people I would least expect at a music awards show took the stage next: actor Johnny Depp. He received so many catcalls that he barely managed to spit out his one short sentence, which was introducing Mumford & Sons for their performance of “Nothing Is Written.” I’ve never seen them live, but I have a number of friends who have, and their string-heavy musical stylings lived up to my fairly high expectations. They’re incredibly talented, that’s for sure, and not only that, but they really show how much they’re enjoying themselves up there.
Presenting next was an unlikely duo of powerful women: Beyonce and Ellen DeGeneres. Beyonce introduced a triple-threat, who Ellen believed was herself, but turned out to be none other than Justin Timberlake, singing his brand new single, “Suit and Tie.” Effects were used to make the whole thing look black and white, with a big band set-up, giving it a jazzy, 1930s era feel. This was fun, but then came the surprise: Jay-Z, who we’d just seen cheering on his wife from his seat in the audience, made his way up to the stage for his part of the song. Okay, I guess it wasn’t that much of a surprise, but to my credit, I’d forgotten he sang in this. Then the tempo changed, and Justin introduced a brand new song, “Pusher Lover Girl,” which was a very different feel, but catchy nonetheless.
The next presenters were Kelly Rowland and Nas, who first congratulated Justin on his performance. Then they announced the nominees for a new category Best Urban Contemporary Album: Chris Brown’s “Fortune,” Miguel’s “Kaleidoscope Dream,” and Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange.” Frank Ocean won, and I have to say, I was just relieved Chris didn’t, because that would start something in the twitterverse for sure. Frank joked that he would be less nervous by picturing the audience as “kids in tuxedos.” He thanked his mom, his producers, and everyone at his record label and recording company.
Next on stage was Dave Grohl and some actress Pauley Perrette, who had no business up there, in my opinion. They talked about a documentary Dave directed recently about music recording, and he announced that the Grammy for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) went to Dan Auerbach, and Pauley gave it up for the sound technicians and engineers for the show.
Finally, they announced the nominees for Best Rock Performance: Alabama Shakes’ “Hold On,” The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” Coldplay’s “Charlie Brown,” Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait,” and Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own.” The Black Keys won, and they thanked a number of names I’ve never heard of, their producers, and their hometowns.
The next performance was announced by LL Cool J: Maroon Five began with their song “Daylight,” which was about as mediocre a pop performance as there ever was, until Alicia Keys took over the drums and began singing her song “Girl On Fire,” with the band accompanying her, including Adam Levine on back-up vocals. Look, I like her song as much as the next person, but she’s performed it at almost every award show or big event since it came out, so it was nice to have a bit of change to it, if nothing else.
Kaley Cuoco (dang, she’s been making her way around the award show circuit too, hasn’t she?) and Keith Urban took the stage next to present the award for Best Pop Vocal Album. The nominee’s were: Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” Florence & The Machine’s “Ceremonials,” fun.’s “Some Nights,” Maroon 5′s “Overexposed,” and Pink’s “The Truth About Love.” Kelly won, and she went around hugging almost everyone in the front row before taking the stage. She giggled that she gets nervous speaking in public, and said how much she loves everyone she was nominated with, and a few others in the room as well. What a cutie!
Our humble host came out to announce the next act: Rihanna, singing “Stay,” which is a new song of hers that hasn’t made it to the airwaves much yet. She was joined by Mikky Ekko for the emotional ballad that is much tamer than most of her previous hits. I’m assuming she sang it to get the single a following, and I think this will do the trick, especially with her heart-wrenching final note.
Presenting next were Carly Rae Jepsen and NeYo, with the nominees for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones,” featuring Sia, Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream, John Legend’s “Tonight (Best You Ever Had) featuring Ludacris, Nas’ “Cherry Wine” featuring the late Amy Winehouse, and Rihanna’s “Talk That Talk,” featuring Jay-Z. Unsurprisingly, the award went to the kings of the collaboration game, Jay-Z and Kanye. Frank thanked his brother and the guys who worked with him, The-Dream thanked all the fans and his family, and Jay-Z thanked The-Dream for his hat. Yup, that’s right. Kanye didn’t appear, as he’s apparently away with Kim right now.
Next up were the honorees for lifetime achievement: pianist Glenn Gould, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins, singer Carole King, pop songstress Patti Page, sitar player Ravi Shankar, and Motown group The Temptations.
Actress Kat Dennings took the stage to introduce The Black Keys, who were joined by a number of back-up musicians on stage. They sang their now-award-winning song, “Lonely Boy,” and it was easy to see why it won. I admit I had never heard them before that I’m aware of, but they are absolutely wonderful performers; very entertaining, even when they’re a bit hard to understand. The crowd gave them quite the standing ovation before LL Cool J interrupted once more.
Kelly Clarkson came back up to perform a tribute to the late Patti Page and Carole King, both honorees tonight. She sang both Patti’s “The Tennessee Waltz,” and Carole’s “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and certainly did them both justice. Ah, remember the days when American Idol was actually about finding this kind of incredible talent? She got a lovely standing ovation as well, and then presented the award for Best Country Album.
The nominees were: Zac Brown Band’s “Uncaged,” Hunter Hayes’ self-titled album, Jamey Johnson’s “Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran,” Miranda Lambert’s “Four the Record,” and The Time Jumpers’ self-titled album. Zac Brown Band won, and they thanked country radio, CAA, their families, all of their business people, and their fans, of course.
A group of singers got together to put on a tribute to Bob Marley. First up was Bruno Mars, singing his latest hit “Locked Out of Heaven,” which has some definite reggae tones. He was soon joined by Sting of all people, who sang along, before the two transitioned into the latter’s “Walking on the Moon.” Once again, the island beats were evident. Then, they were joined by Rihanna, and Bob’s sons, Damian and Ziggy Marley. They sang their fathers’ “Could You Be Loved,” which I liked mostly because it wasn’t “Get Up, Stand Up” or one of the more typical of Marley’s songs.
Performing next were the latest alt-pop-types, The Lumineers. They sang their only hit “Ho Hey.” Yes, that’s actually the title. It’s sadly very catchy, despite the fairly boring (and mostly inaudible) lyrics, and their “hey, we’re all folk-y and nonconformist” vibe seems to resonate with the hipster/Instagram generation. Following their song, they announced Jack White, who sang his song “Love Interrupted” with Ruby Amanfu, and then by himself performed “Freedom at 21.”
Katy Perry took the stage to present the award for Best New Artist, who simultaneously congratulated everyone for getting as far as they did and stuck it to the suits for not nominating her when she was new in the game. The nominees were: Alabama Shakes, fun., Hunter Hayes, The Lumineers, and Frank Ocean. The award went to fun., which was apparently an upset, though it seemed accurate to me giving what had happened thus far this night. They were very humble, and thanked their band and crew, and all of the bigwigs who they’ve worked with.
Country newbie and nominee Hunter Hayes took the stage to sing a few bars of his hit “Wanted,” before introducing Carrie Underwood. Carrie sang a little of the title single of her new album “Blown Away,” before going into “Two Black Cadillacs,” during which time the lighting technicians went a bit crazy and reflected patterns and colors off of her silver ball gown, once making her look like a monarch that split into a million little butterflies, which then flew away. Yeah, interesting.
Music legend Prince took the stage to a wild standing ovation, and simply said: “Here are the nominees for Record of the Year”: The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” Kelly Clarkson’s “(What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You) Stronger,” fun.’s “We Are Young,” Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You,” and Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together.” Gotye won, and even got praise from Prince. They thanked Prince for being an inspiration to them, and also to all musicians and music fans. It was actually very sweet, and cute how they couldn’t get over Prince liking their song.
A cold-open was brought to us by a number of talented jazz musicians Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Kenny Garrett played a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck, and were thanked by the Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow, who was joined by Ryan Seacrest in regards to the Grammy Foundation. They welcomed Justin Timberlake back to the stage to talk about The Music Educator Award, which is looking for nominees.
After the usual tribute to those in music who’ve passed on this year, Elton John came back up, along with Zac Brown, the guys from Mumford & Sons, Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, and more. They sang “The Weight,” and dedicated it to the children and teachers from the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. Despite the hodgepodge of talent brought in, it was a fairly uninspired rendition, all things considered. But I sang along anyway.
Pet Latin Pop Album winner Juanes took the stage to sing a little of Elton John’s own “Your Song,” which happens to be one of my favorite of the acclaimed artist’s many hits. He then introduced Frank Ocean, who entered the stage utilizing some cool video effects to sing his single “Forrest Gump.” I admit to being late to the Frank Ocean scene, so I was happy to hear him, but I was honestly more intrigued by the technical aspects of his performance than the actual song, which I found to be a little dull.
Adele took the stage once more, this time as the presenter of Album of the Year. She made a joke about her winning last year before announcing the nominees: The Black Keys’ “El Camino,” fun.’s “Some Nights,” Mumford & Sons “Babel,” Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange,” and Jack White’s “Blunderbuss.” It seemed like it might be The Black Keys’ turn once again, but Mumford & Sons took the award. They complimented (and may have sworn at) Adele, and thanked their fans, while remaining very humble.
An award show wouldn’t be complete without the host boosting his or her own projects, so LL Cool J finished off the night rapping a mash-up of LL’s “Whaddup” and the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” with Chuck D of Public Enemy and DJ Z-Trip. The trio were accompanied by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine on the guitar and Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker. It definitely switched up the more melodic tone the night had begun to take, but it was nice to get a taste of some old-school hiphop in there.
Overall, it was a good show, and though there weren’t any extreme upsets or shocking moments, it was undeniably entertaining, with something for almost every taste.