Ah, the season of pretty people congratulating other pretty people. First up were the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. I was all set to write that the Grammys once again proved to be underwhelming, as they have of late, but as the show began to wrap up, I found myself pleasantly surprised with several moments. Follow along as I share my slightly-less-pessimistic look at what’s known as “Music’s Biggest Night.”
First-time host James Corden did his James Corden thing. People either seem to hate or love his comedy; there’s no in between for some reason. Around an hour in, the show broke out his most-recognized shtick: carpool karaoke. The Grammys edition had a cutout car front in an aisle and “Sweet Caroline” sung by an interesting mix of people, including Corden, John Legend and Neil Diamond himself.
The Heavy Hitters
Adele opened the show with her powerful, energized ballad “Hello,” somehow even more powerful and energized than previously seen. The late-2015 hit would win her both Song and Record of the Year honors, two of her five total awards Sunday. With also receiving Album of the Year for “25,” Adele became the first artist to take the three big categories at two different Grammys; you could say she had a good night. But even in the celebration of her work, the British singer used some of her time to recognize another talent. During her Album of the Year acceptance, Adele went full Kanye-West-MTV-Awards on herself, praising Beyonce for “Lemonade” which was also nominated. “This album to me is just so monumental and so well thought out and so beautiful,” Adele said, dropping in an f-bomb in her moment of admiration. It was nice.
Speaking of Beyonce, she is undoubtedly an otherworldly figure. “Queen Bey,” as some call her, took to the stage in gold get-up, showing how pregnant she is in the most artistic way possible; as only Beyonce knows how. At first I didn’t know what Beyonce, who won two awards out of nine nominations, was doing up there. The performance prior to her singing quickly began to frighten me. But for some reason I enjoyed being frightened. I think she did two songs by the end of it; I’m still not exactly sure what happened. As a friend told me in the moment, though, “I’m not supposed to know.” Also, what is an “Urban Contemporary” album?
Arguably the most fascinating news of the night centered on Chance the Rapper. Taking home three awards, the 23-year-old unsigned artist marked the first to do so having not sold physical copies of his work. He’s operated through streaming services for several years now, a point which makes his best new artist honor seem a little odd. Chance is not really THAT new at all, but the award always seems to work that way. The Chicago native would also win best album (“Coloring Book”) and best rap performance (“No Problem”).
Now on to everyone and everything else…
I’m not familiar with nor do I care for country music, so I’ll leave that at that.
Bruno Mars continued his “I’m retro, look at me” tour. Ed Sheeran showed the bunch of tattoos on his arms. Ladies love him. He’s like a less self-absorbed John Mayer. That American Idol winner (Carrie Underwood?) and that former American Idol judge (Keith Urban?) were jamming out to something that I guess was music (is this country?). The Weeknd and Daft Punk had smoke around them; the former also had a new haircut. That reminds me…
True winner of the night: the undercut. It felt like all attendees had one.
My favorite mashups/performances of the night were by Metallica and Lady Gaga and A Tribe Called Quest (ATCQ). The first caught me off guard, because although I had high hopes, I did not expect it to work. Actually, it almost didn’t work, with the band’s introduction being screwed up and James Hetfield’s microphone not working. But they powered through.
As for Tribe, the group not only had a great medley of their own music, respect paid to fallen member Phife Dawg, and collaboration with Busta Rhymes, Consequence and Anderson .Paak, they also sent out the most powerful political message of the night. From calling out “President Agent Orange” to uniting people of different backgrounds onstage, it was uncompromising ATCQ.
I also greatly enjoyed the duet of Gary Clark Jr. and William Bell.
Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” won for pop duo/group performance. Members Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun removed their pants when they got on stage, which went back to a promise they made while watching the awards at home years ago. As someone who was in a band for a long time and had hopes of touring, I thought that was a cool move.
Five honors were awarded posthumously to David Bowie, whose album “Blackstar” and the story behind it is truly incredible. The legend’s final album was his first to win. Make of that what you will about the Grammys.
I stumbled across best-jazz-vocal-album-winning “Take Me to the Alley” by Gregory Porter going through the iTunes app months back. It’s music that you can’t help but smile when you hear it.
A ton of talented musical individuals were lost in 2016, some whom I was a great fan of (Bowie, Prince) and others I unfortunately had not heard of. Tributes to such people always follow at the Grammys. This might sound harsh but I don’t really ever like tributes. I can see in some cases where the person performing was really touched by the artist and their work. But there are many more instances where the tribute feels cheap and unnecessary.
Adele, thankfully, falls in the former group. Not only was she wanted by many to do the tribute to George Michael, her performance, of “Fastlove,” showed just how much it meant to her, gaffes and all.
Then came some odd tributes. Several artists came together for a weird love letter to the Bee Gees. Bruno Mars dressed like Prince and tried his best to play like Prince but forgot there is only one Prince; I will say, however, that I enjoyed Morris Day and The Time’s performance as part of that tribute.
Well that was kind of fun. Thanks for trudging on. Now I’m going to go be angry that De La Soul only had one nomination.
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