I almost didn’t watch the Grammy Awards. The last few years, I’ve debated watching — largely because my music tastes have become less mainstream over the years but for other reasons as well. But, since I’m a sucker for the awards themselves, I wound up watching Sunday night’s ceremony. I walked away from the telecast with these four quick observations:
1. Beatlemania Is Alive and Well.
The 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ arrival on U.S. shores takes place next week, and it’s clear that Beatlemania is still a force to reckon with. Ringo Starr performed “Photograph,” and he sounded pretty good. Paul McCartney performed “Queenie Pie,” a quirky, Beatlesque song off his new album, with Ringo on drums. Additionally, Sir Paul picked up a pair of awards at the ceremony. CBS will air a special on February 9 to commemorate the 50th anniversary. As a longtime fan, all this Beatles love makes me happy.
2. Daft Punk’s Costume Shtick Doesn’t Translate Well to an Awards Show.
French Electronic duo Daft Punk picked up four trophies, including the the two biggest prizes: Record of the Year and Album of the Year. They took the stage three times to accept awards and once to perform. The group is famous for their costumed performances, part of their attempts to maintain their anonymity (which I understand), but their futuristic robot getup didn’t work so well on the awards show stage.
Each time they entered the stage after a win, one of the featured performers had to give a speech for them. Each one began with, “I guess the robots wanted me to say…” The speeches were some of the most surreal moments of the night (even in light of Katy Perry’s performance.)
3. The Best Performances Were the Quiet Ones.
Year after year, the Grammys manage to redefine “over the top” when it comes to performances. This year was no exception. From massive, loud production numbers to superstar pairings of artists, nearly every number dripped with sensory overload. Those low-key folks at CBS referred to every moment as historic or special in some way. However, the best moments of the night took place when the performances were understated.
Taylor Swift sang “All Too Well,” and while the song was intense and Swift’s pitch was all over the place, the moment carried its own unique power. Even Lorde’s slightly awkward performance of “Royals” was simple enough to garner more attention than all the flashing lights and sounds of other numbers. The night’s best moment came from John Legend, who always adds class to the ceremonies. His stripped-down performance of “All of Me” showed how a quiet statement can say infinitely more than a loud show.
4. The Ceremony Steered Clear of Politics Until Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Made One Whopper of a Statement.
Uncharacteristic of Hollywood these days, this year’s Grammys managed to remain free of political controversy until near the end of the telecast. Best New Artist winners, rap duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. performed their song “Same Love,” a tune advocating same-sex marriage. During the performance, rapper/actress Queen Latifah officiated a mass wedding of three dozen couples of all sexual orientations on a set resembling a church with a gospel choir backing them.
Needless to say, the number generated plenty of controversy. While many critics, musicians, and executives took pride in the performance — which CBS could call historic without hyperbole — plenty of people on the right saw the performance as not only an affront to traditional values but a mockery of religion. The performance became the lightning rod of the evening.
This year’s Grammys painfully reminded me how out of touch I am with mainstream music. I kept hoping for Mumford & Sons or Zac Brown Band to take the stage, but no dice. Maybe next year I’ll know a few more of the nominated songs and artists. Then again, they way music is going, probably not.