Call me crazy, but I actually really enjoyed the Grammys on Sunday night. I know that it’s cool to hate on the Grammys (I’m guilty of it), and to say that they’re irrelevant, but I liked way more of the performances than I expected to. Maybe I was just more open-minded, or maybe mainstream music has just gotten better. And the actual awards themselves weren’t the disaster that I’d expected, either. Here are a few quick thoughts on some of the key performances:
- The Aretha Franklin tribute was nice, but it felt a bit forced. Jennifer Hudson gave the most impressive performance, vocally, but Florence Welch also brought something refreshingly different to her rendition of “Think”. Everyone was trying to one-up each other to sometimes comical effect.
- Lady Gaga’s performance of her new song, “Born This Way” showed her typical showmanship. I like the song, and her performances are always interesting.
- The Janelle Monae, Bruno Mars and B.O.B. performance was very lively. Mars’ vocals were wonky on “Grenade”, but the dude wore half a dozen hats (figuratively speaking) in that extended number, so I have to give him credit for that. And it was another great example of Monae’s showmanship.
- I may have officially lost it, but I actually liked Justin Bieber’s performance. I certainly could have done without Jayden Smith popping out from beneath the stage (with copious shots of Will and Jada smiling smugly in the audience like they were at the world’s most prestigious school Christmas pageant), and the weird spoken-word intro with Usher. But when it was just Bieber, I thought he sounded really good. I think I like his voice more now that it has deepened.
- I was definitely the most excited for the Avett Brothers/Mumford & Sons/Bob Dylan performance. The transitions between songs were a bit awkward, but individually, they were really strong. Once Mumford & Sons got into the last half of “The Cave”, it was really powerful. The Avett Brothers were a bit more low-key, but great, as usual. And the finale sing-a-long of “Maggie’s Farm” was great.
- Was it really necessary to have Gwyneth Paltrow and The Muppets join Cee-Lo for “The Song Otherwise Known as ‘Forget You'”? Not really. Cee-Lo sounded fantastic on his own. But Paltrow offered some really impressive vocal moments, so I really didn’t mind it.
- I LOVED Norah Jones, John Mayer, and Keith Urban’s stripped down version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”. It had an intimate, impromptu vibe to it that was totally different from the rest of the show’s “bigger is better” ideology. I respect all three artists individually (though I don’t really actively seek out their music), and together it was kind of magical. Mayer and Urban are really fantastic guitarists, and Jones and Urban both sang really well (didn’t think Mayer’s vocals were as strong).
- My biggest knowledge gap in current music is probably with rap music. It’s not that I don’t like it, I’m just not…drawn to it, I guess? But by my judgement, Eminem KILLED it in his performance with Rihanna, Dr. Dre, and Skylar Grey. Everyone sounded good, but Eminem sang with the kind of conviction that reaches through the television, grabs you, and makes you listen. It was beyond performing. While other artists prance around the stage or dodge ninjas (I said I liked Biebs’ performance, but that was a bit much), Eminem is just living in his music.
- The Katy Perry/Russell Brand wedding album? No, thanks. Her performance was fine, but forgettable.
- Mick Jagger is amazing. The dude is ancient, and he didn’t even look winded after his high-energy take on Soloman Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”.
- Arcade Fire are also amazing. “Month of May” was great, but their post-win performance of “Ready to Start” was something really special.
- ARCADE FIRE. YES. YES YES YES.
- It’s sappy and all, but I do like Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”. Them winning Song of the Year was acceptable (given the nominees), but I didn’t really need to see them up there three times, to be honest.
- I’m glad Eminem won Rap Album of the Year. He’s had an impressive comeback, considering that a lot of people thought that he was out of the game. I went through a phase when I was twelve when I sort of got into his music, thinking that I was a badass, so it’s cool to follow his career since then. And even though he may be incapable of smiling, I liked his speech. I thought it was gracious of him to thank Rihanna, because (as he acknowledged) her chorus on “Love the Way You Lie” definitely helped boost his recent popularity.
- Muse winning Rock Album of the Year? Bleh.