- Stephen Colbert kicked off the evening by presenting the Song of the Year award. Before announcing the nominees, he spoke about the hype of the Grammys but noted that now what all artists want is to be covered by the cast of Glee! Love it – way to gleek out, Stephen!
- Did anyone else think it was oddly awesome when Beyonce, in the middle of her own song, covered Alanis Morissette’s "You Oughta Know"? Such an angry song seems so un-Beyonce but it kind of worked. B’s performance also echoed what seemed to be a theme of the night: mash-ups. As explained by Matthew Morrison on Glee, a mash-up is when you take two songs and mash them together to make one really great song. (Like during the episode “Ballad” when Will (Morrison) mashes "Young Girl" and "Don’t Stand So Close To Me" to try to tell Rachel that her crush on him is inappropriate.) So at the Grammys, B did a mash-up, Lady Gaga did one with Elton John (that Lady is totally nuts but she did do a mash up) and so did several other artists. I think this means that Glee is taking over the world. I like it.
- Speaking of B, Ms. Knowles won Best Traditional R&B performance for “At Last“, as recorded for the Cadillac Records soundtrack. This performance was presumably on par with her live rendition of the song complementing POTUS and FLOTUS’s first dance during the inaugural balls. She also won for Best R&B song and contemporary album - winning almost every category she was nominated in so Kanye couldn’t get up and speak his peace like at the MTV VMAs. Hova, her hubby, (a.k.a. Jay-Z, a.k.a Shawn Carter) won for Best Rap Solo Performance with his tune “DOA (Death of Auto-tunes)" and Best Rap Song (a song writer’s award) for “Run this Town“, which was up against his own “DOA“. He was not, however, nominated for Best Rap Album but Eminem was and Mr. Mathers from 8 Mile won the award.
- The biggest disappointment of the night, though not part of the telecast, was West Side Story winning for Best Musical Show Album over Hair. Clearly, the voters never saw the show on stage, otherwise they would have known what a feat it was for Sh-K-Boom to capture the raw energy and emotion happening eight times a week at the Hirschfeld on an album; and obviously they’ve never listened to the album on vinyl, hearing all too vividly the ache in Cassie Levy’s voice when she sings “Easy to Be Hard“. I’m not sure what the criteria were that they were judging on, but shame on the Grammy voters for awarding bad singing against a great score instead of great singing against a great score and true passion and artistry. In addition, once again, Bruce was bested by the lack of musical talent emanating from Slumdog Millionare, as he and “The Wrestler” lost Best Song From a Movie to “Jai Ho“. Urg! Just because a kid jumped into a pile of poo doesn’t mean it was the best movie of the year nor does it mean that everything having to do with it was the best. The song “The Wrestler” encapsulated the movie The Wrestler (even though, admittedly, I didn’t love the movie) in a way that “Jai Ho“, which I can’t even hum a bar of, couldn’t even approach. Get over your liberal knee jerk reaction and really listen to a song. Then vote.
- The Les Paul tribute featuring virtuoso Jeff Beck was very nice. It’s always a good thing when you can watch a true guitar legend, Beck, play guitar. Jeff Bridges introduced the performance and I have to say that he is probably the perfect person to have had the honor. Aside from Eric Clapton or Jimi raised from the dead, who has the celebrity cache and, more importantly, the musical chops to be worthy of introducing a tribute to Les Paul and the genius that is Jeff Beck? Maybe John Mayer, but he’s riddled with tabloid curiosity these days which, while it doesn’t automatically take away from his musicality, does make folks take him a little less seriously. (Although, his interview in the recent issue of Rolling Stone is insightful and entertaining. Also, the photo of him in bed with his guitars is one of the sexiest images in memory.)
- Quentin Tarantino introducing the rap performance from Drake (who?), T-Pain (who? Oh, right - he‘s on a boat.) and Eminem was hilarious. Q, you’re neither 14 nor black - and what’s more is you grew up in Knoxville, not Crenshaw. Crazy white boy.
- I thought it was kind of cool that a smoky looking Lea Michele got to present Beyonce with an award for Best Female Pop Performance for “Halo“, which Lea sang on Glee in a mash up with “Walking on Sunshine” (featured in the episode "Vitamin D"). Also love that B gave a public shout out, for one of the only times in memory, to her husband, Shawn Carter. (From Shawn Carter you easily get Jay-Z, right?)
- Taylor Swift performed. Boo. Taylor Swift isn’t very good. She sounds like me when I’m singing which is to say she’s not quite on-key, even though she seems to be earnest. Sorry, that’s doesn’t mean you’re talented. You don’t have a good voice, honey. When auto-tunes dies, so does your career. There’s no range or maturity in your voice - you’re nasally and whiney - get off the stage.
And now some thoughts on the big awards of the night:
- Song of the Year (this is a songwriter’s award) – Beyonce won for Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It). Or rather Thaddis Harrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart won the award, as they are the songwriters.
- Record of the Year (this is a performance award, awarded to the artist, producer and mixer) – Halo, Beyonce; I Got a Feeling, Black Eyed Peas; Use Somebody, Kings of Leon; Poker Face, Lady Gaga; and You Belong With Me, Taylor Swift. (Kings of Leon also won Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, over Green Day, and Best Rock Song (a songwriter‘s award), over Green Day’s "21 Guns", Bruce Springsteen’s "Working on a Dream" (The Boss did win for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance for this song, though), U2’s "I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight" and Pearl Jam’s "The Fixer". This made it somewhat of a surprise that they lost the Rock Album of the Year award to Green Day, though I was certainly happy with this outcome. This also got me thinking, I’ve gotta hear this Kings of Leon jam. So I previewed the song on iTunes and "Use Somebody" has the guitar licks of “Where the Streets Have No Name” and the ache in the lead singer’s voice is a mix of Eddie Vedder, Jimi and Chris Cornell. Does this make the song better or worse? I don’t know but I’m not moved to purchase the song or listen to more.
- Album of the Year – Taylor Swift won this award, yet she won neither record of the year nor the song of the year. My problem with this is kind of like my beef with Avatar or Slumdog Millionaire winning best picture when the actors not only didn’t win any of the awards but weren’t even nominated. Maybe it’s just because I don’t think Taylor Swift is very good - her songs are underwhelming simplistic and her voice is weak and not always on key - but seriously - how can you have the best album of the year if none of the songs on it were worthy of winning the best performance or songwriting awards? To her credit, she was nominated in both categories, but she didn’t win. This just irks me.
And there you have it. The Grammys. Yet another year in which gimmicks, for the most part, seemed to be the focus, rather than talent. Oh well. At least Beyonce broke the record for most Grammys in one night by a female performer (winning six) and Green Day and the cast of American Idiot were incredible. Cheers to the boys from Berkeley - can’t wait for March 24.