Another year, another wave of groans and jeers directed at the Grammys and the Recording Academy. There was a lot of good stuff on last night’s broadcast, but sadly it’s all going to get overlooked because of some awkward moments, some bad moments, and some results that I’m sure resulted in some remote controls becoming embedded in a flat screen. Those feelings are completely justified too, but I’ll talk more about them below. Here are some of my thoughts from this year’s ceremony, including that terrible shut-out.
– First up, just want to say I went a respectable (not) 33 for 84 on my Grammy predictions, while my wife’s predictions four hours beforehand ended up 24 for 84. Of the ones I actually talked about last Friday, I went 14 for 27 while my wife went 12 for 27. Interesting to note: if I had gone with my picks for “Who Should Win” instead of “Who’s Going To Win,” I would have still gone for 14 for 27 here, and that’s with getting the Big Four wrong in that regard.
– Also before we really dive into things… I can understand people why are tired of James Corden’s antics, but his hosting was infinitely better than LL Cool J’s robotic glad-handing of the last several years. He was a breath of fresh air and actually made it fun to watch at times last night. Grammy producers, please have him come back next year or get someone similar. We need personality in a host, not regurgitation.
– The Bey-snub. Man, it was just disheartening for everyone in that room it seems, no more so than Adele who handled the situation as best as she possibly could. I know some people wanted her to literally give the award to her, but it’s important to note that it wasn’t all Adele’s to give away. Doing so for Album Of The Year alone would have meant she was speaking for more than two dozen people and that’s not something anyone should be in the position to do. Of the three Adele won, the only one she had a legit case for was Song. You could argue that “Hello” was a better song at its core than “Formation,” with the arrangement and execution of “Formation” being what made it so massive. In that regard though, under no circumstance should Adele have won Record Of The Year, and 25 absolutely pails in comparison to Lemonade if only because the former was clearly not Adele’s best record while the latter was truly Beyoncé’s defining work. Beyoncé knew she was losing too it seems, reading her big speech for Urban Contemporary Award and holding nothing back. Big shame. Really though, it’s hard to talk negatively about Adele, because “Hello” was this amazing phenomenon and she was put in a tough situation. Like she said herself: “What the fuck does [Beyoncé] have to do to win Album Of The Year?”
– Other wins & losses that bothered me. Rihanna going home with nothing was odd, especially considering how amazing “Kiss It Better” is while “Lake By The Ocean” is… okay? She seemed content with her flask though. Or maybe placated is the better word. Tim McGraw won a Grammy over Miranda Lambert & Maren Morris and I died a little inside. Star Wars won over Stranger Things which is just wrong on so many levels, and predictable. Ron Howard’s pandering Beatles film beat out Lemonade because of three reasons: it’s the Beatles, it’s Beyoncé, and it’s the Grammys.
– Wins & losses that excited me. Thank God Lukas Graham didn’t win anything — how they hell were they nominated so much to begin with? Chance for New Artist still bothers me because he’s not new (and really none of the nominees were), but it’s awesome to see him get attention and both his speeches were clear high moments of the night. Bowie’s Blackstar was overlooked in the big categories, but it did take home four awards so that’s cool. Solange’s win was pretty amazing, but it also clearly should have been on the main broadcast and I would have loved to see her perform too with Mama Knowles introducing both her talented daughters.
– Just want to make note that only Cee-Lo Green’s insanity could eclipse a D-List singer’s Trump gown. Combine that with Mike Posner’s Joker hair and Twenty One Pilots stripping and it felt like late ’90s VMAs for a minute here.
– The bad performances. Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood. Why? Lukas Graham & Kelsea Ballerini. More why? Ed Sheeran Wasn’t good on SNL 24 hours earlier, so why repeat it? Metallica & Lady Gaga. The biggest why to ever be whyed for the Grammys. Somewhere, Shawn Fanning is smiling over the mic mess-up. Surprisingly, that was it for the actually bad performances, which is actually pretty good for Grammy standards. Oh wait — not technically a performance, but that Neil Diamond bit was embarrassing for how the people around him DID NOT KNOW THE WORDS to “Sweet freakin’ Caroline.” Jesus, you could have at least put the lyrics up for them or something — that was cringe-worthy.
– The okay performances. The Weeknd & Daft Punk “Starboy / I Feel It Coming.” The Weeknd just seems underwhelming to me when he performs at the Grammys. I love the music, but even with Daft Punk, it just seems like cannon fodder. Adele’s “Fastlove” tribute to George Michael. Endearing and respectable, it just wasn’t the right arrangement for that particular song. You could have done something much better with a song like “Faith,” although you still run into an issue with song meaning versus performance intention. Adele’s singing was awesome (once she charmingly corrected), but it all seemed miscalculated from start to finish. Bruno Mars “That’s What I Like.” Bruno Mars’ is a singular talent, but a lot of his songs just seem like misses to me and this is one of them. But dude can perform. No doubt about it. Katy Perry & Skip Marley “Chained To The Rhythm.” Eh, Katy seems on the decline and it was really odd to have someone perform who wasn’t nominated for one single award. William Bell & Gary Clark Jr. “Born Under A Bad Sign.” Really good, but they slot it at such a weird part of the show that it was very clearly filler aimed at checking off genre boxes. Maren Morris & Alicia Keys “Once.” The issue here is the Academy’s incessant need to pair newer stars with established ones, often of different genres, so their star power rubs off. How about we just let the newer stars stand on their own and make their fanbase by their own terms? Tribute to the Bee Gees. Normally, I’d slot the tribute medley in the bad area because of how spastic it is and how ridiculous the line-up of performers are, but it’s the music of the Bee Gees and they let Little Big Town sing “How Deep Is Your Love” so it really wasn’t bad television at all. Just cluttered.
– The good performances. Adele “Hello” started off iffy with some pitch issues, but that’s the charm of live Adele. She’s not going to hit everything perfectly, but her sheer power lifts her performance up every single time. Good performance and great way to start the show too. Strugill Simpson & The Dap-Kings “All Around You.” Wasn’t blowaway like his SNL performance and I was certain he was going to do a snippet of his awesome “In Bloom” cover, but it was still a really solid performance, one good enough that fans of his should be pleased and people who didn’t know him at least have a favorable view on him now.
– The great performances. They really packed them in all at the end with three right on top of each other that were just incredible. A Tribe Called Quest “Award Tour / We The People…” If you remember one thing from this night, it should be “President Agent Orange.” Keep repeating it — if they can do it with lies to make them commonplace, we can at least do it with a nickname. Name-calling aside, ATCQ’s performance was brilliantly scathing and exactly what was needed on the broadcast for what’s going on. There’s not much more to say really except “We The People…” becomes more relevant by the day. Scary thought. Prince Tribute with The Time & Bruno Mars. First off, you could very clearly tell who had seen Purple Rain and who hadn’t which was sad. Morris Day killed though, but I really would have loved to see him tackle an actual Prince song too, not just one Prince wrote for the band. Bruno Mars on the other hand destroyed “Let’s Go Crazy.” Did not know the dude could play guitar like that. Would have liked to have heard some bit of “Purple Rain” too, but it was all great and fun anyway. Chance The Rapper “How Great / All We Got.” The thing that every Chance performance and speech has is just emotion. Overflowing emotion that you can actually see and feel. It’s a great return to the roots of hip-hop, moving away from the inorganic splicing and unrelatable lyrics that defined a decade and back to the lyrical core supported by a strong beat. No one can touch Kendrick’s rhymes and flow these days, but performance wise, Chance really knows how to make you feel what he’s saying.
– Last but not least: the iconic performance. Beyon-slay. She took home practically nothing, but still ruled the night with this performance and her grace in defeat. I really enjoyed her song choice too, eschewing “Formation” and even “Sorry” to bookend the Lemonade phase with delicate poise and concrete closure. At times, it was definitely a weird performance (with my pregnant wife screaming “my hips are going to crack?!?!” after a calm remark from Beyoncé), but it was memorable, moving, and enthralling from start to finish in only a way Queen Bey can be. In hindsight, letting Beyoncé perform like this and Adele perform like that only further confounds the voting results. Things have to change for sure, but Beyoncé is going to keep being Beyoncé no matter what and that’s really all we need.
So mixed bag overall it seems. Performances skewed good this year, but the return of the whitelash in the results really brought the whole night down a peg, even if Adele did her best to save it by vocalizing what we all felt. Sadly, the Grammys aren’t ever going to change until they realize there is a problem, but if the recent Frank Ocean drama is any indication, those in charge are content to keep things the way they are and keep marginalizing genres and artists for another two decades.