The best news at yesterday’s Grammy Awards was Rebirth Brass Band winning the Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album for Rebirth of New Orleans, which was presented during the pre-tel. But that was no slight on Rebirth; almost all of the awards were presented in the pre-tel. The broadcast on CBS Sunday night was a popular music variety show far more than it was an awards show.
Another New Orleans winner was Dave Bartholomew, who received a Special Merit Grammy, which was presented earlier in the weekend. He was unable to be in Los Angeles to accept the award, but his sons Don B. and Ron were on hand.
Otherwise, Louisiana was shut out of the awards, though Rebirth and Trin-I-Tee 5:7 performed during the pre-tel, the latter with the other gospel nominees.
As for the show, here are the quick takes:
- Bruce Springsteen opened with “We Take Care of Our Own,” the song partially inspired by post-Katrina New Orleans. For me, it was a little preachy, but my wife said we need more political songs, and I can’t argue.
- Everybody’s WTF Moment was Nicki Minaj’s “Roman Holiday,” which was pretty damned inscrutable. Still, in a week when the Catholic Church and contraception for women were in the news, a performance dealing with the Church and hysteria was right on point. I didn’t feel the song, but I admire her for taking a big chance on one of the biggest stages she’s performed on. Messy and weird as it was, it was infinitely better than Katy Perry’s blah attempt to be a rock star.
- Perry was not only shown up by Minaj but by Rihanna. I can’t see where Perry’s selling much beyond her looks, and Rihanna was far sexier and far more committed to the moment (even if she was lip syncing and her “acting” was straight out of a grade 10 theater arts class).
- Chris Martin from Coldplay came out to douse any fires Rihanna may have started, then the rest of the band came out and sxxxxxxxxxxx…. I’m sorry, my hands fell asleep trying to write about their performance.
- It was great to hear Adele just sing (and nice to see her take the gum out of her mouth! Who accepts two Grammys while working a stick of Doublemint?). The power of the moment didn’t entirely translate through the television, but enough did. The Foo Fighters’ straightforward rock ‘n’ roll show was also appropriately hard and catchy (if slow-starting). Grohl’s pretentious “real music by real people in my garage” acceptance speech was a little fishy since one of those real people was producer Butch Vig, and Grohl’s garage is probably the size of my house. The New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones wrote his version of Grohl’s speech on Twitter, “‘We made this one in a garage and then mastered it the way every album is mastered, thereby obviating everything we did in the garage.’” Then he undid everything he said about real music by real people by fronting Deadmau5.
- Chris Brown’s first performance may have been more impressive in the room as dancers jumped off the Q-Bert set. On television, they just jumped out of the shot, and his set and the guy running its complex video programming seemed to work harder than (the lip syncing) Brown. The Batdance moment made me laugh, though.
- WTF Moments that had nothing to do with Nicki Minaj: What production designer had the bright idea to put a big-ass RCA mic in front of the pretty Taylor Swift? Or to put her on a Hee-Haw set? Similarly, what did gears and flywheels have to do with Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson? Could the Grammys’ In Memoriam section have seemed more half-assed? As soon as it finished, Twitter was on fire with people who were left out—Sam Rivers, Howard Tate, Paul Motian, X-Ray Spex’ Poly Styrene and Don Cornelius. The show addressed Cornelius (sort of) after the break, using him as a very shaky intro to the shakier electronica/dance music salute, which suggested that what David Guetta and Deadmau5 do is back up other, more popular musicians. Lil Wayne wandering in, tossing off a verse and wandering off made him the winner in that he didn’t have to hang around and be part of the trainwreck. Run-Chris Brown MC seemed to have no idea what to do with the moment, which only caught fire when he shut up and Guetta cranked the beat. The facelessness of dance music is the challenge the media faces when covering it, but solving the problem by misrepresenting is no improvement.
- The Beach Boys sounded better than I feared they might (aided, admittedly, by the Wondermints—Brian Wilson’s long-time backing band), but they looked like they were having fun and engaged. Unlike Maroon 5. The Glen Campbell tribute was similarly fine but slightly disappointing since no one got near his one undeniable song, “Wichita Lineman.” The Band Perry knocked out a game, energetic version of “Gentle on My Mind” that got and held my attention. After their set and the Civil Wars’ brief set, I’ll check them out on Spotify.