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Grantland E-mails the Grammys

We watched so you didn't have to

Mark Lisanti: Here are some things that have happened before the actual show:

*The Grammy producers have scrambled to get a Whitney Houston tribute together. It will appear about three-quarters of the way through the telecast, feature Jennifer Hudson singing “I Will Always Love You,” and some other to-be-announced special guests, including, apparently, Chaka Khan.

*Probably everyone on Earth with an Internet connection has listened to the isolated vocal track from “How Will I Know.”

*They’ve already handed out a number of Grammys. Among the winners, in order of our assumed excitement (this is a partial list, for space/sanity reasons):

  • Best Comedy Album: Louis CK, for Hilarious (not the self-distributed one — that was Live at the Beacon Theater)
  • Best Musical Theater Album: The Book of Mormon
  • Best Rap Album: Kanye West, MBDTF
  • Best Alternative Album: “Born Iver,” according to presenter MC Lyte, the obvious choice for an alternative music presenter
  • Best Foo Fighters Automatic Grammys: Three of them, specifics unimportant, but the ones where you can argue forever about the logic of winning in both Hard Rock/Metal and Rock categories
  • Best Taylor Swift Song: Taylor Swift, winning twice for “Mean,” in the crazy way the Grammys has for giving out multiple awards for the same thing
  • Best Dance Recording: Skrillex (let’s let Amos explain this one)
  • Best Dance/Electronica Album: Skrillex
  • Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Skrillex! (Just kidding, it was Tony Bennett-lex)
  • A variety of jazz stuff we can pretend to be into as open-minded music aficionados
  • Some blues recordings we’d probably enjoy if we weren’t all looking up the Skrillex and Betty White winners on Spotify
  • And much, much more we probably won’t ever discuss/think about!

OK, here we go! (I just saw Nicki Minaj arriving on the red carpet with the Pope. It’s gonna be one of those nights.)

Alex Pappademas: I suggest warming up for tonight by perusing the trenchant rock-critical analysis popping off under the “#musicwasbestwhen” hashtag on Twitter. Lots of patrician purist 15-year-olds SMH-ing about Autotune and dubstep; also, surprising amount of love for R&B supervillain “Luthor Vandross.”

Mark Lisanti: I didn’t have a lot of time to get my Grammy-watching costume together, but I’ve made a convincing enough Deadmau5 head out of an old diver’s helmet and some Mickey ears I bought in 2005.

Amos Barshad: Bruce looks like he just got off his bartending shift at Slippery Pete’s.

Bill Simmons: I think it’s embarrassing that Springsteen now has his wife front and center playing guitar with the E Street Band. There’s nothing worse than someone interjecting their spouse into the creative proceedings when she didn’t really earn the spot. By the way, my wife wrote this.

Katie Baker: The host’s opening monologue was all about how many Fresh New Classic Grammy Forever Moments(TM) were bound to occur right in front of our very eyes … and the host was LL Cool J. Don’t get me wrong, I love him and his hat situation (Toys and Any Given Sunday are obviously favorites) but the “behold, history!” vibe felt a little forced, particularly when it was followed by Bonnie Raitt. (BRB while I go watch “Angel From Montgomery” on YouTube a half dozen times.) Bummer, too, that Kanye and Jay-Z sent in their regrets. Anyway, more important than any of this: Shouldn’t Pink be our next “Overrated/Underrated/Properly Rated”?

Pappademas: “Like Adele over here.” LL just gave Adele the “THIS LADY knows what I’m talkin’ about.”

Also: “Sir OG Paul McCartney.” Just want to verify that everybody else heard that.

Lisanti: I KNEW that OG was included in that inscrutable letter sequence they put in your knight title after the Queen hits you with the diamond-encrusted sword.

Amos Barshad: Every word LL says makes “Rock the Bells” 3 percent less awesome.

Lisanti Here’s a question: Will the Whitney Houston tragedy cause Bruno Mars to reconsider his cocaine use? Early signs (the splits, general insane energy level, and screaming into a megaphone) point to “no.”

Bruno Mars: The show must go on, Mark, and that part of Bruno Mars that knows that Bruno Mars sucks isn’t going to numb itself.

Lisanti: Surprising no one with the possible exception of those lost WWII soldiers who are still living on a remote Pacific island and unaware of the war’s end, Adele wins the first (televised) award. And I think it’s possible even those guys have bought like five copies of 21.

Pappademas: Chris Brown’s dancers have their faces covered with Snake Eyes scarves. Chris Brown Backup Dancer Reputation Protection Program?

Lisanti: To his credit, Chris Brown didn’t finish his performance by defensively screaming at the crowd about how he’s “served his time” or whatever. (That part was cut by producers in dress rehearsal.)

Simmons: Some notes …

1. How did LL Cool J evolve from “Mama Said Knock You Out” to Any Given Sunday to NCIS: Los Angeles to Overconfident Blowhard Grammys Host? Which step did I miss?

2. All Bruno Mars performances seem designed for people who are doing a ton of cocaine.

3. Adele’s boyfriend couldn’t be more happy to be there. He might walk the red carpet three more times before the end of the show.

4. Chris Brown’s performance upset my dog and caused him to leave the room. I’m not kidding. Chris Brown still has some healing left to do.

Lambert: It’s like there’s two separate music industries: bombastic overproduced spectacle bullshit, and Adele.

Pappademas: Survivor promo: “It’s a battle of the sexes … with the men versus the women!” That is my favorite battle-of-the-sexes format!

Lisanti: Piers Morgan kind of nailed it on Twitter: “So let me get this straight – the #Grammys are airing live in Nigeria, but not in LA, where it’s actually happening? Nice work @CBS #goons”

I mean, the #goons hashtag is pretty on point. SMH @ CBS, u know?

Simmons: Who’s the duet coordinator for the Grammys? Does he just pick two names out of a hat at a time like it’s a 1970s key party? “Next up … M.I.A. and Adam Levine, you’re in the far left bedroom upstairs!”

Lambert: I have always pictured it exactly like that.

Lisanti: Historically, my favorite winner has been Couldn’t Be Here Tonight. He always keeps things zipping along.

Pappademas: And Amber Rose went real conservative with the yellow goddess dress, maybe out of respect for Whitney. IF AMBER ROSE CAN’T STUNT, THE CRACK HAS ALREADY WON. But the absence of Yeezy means that if and when Watch the Throne wins an award that should have gone to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, we won’t get to see Kanye bum-rush his own acceptance speech, which means I already lost a bet.

Lisanti: If Kanye had appeared to accept that first award, it would’ve taken all the surprise out of his crashing the Whitney memoriam to hold forth on his feelings for 12 minutes.

Lambert: All of these expensive yet shitty production numbers are really making me appreciate Madonna’s halftime show.

Browne: I really, REALLY need that Instagram setting from the Coldplay performance, ASAP. It’ll be like I’m always in a Technicolor ghetto outside of London.

Lisanti: Coldplay’s visual aesthetic:

  • Neon Parents Just Don’t Understand
  • Late ’80s Lazer Tag Arena
  • Joel Schumacher Presents Coldplay’s Grammys Backdrop
  • CSI Crime Scene Semen Detection Gone Wild
  • Blacklight Poster Splatter Fight

Simmons: My wife just went on an awesome “I don’t connect with Chris Martin’s songs since he got married to Gwyneth” rant. How many years ago did women turn on Gwyneth, and is there any way I can help escalate it? Although the more I’m thinking about it, it does seem like every Coldplay song is designed to get Gwyneth to stand at the side of the stage while swaying and singing “wooo ooooo ooooo wooo ooo” with her eyes closed while wearing a vintage sundress.

Baker: I’m actually pro Gwyneth ’til I die .GOOP 4 LIFE love everything about her. This might have to be my Unpopular Opinion week essay.

David Cho: I ride or die with Gwyneth and GOOP. I’m pro anyone who takes whatever they’ve been handed in life, in her case being rich and famous from birth, and turns that into some sort of hustle. Not to mention, if she’s good enough for the Carters (Shawn Corey, B, and Blue Ivy), she’s good enough for me.

Pappademas: Creepy commercial about adorable Lego pigs getting made into Chipotle.

Browne:Things I guessed that Chipotle commercial was actually an ad for:

  • America
  • Ikea
  • Rick Perry 2016
  • Trojan
  • Durex
  • Panera Bread


Simmons: Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz are my least favorite duet of the evening.

Lambert: Dave Grohl talking about how this Grammy means a lot to him just reminds me that the ’90s are over forever. Although shouting “Long live rock and roll” over Ryan Seacrest’s “Party Rock Anthem” intro music is pretty good. I just made the horrible mistake of getting temporarily excited about a Beach Boys tribute until the words “Maroon 5” were uttered, Maroon 5 who invented the genre of “Fingerbang Rock.”

Pappademas: Grohl got a little too real with those remarks about how it’s not about computers. They had to bring out Seacrest to restore order.

Lisanti: “Don’t fuck up their harmonies, don’t fuck up their harmonies, don’t fuck up their harmonies” — Adam Levine’s terrified mantra upon being summoned onstage to sing “Good Vibrations” with the Beach Boys.

Lambert: Oh Brian Wilson, I would still take acid in a sandbox with you. Mike Love is such a dip. Lady Gaga bobbing awkwardly in her vinyl corset to “Good Vibrations” is my first good pick of the night for a GIF. This song is a masterpiece.

Browne: If someone can explain to me how these Madame Tussauds Beach Boys wax statues are moving, singing, and interacting with Adam Levine, I’d be forever grateful thx bye.

Simmons: One of the biggest differences between music and sports: If the 1970 Knicks ever limped around and tried to play a full-court game in front of 15,000 people, we’d all be horrified, but when the Beach Boys reunite and mangle one of their old hits in front of 15,000 people, we have to live a lie and pretend it’s totally awesome.

Lambert: Should there be a forced retirement age in music, and if so what is it? (Don’t say 27.)

Tess Lynch: Whatever age Chris Martin is. That’s the retirement age. I’m still comforting my dog after all the neon graffiti graphics and hooting that came from his cold cold play.

Simmons: There shouldn’t be a retirement age, there should be a retirement committee that hands down verdicts on a case-by-case basis. For instance, the committee would have just watched that Paul McCartney performance, stopped it halfway through, and immediately driven him to the music vet to be put down.

Pappademas:That weird buzzing sound you keep hearing in the background during this Sir Paul performance is John Lennon’s ghost getting SRSLYPAUL? tattooed across his ghost knuckles.

Lisanti: I hope Chris Brown interprets that award as the sign of total vindication and forgiveness it was so obviously intended to represent. Stay classy, Breezy, everyone’s good with you now. Your struggle has ended.

Lambert: You can’t kill Paul McCartney, he’s already dead. Chris Brown’s feigned humility goes so well with his unbuttoned-down-to-his-pubes shirt, ivory horn necklace, and Egyptian chest piece tattoo. I took that “dark” intro to think that Taylor might be starting into her Outlaw Country phase, but nahhhh. She still hates minor chords and loves knee-length hemlines. I love Taylor. I just want her to be happy. I just like to give her a hard time because she’s ridiculous.

Browne: Taylor Swift plays the banjo like it’s a tennis racket.

Lisanti: Rembert, that IS a tennis racket. She doesn’t know how to play a banjo, silly goose!

Simmons: I like Taylor Swift because my daughter likes her, but also because her entire career thrives on these passive-aggressive “I’ll show you!” songs slamming the Jonas brother who dumped her (or Jake Gyllenhaal, who pretended to dump her). If she ever ended up in a love triangle with Adele where the guy dumped both of them, they would co-write a song that surpassed “You Oughta Know” as the most bitter revenge song ever written. I am on Team Swift. Nobody dumps Taylor Swift! She will show you!!!!!

Lisanti: Hey, did anyone else not know Adele has a last name?

Pappademas: LL just introduced Kate Beckinsale as “a woman who’s in every movie I saw this year.” LL saw two movies this year.

Lambert: Speaking of “Nobody dumps X!” here comes Katy Perry’s divorce anthem. Somebody should cut a montage of Real Housewives to this. It looks like she’s stripping at an Apple store. I’m cool with her ice sculptures on fire/metallic latex bodysuit with no bra/blue crimped hair combo. This is the new single from the Teenage Dream rerelease. This is like her Super Bowl halftime audition.

Pappademas: This is actually Misplaced Triumphalism’s biggest night: We’ve been asked to clap for Chris Brown accepting an award that Lil Wayne, Diplo, and Busta Rhymes won for him and acting like YEAH WE ALL GOOD NOW, WOMEN, Taylor Swift singing a song about somehow (somehow!) emerging from her breakup with Jake Gyllenhaal with her “Applause? FOR ME?” self-satisfaction intact, and now Katy Perry singing about soldiering on after her marriage to Russell Brand ended the way everyone on the planet expected it to. Let me Google “survival” for you, half-man and ladies!

Browne: Adele is doing to Katy Perry what Jeremy Lin did to Carmelo Anthony last week.

Lisanti: That Adele performance was so good I just gave the singing kid on the bus in the Target commercial a standing ovation, during which I wept openly. Slain.

Simmons: Adele has the highest approval rating for a singer in a long time — she can even get away with chewing gum like a truck driver when she’s accepting a Grammy. What a beautiful voice. If somebody ripped her music in a crowded room, I feel like this person would be jumped. The last female singer who had an approval rating this high had to be Whitney at her peak, right? Or am I just drunk?

Lambert: I think you’re right about Adele, but it’s also really hard for me to imagine her not being British. If Taylor Swift or Beyonce snapped gum, I don’t think they’d get away with it nearly so much. Our stupid American brains are wired to process U.K. accents as “classy” no matter if they’re posh or from Essex.

Lynch: I assumed she was chewing gum because she’s a reported pre-performance barfer.

Lisanti: This has been a strange show. We’ve had Springsteen, Adele, Taylor Swift, the reunited “Beach Boys,” Katy Perry, something called The Band Perry that doesn’t have anything to do with Katy Perry, some musical Civil War reenactors, The Voice judge I hadn’t heard of before The Voice, and a miserable woman-beater with a persecution complex all sharing the stage. But it’s all been — Springsteen included, unfortunately — a two-plus-hour placeholder for the Whitney Moment the entire audience, at home and in the building, has been waiting for. We’re all killing time with the jokes for the only part that’s going to mean anything. Oh, hey, there’s Glen Campbell. Still not a tear-choked Jennifer Hudson somehow destroying “I Will Always Love You” despite the crushing anticipation of the moment. But rhinestone cowboys are nice, too, I guess.

Simmons: My wife angrily snapped during the Glen Campbell medley, “I’m sorry, they should just keep the country stuff out of this show.” That was my favorite part of the night other than every time they show the retired women’s basketball coach who looks like Paul McCartney dancing in the audience.

Lisanti: It’s also been incredibly strange to have a Grammys that Lady Gaga is attending but isn’t the focus of. We’re getting the cutaways to the black veil in the audience, and maybe that’s her classy tribute, but isn’t she supposed to be wearing an enormous headdress shaped like the “How Will I Know”-era Whitney’s head? Or emerging from a Whitney-shaped Spinal Tap pod? Understated isn’t really her thing.

Pappademas: When Tony Bennett sings “It Had To Be You” with Carrie Underwood, there’s a question mark in the title. (Also, I want to hear Tony Bennett say “Skrillex” so badly it physically hurts.)

Browne: Can we have a Chappelle’s Show-styled post-Grammy racial draft? We can? Awesome.

Trade 1: Nicki Minaj for Tony Bennett and Michael McDonald.

More updates to come.

Simmons: ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the whites have been heavily shopping Justin Timberlake in the Chappelle Draft — they want an up-and-coming hip-hop star plus draft picks. Meanwhile, Whitney sapped all the drama from the “In Memorium” montage — it would have been between Amy Winehouse and Clarence Clemons for the hammer. Good job by Jennifer Hudson … although it was hard not to think of how much Whitney owned that song when you’re hearing someone else sing it. Then again, maybe that was the point.

Browne: Kudos to the Grammys for:

1. Picking Jennifer Hudson, the only one of the divas that can begin to replicate Whitney’s performance.
2. Cutting it off before “the moment,” thus making the beautiful and appropriate statement that only Whitney can pull that off that iconic note.

I’m sort of shaking right now.

Pappademas: That was elegant, understated, and moving. I had to make sure I hadn’t accidentally changed the channel.

Lisanti: The Jennifer Hudson performance didn’t disappoint. It was fragile, emotional, just about perfect. Part of me expected some bombast, really blowing out that one note, but I’m not sure why, other than the memory of having heard the Whitney version hundreds of times. That would’ve been totally wrong. I’m glad it didn’t happen.

Lisanti: … and then the Grammy producers put Chris Brown on the stage a second time. Just couldn’t help themselves, I guess.

Lambert: I can’t believe they segued out of the heartfelt Whitney tribute into David Guetta and Chris Brown. The Grammys are the worst.

Baker: The words “Meet music’s miracle doctor” are truly the reddest of red flags.

Pappademas: How many whiteboards do you think they filled up while doing the math that led to “Chris Brown dressed like Reverend Run + juicehead house music + Lil Wayne walk-on = appropriate Don Cornelius tribute”?

Lisanti: At the risk of sounding “un-hip,” the Deadmau5 section of this performance sounded like 300 alien robots trying to kill each other with turntable cyberfarts. Not that it isn’t entertaining. It is. It’s going to be the best sequence of Battleship by far.

Browne: That sounds Dave Grohl-esque in its un-hipness.

Pappademas: And I love Dave Grohl enough to address him in print as “dude,” but dude, if you know you’re going to share the stage with Deadmau5 later on, maybe give the “It’s not about making records with computers” speech the night off, y’know?

Lisanti: If someone could travel back in time about four hours and show Nicki Minaj everything Madonna’s ever done, just so we don’t have to sit through this “outrageous” religious imagery stuff, that would be great. Oh, and while you’re back there, how about handcuffing Chris Brown to something backstage? Thx.

Browne: I’m pretty upset that this Nicki performance is going to take attention away from Whitney. I hope Chaka finds her and keys her car.

Lambert: I get how this Nicki Minaj performance is a misguided response to Watch the Throne, for everything to just get bigger and weirder and even more baroque, but hair metal rap is not the direction I want Nicki going in. The David Guetta collaboration is bad enough. If she’s going to insist on doing a fake British accent, I wish she did the Monie Love verse from “My Name Is Not Susan.” I feel like LL Cool J just shaded Nicki when they threw it back to him, by not even saying “Nice job!” or anything. Adele typically also gives great reaction shots and side-eye. Her blush stripes are magnificent as always.

Pappademas: “I for one have been eagerly anticipating the next installment of Nicki Minaj’s ‘Roman’ saga.” — no one

Lisanti: Ridiculous Religious Imagery That Would Have Rendered Nicki Minaj’s Performance More Subtle:

  • a diamond-studded cross engulfed by pink flames
  • a chorus of angels with clipped wings and mouths duct-taped shut
  • Jesus firing a rocket-launcher into the audience from the flatbed of a monster truck called the Christ Crusher
  • Madonna in a crown of Swarovski thorns
  • Zombies in choir robes

Browne: Adele just won album of the century. Congrats on her newfound success.

Lisanti: Adele’s haul of 400 Grammys tonight seems like an appropriate reward for single-handedly keeping the music industry afloat with her record.

Lambert: I re-reverse my opinion after Adele thanking “all of you lot.” British accents are the most charming and Adele is the most beautiful talented angel and if anyone says anything negative about her I will smash their brains in with a Grammy.

Barshad: I believe that Adele’s reaction here is absolutely sincere, and I know I should be moved, but these Grammys have beaten me down way past being able to feel anything.

Pappademas: Really hoping “with a little help from his friends … Paul McCartney” means that Sir OG Paul is bringing Deadmau5 and the monks in the ab-baring half-robes back out.

Browne: Why is Paul McCartney’s drummer using devil sticks?

Lisanti: “Hey, Chris, you want in on the ‘jamming legends all-star shredfest’ we’re going to close the show with?”

“I don’t play guitar.”

“Oh, doesn’t matter. We just want to make sure you know how much we love you. Wouldn’t want to leave that unresolved if we didn’t ask. You want to dance around them or something?”

“Nah, I’m good. Thanks, though. You guys have been great.”

Pappademas: I do not recognize the authority of any show-closing jam session that does not throw to three-time Grammy winner Skrillex punching up an ill WHOMP WHOOOOOOMMMMP solo.

Browne: Wait, what just happened? Why are the Grammys trying to single-handedly save rock with a bunch of dudes between the ages of 40 and 80?

Pappademas: Dance yrself clean.

[Seven hours later]

Simmons: I fell asleep. Did I miss anything?

Filed Under: Celebrities, Chris Brown, Grammys, Grantland, Music, Nicki Minaj, People, The Grammys, Whitney Houston