The Big Three Went to the Right People
Steven Hyden: So, first, a mea culpa: Turns out I am really, really bad at predicting the Grammys. I think I got cocky last year after successfully calling the coronation of Mumford. But how difficult was that, really? You didn’t need to be a weatherman to sense that the winds were gonna blow in the direction of beards and banjos last year.
Flash-forward to 2014. The choices seemed clear: Taylor Swift was already a proven Grammy favorite, and Red made her pop’s top star, so she had to be a favorite for Album of the Year. The Grammys also seemed to think that Bruno Mars was an agreeable-enough ex-Elvis impersonator, and “Locked Out of Heaven” was his best single to date, so I penciled him down for Record of the Year. Finally, I was convinced that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were just milquetoast enough to win the first-ever Song of the Year award for a rap act for “Same Love.”
When I heard that three dozen or so couples were going to get freaking married during Macklemore’s performance, I figured there was no chance I could be wrong about “Same Love.” Not only was I wrong, I was also woefully incorrect, completely off the mark, and embarrassingly incompetent. For starters, Daft Punk dominated the major categories, winning Album of the Year for Random Access Memories and Record of the Year for “Get Lucky.” As for my bold Macklemore pick, the Grammy instead went to a more conventional choice, “Royals” by Lorde, who is either being primed for a long career or cursed as a one-hit wonder with this award.
I don’t know what to say. If even Macklemore is considered too edgy for a songwriting Grammy, I suppose that rap’s only hope for a Song of the Year trophy rests with you, Andy Samberg. Godspeed.
Back to the robots. I’m kind of stunned by how deserving of these awards Daft Punk is. Certainly for Record of the Year, “Get Lucky” was the best choice out of the nominated tracks, or out of any group of records you’d want to pick from the nomination period. It is the one song from 2013 that I would bet my life on still being popular in 20, 50, or 100 years. As for Random Access Memories, it was definitely my favorite album in contention, though in a way it still feels like Red was robbed, since that’s the LP you would design in a lab to be a guaranteed lock at the Grammys. And while I didn’t expect Kendrick Lamar to have much of a chance, a victory for Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City would have been at least as daring as giving the night’s top award to The Suburbs three years ago.
Some in the media will inevitably spin Random Access Memories’ win as a breakthrough for electronic music, but at heart it’s really a reiteration of typical Grammy conservatism. Get past the kooky masks, and Daft Punk’s opus is essentially a traditional pop LP rooted in styles associated with the ’60s and ’70s, with a heavy emphasis on “real” musicianship. It’s like a prog-disco version of an Adele record. That’s not a criticism exactly, because I happen to love RAM. But the Grammys could’ve made history last night, and chose instead to stick with the status quo. That the status quo happened to align this time with some truly wonderful music is a fortuitous coincidence.
Exclusive! Kendrick Lamar’s Unused Acceptance Speech
Jay and Bey: That Good Good
Alex Pappademas: CBS kept reminding us how Historic and Special and Once-In-A-Lifetime the Moments were going to be, even before they happened. That preshow let’s-all-get-ready-to-watch-the-Grammys montage was weirdly emphatic about the lengths to which artists were about to go to entertain us. “The Grammys! Where some artists fly through the air, and others sing through a storm!” You have to wonder about the network’s confidence in the popularity of popular music if they were worried about the Grammys seeming boring to people who’d just watched an entire 60 Minutes. To its credit, the whole show really did seem like the product of an out-of-control Special Moments arms race. They even got Pink to do her famous ribbon dance again! It was like they were giving out awards during some deranged Azerbaijani telecom billionaire’s 48th birthday party. I don’t know how they’re going to top this year’s parade of stunts and collabo-miliations, but they’re going to have to, because from now on I won’t accept anything from the Grammys but artists doing literally anything they can to entertain me. I want Pink to do the ribbon thing every year until she’s so old we legitimately fear for her safety. I want her to do it while holding hands with the surviving Beatles. I want to see Big Sean jump through a fire hoop and eat a bowl of live centipedes. Is this music’s biggest night or isn’t it, Big Sean?
But Beyoncé sang the first part of “Drunk in Love” with her back to us. Nobody else on this duet-happy show got time to be alone with their song like that, to establish ownership of it. Everyone else got played off, cut away from — Trent, Kacey Musgraves during her acceptance speech, anybody who kissed their same-sex partner during Macklemittment 2014. Beyoncé took 45 whole seconds just to acknowledge the camera; she was the only performer that night who seemed like she could take or leave our approval and attention. She made us wait for her to roll down the partition. Of course this was as it should have been. Beyoncé, released on December 13, won’t be Grammy-eligible until next year, and Beyoncé lost the Grammy for best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the one Jay Z and Justin got, for “Holy Grail”), but projected so much frank sexuality and dirt-off-her-shoulder mastery onstage that giving her any kind of prize would have been redundant/insulting. Yoncé can buy her own sippy cups, thanks.
Beyoncé was a co-nominee with Jay for Magna Carta Holy Grail’s “Part II (On the Run),” which is actually kind of low-key great. I love the way Beyoncé sings, “Cliché, cliché, cliché, cliché.” I can never remember the keystroke combination to make an “é,” so whenever I want to type “Beyoncé,” I always have to type “cliché” first. Beyoncé doesn’t sound very convincing when she sings, “I get all of my life from you” and “I hear sirens while we make love” to Jay Z, but Jay Z sounds convincingly defensive when he reminds us that Beyoncé “was a good girl till she knew me.” It’s like he knew the balance of power was about to shift. Last night’s “Drunk in Love” was an authentically special moment in the history of the public-consumption version of the Carter marriage, because it illustrated so clearly how Beyoncé’s cool has now eclipsed Jay’s. “Drunk in Love” is the first Jay-Beyoncé duet-worthy “Crazy in Love” sequel in 10 years or so of trying, but everything else about it is different. “Crazy in Love” is a Beyoncé song about having sex with Jay Z; “Drunk in Love” is a Beyoncé song about having sex with Beyoncé that happens to feature a Jay Z verse. The “play my part and let you take the lead role” equivocation of “Upgrade U” is gone, as is any sense that she needs someone else to help her seem wild or dangerous or credible. At least while this song is playing, Beyoncé already seems like everything, the surfer and the surfbort and the ocean itself and a message in a bottle you will never get to read.
It’s partly that Beyoncé is just better than Magna Carta, obviously. But it’s also partly about the fact that she’s 32 and he’s 44 and suddenly that gap seems salient. Motherhood as a human hasn’t made Beyoncé the pop star seem all that momlike, but Jay suddenly seems totally dadlike. Works for a corporation, wears a suit, makes a lot of dumb jokes, tries to seem hip by talking about Homeland. His verse doesn’t ruin “Drunk in Love,” but the other night at a party I heard a DJ start the song there, without playing the first three minutes, and I wanted to throw things at him. You’d have to be crazy to think that’s the best part of the song. When Jay walked onto Beyoncé’s stage last night he looked like he’d somehow lucked into taking her to the prom. I love how he walks her down the stairs from the top level of the stage, holding her hand in that almost courtly way, and how the minute they hit the second riser, right when he’s saying “I’m Ike,” she lets go of his hand and just keeps going. She does a little catwalk, lets Jay kind of point at her butt and make a Not bad, eh? face — and then the instant his verse is over, she’s back in control of the whole scene. Jay’s once again just lucky to be up there reflecting her swag, doing that adorable little back-to-back surfboard dance. I loved the surfboard-dance part so much I wish it was a physical place, so I could build a church there and renew my wedding vows inside it. It was A Moment. One the show still cut away from, so we could see how much Taylor Swift was enjoying it.
Never Cut Off Trent Reznor. Never.
Trent & Lindsey & Dave & Josh
Molly Lambert: The Grammys seemed hell-bent on making every viewer feel embarrassed no matter what genre of music they like. You like rap? Kendrick Lamar duetting with the paintball-splattered nu-MOR of Imagine Dragons will make you cringe really hard. You like Beyoncé? She’s lip-synching half of “Drunk in Love” and doubling down on lipping along with Jay Z’s “eat the cake, Anna Mae” line. Tina Turner and Beyoncé need to have a talk. Madonna and Macklemore put on an expensive but under-rehearsed summer camp talent show. Country music fans were the only ones who were safe, like a zombie movie where you were fine as long as you stuck with Kris, Willie, and Merle. The promise of a closing performance by Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age with Dave Grohl on drums and Lindsey Buckingham on guitar seemed like a carrot that was sure to be yoinked away at the last second.
But then it actually came to pass, and it didn’t disappoint in any way. It actually was so cool that it elevated the entire Grammys show so that it was, for a few fleeting minutes, also cool. Such is the power of Trent Reznor. No matter what you think of the Foo Fighters now, Grohl is always at his best on drums. Buckingham and Reznor made perfect sense. They share a passion for innovative recording techniques and writing hot, angry songs about witchy women. Queens of the Stone Age are an American treasure and underrated simply by virtue of not being overrated. Amid a telecast that managed to make a tribute to Lou fucking Reed uncool by having the limpid-eyed but dull Jared Leto be the one to honor him, the supergroup of Homme, Grohl, Buckingham, and Reznor did it much better by bringing some actual metal machine music into the night. Dressed in black leather like a fleet of murdered-out classic cars, they dialed into the heaviest universal frequency. Forget about Beyoncé graining on that wood or Katy Perry and her coven graining on those broomsticks — I could not keep my eyes off Trent’s fatty. As the broadcast faded out into ads while the supergroup kept jamming, I wanted to keep listening. I can’t remember the last time (never?) I wished an awards show wouldn’t end.
The Horse’s Mouth
Sean Fennessey: Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” is all bottom. Bass, drop. Build, crash. “Hey!” chants rising, leading into flatness. It hits the ground and kick-starts the engine all over again. The problem with cooking in the basement is that Katy Perry is up, up, UP. Her songs reach ever higher. The brightest, smiliest, soaringest that pop music has to offer. Her eyes are pinballs and her eyelashes are the flippers. Ping! Anyone with this much pep can’t touch the bottom, or see the darkness. Last night, Perry performed “Dark Horse” — a slippery, strange song that sits at no. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 — as a kind of Salem witch trial: Druids, fire, and a veritable acrylic dark horse surrounded her as she acted out some kind of Hester Prynne meets Tim Burton carnival of souls. She was Joan of Lark. It was unconvincing.
All of Perry’s moves on the Prism wave have been largely unconvincing. She seems not to know how to pivot from the cotton-candy–and-braces faux-innocence of Teenage Dream into something, well, less dreamlike. Even Perry’s steeliest songs had a tinny undercurrent, a high-pitched whimpering suitable for dogs and convenience stores. (They’re great songs.) “Roar,” Prism’s first single, has that same cheap music-box hollowness — it’s a comfortable empty. “Dark Horse” is the first Katy Perry song that swings for the bottom, a little gunk in its toenails. That America is connecting with it — and the modest trap-music interpolations in its construction — is surprising. That it was among the least interesting and most enervating performances at the Grammys isn’t. Katy Perry came on and did her new single. Then she danced with a horse.
Obligatory Collection of Looped Moving Images of Taylor Swift Performing Various Embarrassing Actions for Which She Has Been Roundly Pilloried Online
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Related: Does Someone Need to Stick Up for Taylor Swift?
Mark Lisanti: Huh. I guess I typed those words. Does that mean I’ve got to be the one to do it? [Looks around room. Sees he is alone. Somewhere in the distance, a coyote cries. Or perhaps a Jake Gyllenhaal, chewing on the paw he snared in a trap, scanning the darkness for a hungry predator with his huge, wet, quivering eyes.] OK.
Can’t a girl thrash at a piano like she’s been ravished by the muse/dance in the audience like everybody’s watching/awkwardly configure and reconfigure her hands to a hip-hop beat without having her every awards-show move scrutinized like the Zapruder GIFs? Sure, she’s been lyrically careless with the hearts of the people who have been careless with hers, and yes, she seems painfully aware that the camera’s dead, unblinking gaze is always trained on her, and, uh-huh, she does that thing where she pretends that every new accolade is as unexpected as being named grand marshal of the Three-Legged Rainbow Unicorn Parade when she knows she’s got so many gold statuettes at home she had to build a museum on the back acres of her Dream Garden. But these very human (if in no way relatable) foibles are no reason to lie in wait, like those very same coyotehaals that stalk the edges of our nightmares, for T-Swift to bounce arhythmically in her seat with her bestie-of-the-moment and capture that —
Andy Greenwald: It’s not interesting to say the Grammys are old. The Grammys are always old. It’s a ceremony dedicated to taking the new, the exciting, and the hungry and smothering them in the clammy embrace of the establishment. That’s why emerging artists are “explained” through rickety collaborations with the previously understood (this often leads to unintentional insight: Robin Thicke isn’t the next Marvin Gaye; he’d be lucky to be the next Peter Cetera!), why nontraditional lightning bolts are run through the comforting surge protector of rock (not even Kendrick Lamar could make Imagine Dragons interesting), and why everything always, inevitably comes back to the Beatles. (Neil Portnow’s safe word, in business and in life, is “Liverpudlian.”) In this way the Grammys lie to themselves and to us. Everything in the music industry is fine because nothing ever changes. May the circle be unbroken, because circles are reassuringly free of edges.
Still, what struck me about the 56th Grammys last night wasn’t how old they seemed but how not young. You can’t blame Ringo Starr for milking his 50th year in the spotlight, but you can blame everyone else for accommodating him with yet another standing ovation. Where was the fight? Where was the spark? The would-be stars of tomorrow seemed all too eager to run headfirst into the boxes the business had designed for them. Hunter Hayes is 22, but his piano-man bombast seemed like an early audition for a quiet retirement in Vegas. Kacey Musgraves is 25, which should be plenty old enough to reject the neon cowboy puffery laid out around her, a lame visual shorthand as necessary as instructions on a shampoo bottle. And Taylor Swift, god love her, has already entered the Tori Amos–serious artiste stage of her career, where the only special effect needed is integrity. Taylor, your songs about Jake Gyllenhaal are great, but you are 24 years old. Bring back the hobos.
And I couldn’t help but think the Michael Moorcock–themed Stefon party that Katy Perry (still only 29!) threw for the awesome “Dark Horse” was staged on a set the Recording Academy had originally constructed for Lorde. It was just the sort of affected, sexy-goth nonsense that a cool-chasing 50-year-old would sketch out for an effortlessly cool teenager. But no one at these things ever seems to remember what teenagers are actually like: their strange mix of shyness and world-devouring confidence, the way ego, art, and artifice are twisted up in every single thing they do. Thankfully, 17-year-old Lorde is unable to let us forget. Her performance of “Royals” was the best post-Beyoncé moment of a lumpy night, one that refused industry groupthink — who needs Carole King when you can stutter-step the beat of the year’s most familiar song? — even as it flattered it. (Everyone can applaud the modestly dressed teenager performing with nothing but a live band even though — sorry, John Legend — this is no less an affectation than trapeze work.) It was thrilling and ridiculous, a deep dive into drama-dork indulgence and a welcome reminder that the majority of artistically inclined teenagers don’t aspire to Glee. They’re usually too busy striving for glum.
Lorde later won trophies and was endearingly goofy about it. I think it’s safe to say she’s now seen her share of diamonds in the flesh. It’s hard to complain about postcode envy when your hotel suite is within limo distance of 90210. I only hope she’s allowed to keep living just outside of her fantasy, for at least another year.
It Is Possible That Macklemore Is Sick of Macklemore, Too
Emily Yoshida: Last night Twitter erupted in fury when Macklemore won all the rap awards in an untelevised part of the Grammys. Before we go on, here is our own Steven Hyden from his column on the Grammys last week:
Because the media inevitably focuses way too much attention on these empty, self-congratulatory displays, their professed importance becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, at least in the short term.
So I should probably stop typing right now, right? Ah well, what the hell — what’s another roll down the hill for this already Staples Center–size snowball of meaning? I guess it’s cool to win a Grammy (or Oscar, or Globe, or Teen Choice Award) just because of its historical context, but also how many times do they have to fuck up for us to stop assigning significance to them? I take Pitchfork’s year-end lists more seriously than the Grammys, and that’s pretty much the easiest thing to make fun of on the whole Internet.
Anyway, one person on whom this is probably dawning this morning? Macklemore. Here he is on Hot 97 this morning, sounding more than a little contrite.
I have never listened to The Heist all the way through, while if I had bought GKMC on cassette it would be a pile of metallic dust by now, but I do have a soft spot for Macklemore because he’s a dork from Seattle who got super famous, and he shot the “Thrift Shop” video in the Capitol Hill Value Village, where probably a fifth of my wardrobe was purchased. My read on him is that he is an overearnest dummy with good intentions, and that “Thrift Shop” being more embraced by mainstream America than “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” is not something he planned or even approves of. (Also, I saw Kendrick perform the latter song last fall at the very arena from which the Grammys were broadcast last night, and the fervor and pride with which the crowd sang along made me double-check Wikipedia to make sure it hadn’t recently been declared the new California state anthem. So, y’know. Snowballs of meaning.) I don’t think you get into the self-produced Seattle rap game thinking you are going to win more Grammys than Kanye and become a symbol of everything wrong with pop culture just because you wrote a catchy song that poor people can sing along to. I also might be projecting, but I sensed a bit of exhaustion from him and Mary Lambert during their gimmicky “Same Love” wedding. Even aside from its well-documented problems, I’m sick of that song from the five or so times I’ve seen them perform it in the past year; I can’t imagine being responsible for the Very Special Performance at every awards show from here to the AMAs.
I also believe Macklemore is acutely aware of the Macklemore backlash. He is, after all, the guy who asked us if we had seen the YouTube comments lately.
Here are two more things I believe, with only secondary or tertiary evidence to back me up:
• Macklemore genuinely didn’t think he deserved those awards.
• Macklemore thinks it’s awesome to have four Grammys.
Kendrick Imagines a Dragon
Zach Dionne: There he is, Compton’s finest, performing in all-white everything alongside the latest all-white-everything rockers, Imagine Dragons. At first it’s a mash-up of “Radioactive” and “M.A.A.D. City”; Twitter gets comfy and clever with the comparisons to Jay Z and Linkin Park’s decade-old Collision Course. Then, having slaughtered the familiar verses, ready to have everyone feeling foolish for fussing over those “Control” bars for this long, Kendrick slides into something new. It feels like a freestyle at first, like fresh material that might bore or alienate in this muddy live setting. But it turns beastly almost right off, and then cataclysmic. The words are taking him somewhere, the thermometer in his brain spiking toward the tip. Suddenly we’re watching the most intense hip-hop moment national TV has had since Kanye brought his new shit to SNL last spring, and not only because K-Dot closes out with a “You crazy for this one, Yeezus!” metal-yawp. No, it’s because Kendrick Lamar Duckworth has just stolen an interminable awards show — one where he won’t receive any hard-earned recognition in the seven categories for which he’s nominated — and you haven’t even it realized till it’s over.
(A studio remix of “Radioactive” went online right after the performance. You’ll lose the “M.A.A.D. City” bits and have to wait longer till the Kendrick part and won’t be able to see his immense passion unless you close your own eyes and remember really hard — but yeah, it’s there, online.)
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The Pink Aerial Show
Wesley Morris: Pink has an old album called I’m Not Dead. And you know what? She’s not! Her name rarely comes up in the pop conversation. She doesn’t rank all that high in the diva power rankings. The Internet neither explodes nor implodes when a new record arrives. The think pieces don’t pile up around her. But she still writes and records good pop songs that people like. Last night she sang one of them (“Try”) while writhing and spinning like an installation at a restaurant in a satire of avant-garde dining. This is more or less what she did at the 2010 Grammys.
Eventually, she spidered down to the stage to finish the song just as she had at the 2012 American Music Awards: doing modern-dance sexnastics with a very fit-looking gentleman. She then put on a dress and heels and joined the guy from Fun. (Nate Ruess, looking very stop-motion Christmas special) for “Just Give Me a Reason.” In about five minutes, we’d gotten the full Pink spectacle. When she was done wiping the stage with Ruess and people in the audience were done wiping her sweat off themselves, there was only one question: Why’s Britney in Vegas?
Steven and Smokey: A Love Story
Rembert Browne: You cannot beat this series of events:
• Smokey Robinson and Steven Tyler appear onstage to present Record of the Year, dressed as a fancy old man and Captain Jack Sparrow at Diddy’s White Party, respectively.
• Steven rests his elbow on Smokey’s shoulder.
• Steven clears his throat.
• Steven begins singing “You Really Got a Hold on Me.”
• Steven’s voice cracks, and then temporarily disappears, in that perfect way only Steven Tyler can pull off.
• Smokey watches, with a big smile on his face.
• Steven spins and then gets the crowd to sing the final lyrics.
• Steven almost tips over, but doesn’t, because he’s a legend.
• Steven shouts, “SMOKEY ROBINSON WROTE THAT.”
• Smokey looks at Steven and sings “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).”
These two ’40s babies won the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in a mere 30 seconds, Tyler because he’s a warlock of sorts, and Smokey because he sang “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” to the dude who looks the most like a lady.
“Ha Ha, You’re Pretty Funny, Jamie Foxx. But You’re Dead 10 Seconds After You Hand Me That Sippy Cup.”
Ian Cohen: I don’t want to hate Dave Grohl, because if you hate Dave Grohl, you’re the problem. From all accounts except for Courtney Love, Winona Ryder, and what’s her name from Veruca Salt, he’s the nicest, most genuine millionaire rock star alive. And truth be told … um, he doesn’t owe me anything.
But I dunno, these days he’s got a different angle. Not so chill. He hates EDM, sorta. Licking shots at American Idol as if that has any bearing on the future of rock music. Where’s the human element, man? Grohl’s always been a careerist, and that was OK when Foo Fighters were staking out their territory as the preeminent Clear Channel rock-radio friendly unit shifters. But now he wants to be that guy. That spokesman for REAL ROCK. The Grammys’ Peyton Manning: Both might seem like affable goofballs, but they’re the PROTECT THE SHIELD teacher’s pet of their given profession and they’re exactly the kind of person their superiors want as the face of the game.
Last night gave us plenty of proof that it’s working. First off, the Best Rock Song Grammy went to “Cut Me Some Slack,” a collaboration between the three surviving members of Nirvana and Paul McCartney that you’ve probably never heard in your life. It’s basically Grammified Velvet Revolver or Audioslave with far less drugs and undeniably badass riffs. More problematic is the record from whence it came, the Grammy winner for Best Soundtrack (OK, Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media). Sound City: Real to Reel. It’s a tribute to the Van Nuys studio in which Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young, Rage Against the Machine, and Nirvana cut legendary records, which is fine enough. But in reality, it’s House Hunters as applied to the Neve 8028 mixing console, a relic of honest, handcrafted record-making that just so happens to be a $200,000 piece of recording equipment that requires you to be invited to Dave Grohl’s house to either see or use it.
Look, the soundtrack itself was nothing special, and as our Steven Hyden pointed out at length, it’s supposed to be nothing special, just a bunch of dudes coming together to lay some jams on tape, even if they’re dudes at the level of Lindsey Buckingham, Josh Homme, Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, and the dude from Slipknot doing something other than being in Slipknot. But now that it’s Grammys-certified twice over, Real to Reel will almost certainly be seen as a mandate for more of the same.
Of course, this is just burying the lede, which is that Django Unchained got robbed and the only explanation is that not a single Grammy voter saw the “100 Black Coffins” scene.
Clearing the History
Tess Lynch: I don’t know if I could have sat through the Thicke-Chicago medley if I hadn’t seen Clear History, but I had, so I did (those fictional BJs really add a layer). And while I watched, from behind the wheel of my mind’s Howard car, I Googled and found this: “Why would anyone want to blow Chicago — just find it hard to believe.” Come on, anonymous hater! Just look at these proto-Thickes!
Wait, why didn’t we have a Clear History after-party? Not surfboardt/surfbort-inducing enough, not the kind of thing to “get you pregnant”? Was it a lack of trapeze artistry or emotional sippy-cup references? I could go back and edit Taylor Swift in, flanking longbeard Larry David. I could add more singing, lip-synching, whatever. Trophies. Daft Punk as Jon Hamm’s underlings. Clear History was short and snappy, and there was justice. It would have been a real party. Nobody would even know what time it was, and nobody would even care … about time.
This is all Macklemore’s fault. Everything is Macklemore’s fault.
It’s All Coming Up Kacey (and Coogan)
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Amos Barshad: A nonofficial tally of last night’s big winners, in no particular order:
- Whoever conceived the idea of having the indefatigably British Steve Coogan introduce Juicy J — and thereby take the opportunity to explain to J, in the process, that “It’s pretty hard out here for the prostitutes, too.”
- Kacey Musgraves! The cheery young Nashville kid did notch an actual victory, somehow snatching Best Country Album from Taylor Swift’s maniacal clutches. (Who even remembers these things?, you wonder. Who cares? Taylor remembers. Taylor cares.) But her bigger triumph came just a bit earlier, when she knocked out a delightful rendition of her Same Trailer, Different Park smash “Follow Your Arrow.” Rocking the stripped-down side (front?) stage, and outfitted in a kind of neon-cacti getup that’s surely making Brandon Flowers simply green with envy this morning, Musgraves and her band just had themselves a simple, buoyant, good ol’ time. I promise I will never stop going on about how the Grammys are an inexorable grind (REALLY NEIL PORTNOW TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR GOOD FRIEND LANG LANG), but I do have to put my cynicism aside and give credit where credit is due. Musgraves’s spot did exactly what the Grammys should do: Give a major platform to a talented young artist. And Musgraves, crisply crushing it, did the rest.
Daft Punk’s Magical Google Helmets
John Lopez: You have to admire the philosophical dedication with which Daft Punk stick to their anonymous helmet ideals. Those things have to be head-saunas. But I also assume they serve as Wi-Fi-enabled smart devices with which to keep themselves occupied during LL Cool J’s monologues. So here’s my list of the top 10 things Daft Punk probably did inside their helmets to help kill time during the Grammys:
10. Watch the director’s cut of Bela Tarr’s seven-hour Hungarian epic, Satantango
9. FaceTime with each other
8. Use a custom app to translate Ozzy Osbourne’s unintelligble mutterings into quirky French idioms such as “to drop someone like a sock filled with cocaine”
7. AutoTune Jared Leto’s spoken-word Lou Reed tribute
6. Calculate Pink’s exact trajectory should she have fallen from that harness
6. Replay the live backstage feed to see whatever it was Jamie Foxx said to Beyoncé that pissed off Jay Z
5. Peruse a Google map of Jonathan Gold’s best tacos in Los Angeles
4. Rewatch the Maleficent trailer
3. Instantly make a GIF out of Paul McCartney, Ringo, and Yoko Ono rocking out to “Get Lucky”
2. Also, Steven Tyler doing the hand roll
1. Play Candy Crush
Shout-Out to the YouTube Pop Cover Artists
Juliet Litman: There are many things that set pop music apart — the catchy melodies, simple lyrics, mellifluous vocals. This year the Grammys decided to honor the genre’s singularity by also honoring its
second third-class citizens: the YouTube cover stars.
You may have noticed a lack of formalization in how the nominees were introduced for each category. Sometimes the presenter read them, sometimes there was a clip reel, and in the case of Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album, brief selections from YouTube covers played instead of the original, nominated tracks. (Perhaps the quality of covers was not strong enough to sustain a third set of highlights for Pop/Duo Group performance.) I’m choosing to believe that some intern messed up and pulled the wrong clips when assembling these short packages. But whatever the case, I’m just thrilled that Max Schneider, YouTube’s no. 1 earnest over-singer/Jonas Brother doppelgänger, is finally getting the recognition he deserves. His cover of “When I Was Your Man” played during the Pop Vocal Album award, and it was the apotheosis of the YouTube cover video. It’s set in a generic wooded area that was most likely filmed in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park, the singer is dressed for a temperate day, there’s one musician who blends in with the background, there’s a slightly grainy look, and there is no shortage of vibrato.
Kudos to the Grammy folks for shining a light on this important, emerging genre.