Last night's Grammys broadcast offered poignant and thrilling moments galore. Despite the obvious usual lip-synching complaints, there were glimmers of hope aplenty that true, from-the-heart performance survives. This was Adele's night after all, she of the soulful, unretouched belting and refusal to mold herself into any part of the industry's usual conception of a female pop star.
Then, of course, there was Jennifer Hudson's spine-chilling, appropriate, and almost unreal tribute to Whitney Houston. Even Bon Iver's win, for Best New Artist, and his semi-sarcastic, aw-shucks acceptance speech was a thumb in the eye of overproduction and hype. (OK, let's ignore the fact that Bon Iver has been making music under that name for six years now.)
Still, this was a night full of other surprises -- some not so pleasant.
Sorry, West Coasters, that we spoiled them on Twitter for you three
hours before your own broadcast, despite the fact that the actual event
was, um, happening in California.
So what were some of the misses? Let's start with...
The semiflubbed opportunities to memorialize Etta James and Don Cornelius
All right, so Etta -- a soul diva long before Whitney -- got a shoutout early in the show via an acoustic duet by Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys. So why was she not mentioned in the show's later memorial montage segment? Worse still, why was Don Cornelius completely absent from that as well? Sure, there was a spoken aside about him later, but it somehow segued into something about club music and then that Guetta/Deadmau5/Foos performance. Wait, what?
Anyway, that segment leads us to...
Dave Grohl's apparent total lack of irony
Grohl is awesome, and the Foos more than deserved their multiple awards. Their frontman looked so, so stoked to be onstage with Paul McCartney during the show's finale; it was adorable. But wasn't this the guy who, in his acceptance speech earlier in the evening, threw a jab at computer-aided music?
Yes? OK, so why would he then appear onstage during a segment made up in a South Beach fever dream -- David Guetta, Chris Brown (!), and Deadmau5? Why would he pretend to dance around enthusiastically to Deadmau5 in a Slayer shirt? Why? But never mind that, that leads us to...
Skrillex's absence from the "dance goes mainstream" segment
Love him or hate him, Skrillex was one of the most visible and polarizing figures in dance -- and even pop -- music last year. His remix of Benny Bennassi's "Cinema" pretty much eclipsed the original. He's like the pied piper of hundreds of thousands of former Warped Tour-type scene kids who discovered Fruity Loops. Oh, he also won some three Grammys earlier in the evening, though not in the telecast. Guetta and Deadmau5 did not. Not a knock on them -- without their work, there would be no Skrillex as we know it -- but the kid should have gotten a few minutes to mug on national TV.
Taylor Swift's continued pretending that crowd adulation is a surprise
Here's a performer with a true and utter lack of honesty. Swift's performance of "Mean" last night was so honest and "sweet," it bordered on parody. OK, the prairie woman/Depression dresses, we won't even hate on that, because it's a continuation of the willfully retro Americana thing that's been going on for a couple of years. But it's easy to forget Swift is actually 22 years old with her meek high-school-girl schtick and emotionally stunted lyrics. The "oh gosh, me?" face at the end of every performance was old two years ago.
Nicki Minaj steals Lady Gaga's religious-provocative thunder
This is a tough one to parse. We're fans of Nicki -- but this performance pretty much confounded anyone who doesn't spend too much time on the internet and/or following rap gossip. Just try to explain the whole "Roman" thing and the ensuing exorcism plot to someone with no clue. Impossible, right?
At the Grammys, flash is welcome, but the music should also speak for itself without a lot of window dressing and a guidebook's worth of decoding. A dancing priest and random religious imagery does not a shocking think piece make. Also, though she's been doing this for years, Nicki again lip-synched. Yes, she dances around, but not to a superchoreographed extent. If anyone should not lip-synch, it's a rapper, and doing so is a bad look.
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Speaking of which, did the tide of popular and industry opinion completely turn against Lady Gaga?
Though she tried her best to steal some thunder with the constricting-fishing-net look, Lady Gaga was almost completely absent from the proceedings, save for a few cutaway shots of the crowd. In past years, she's dominated these kinds of awards shows -- and this year scored only one measly nomination, for Best New Album, to boot. To add salt to the wound, Nicki Minaj effectively out-Gaga-ed Gaga with her performance. What happened here?