For a minute there, it felt like the Grammys touched the zeitgeist. Like "music's biggest night" actually took place on this planet, not some far away constellation. The Hamilton performance, the Kendrick Lamar extravaganza foregrounding African pride and slaveries old and new — for a second there, I thought the National Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences had acknowledged that music has the power to engage and empower audiences to do more than spend their dollars.
Sure, we had to sit through a scolding about streaming revenue as well as a bunch of milquetoast tributes and ballading to get there (they even made The Weeknd and Adele boring; Adele blames a fallen piano mic), but for a moment, their stage was fire — literal and metaphoric fire.
And then the whole thing just petered out, as if it burned too bright. We've cut that 3.5-hour monster sitting on your DVR to seven essential videos. Music's biggest night is better consumed Tuesday afternoon between emails anyhow.
Kendrick has the unique ability to make the rest of the music industry look petty. I mean, how often does the Grammys stage a flashy production explicitly about, at least in part, black mass incarceration? If you want to save some scrolling, just watch this masterpiece seven times in a row.
Come for the dynamite performance from the sold-out-til-2100 Broadway smash Hamilton, stay for creator/star Lin-Manuel Miranda's rapped acceptance speech. Enough to get the Best Musical Theater Album aired in the main broadcast instead of the pre-ceremony for, oh, I'm guessing, the first time ever.
Lady Gaga is a daughter of the Starman. Whether you liked Gaga and Rodgers' overpacked David Bowie-goes-showtunes medley (not much of a medley man myself), I admired her commitment to character(s).
Every song must be turned into a ballad. Every song. It is the Grammys' mandate. Best dance song? Probably better as a ballad. Or, at least something that can show off Skrillex's former emo-core guitar chops. He remembers how to play that right? And Diplo, here, big drums you can bash with these mallets. This would have killed at Woodstock '99.
There was a chance that the NARAS would make this Kendrick's night and send him home with the big trophy. But in the end, they couldn't turn their back on the one artist who consistently butters industry bread. Taylor Swift won. As bookmakers predicted. And she used that stage, the Best Album of the Year, to fire back at Kanye West and speak hot truth about everyday misogyny:
"As the first woman to win album of the year at the Grammys twice," she says, slipping those credentials in casually, "I want to say to all the young women out there: there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going. You’ll look around and you’ll know it was you and the people who love you who put you there and that will be the greatest feeling in the world."
Alice Cooper, accompanied by the cast of Pirates of the Caribbean, paid tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. The Grammys are terrific at putting together nonsensical pairings just for shits. Perhaps the best though was Cousin of Somebody, Pitbull, with '99 checkerboard heart throb Travis Barker, cool old guitar guy Joe Perry, and rockin' Robbie Thicke. Sofia Vergara showed up dressed as taxi. The stage show looked like Einstein on the Beach, spring break edition.
Not "good," but definitely funny. You could literally see people walking out to it.