Tag Archives: Grammys

Oh god save us: Grammys 2019

11:08 p.m. G’night, y’all!

11:02 p.m. Almost bedtime. Three more categories and an Aretha tribute. I want to read a few more pages of Jack Kelly’s excellent recounting of the Pullman Strike and a couple of Louise Glück poems before head hits pillow. Let me gather my strength for a final award, Best Rap Album. Invasion of Privacy wins, an album that in 2018 is impressive for its brevity and focus. So is Pusha T, but you’d expect this from the Don Henley of rap.

10:58 p.m. I underrated By the Way, I Forgive You a year ago.

10:50 p.m. I’d like to thank my friend Tere Estorino Florin for introducing me to and proselytizing for Brandi Carlisle for years. She sings “The Joke” as if her life hung on this performance, this night. And it works.

10:42 p.m. BTS emerge without a spot of blood, like Fortinbras in Act V of Hamlet. They announce that H.E.R. has won Best R&B Album. She will get streaming revenue, deservedly, for this EP, not album, as she points out, yet her EP is almost seventy-five minutes.

10:41 p.m. Motown was gayer than this.

10:40 p.m. “Square Biz”!

10:37 p.m. As fascinating as this performance: the cutaways to the audience, who to a man and woman nod as if listening to a recitation of Goethe.

10:37 p.m. Can you imagine if the curtain rises and performing every Motown chestnut is Meghan Trainor

10:34 p.m. ….yet Keys and Smokey harmonize well on a snippet of “The Tracks of My Tears.”

10:30 p.m. A Motown tribute with…Ne-Yo? Has it come to this? A decade ago he released one of the twenty-first century’s best male R&B albums.

10:26 p.m. The commercial breaks increase in frequency and length. So do the slow jams. James Blake’s single with Travis Scott and Metro Boomin’ is the 2019 equivalent of a 1978 Kenny Loggins song, complete with bloodless funk section.

10:11 p.m. Ten minutes after the room has had a chance to grab a Tito’s and soda, Lady Gaga is on stage to perform “Shallow” in a Bowie-worthy leotard. She does Queen better than Bohemian Rhapsody.

10:01 p.m. In 1979 I would likely have criticized Diana Ross’ self-regard too, but it’s been forty years, and with her formidable catalog coursing through every capillary she turns “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” into a valentine for her fans and their lifeline to her. Moving.

9:59 p.m. There was a time when the Grammys meant watching Diana Ross in these gowns.

9:50 p.m. After quiet weeping in the bathroom, I return and Drake wins Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan.” I think of Tootsie‘s last act when I see Drake: “Oh boy, here come the terms…” But Aubrey Graham’s speech, replete with praise for the little people who trudge through snow and rain and Trump tweets to his shows, is solid. All I can stand are two minutes, but producers interrupt him for a commercial break anyway. They’d rather let Alicia Keys mangle The Classics.

9:44 p.m. After performing a round of classics, Keys conclude with her “New York State of Mind,” as if to say, I’m one of you, I won 15 Grammys.

9:43 p.m. oh for FUCK’S SAKE

9:39 p.m. Alicia Keys playing two pianos at once. A generational talent. She sings Roberta Flack as Hazel Scott, then flips to “Lucid Dreams” by way of Sting. Now “Unforgettable.” I know these performances establish continuity and context to a pop world that abjures history, but Keys can’t do it without coming off like the smartest Vegas singer.

9:30 p.m. Best Country Album goes to Kacey Musgraves, a harbinger of her shut-out in an hour for Album of the Year.

9:27 p.m. I expected Cardi B to dominate year-end lists. This performance reminds me why she should have.

9:22 p.m. A Motown tribute from Smokey Robinson. We needed one.

9:20 p.m. oh WOW — a H.E.R. guitar solo.

9:19 p.m. I wanted H.E.R. to perform “Comes a Time,” “Journey Into the Past,” “Motorcycle Mama” or any other Neil Young country track to make the evening complete.

9:16 p.m. BRB.

9:11 p.m. We critics publish variants on the following statement after every awards show: these ceremonies don’t offer redress for past crimes so much as act as arbitration. Perform tonight, we’ll forget about ignoring you all year.

9:09 pm. Snark aside, I heard more women singing country in 10 minutes than I heard on my local country station all year!

9:08 p.m. The cutaway shows a politely indifferent audience to “9 to 5.” Which was weird! In this Post-Malone world, “9 to 5” is proto-rap.

9:05 p.m. Although hard to make out through the sturm und drang, this new Parton composition sounds promising.

9:01. Now the evening’s highlight: a poignant cover of “After the Gold Rush.” BTS loves it too!

9 p.m. It’s 9 p.m., and I hear “Jolene.” Miley Cyrus could’ve sung a less frantically arranged “Jolene.”

8:58 pm. A Dolly Parton kicks off with “Here You Come Again, sung by Katy Perry and Kacey Musgraves, a song given new life by a commercial. Perry treats”Here You Come Again” as if it were meat sauce. Then Parton, giving the pair the closest Dolly approximation to a withering glare, takes over, indifferent to harmonizing.

8:55 p.m. To continue: this makes me the The Weeknd of bloggers, impressing you with my ardor in the hopes that you’ll love me. Oh, right — that’s Alicia Keys.

8:53 p.m. I’m certain that my students, for whom these byzantine legal agreements about performances are made, are watching Russian Doll.

8:50 p.m. Don’t these people know that hopping on your bare feet or in flat shoes is bad for your arches?

8:49 p.m. At last, the Chili Peppers transform into the Eagles.

8:47 p.m. Post-Malone performing “Rockstar” is the kind of post-modernism that consumes solar systems.

8:45 p.m. Of course I don’t object to the Malone/Chili Peppers pairing. Malone and “Under the Bridge” are natural mates. And this kind of tattooed sincerity will always have a place in Grammy lore.

8:43 p.m. Brandi Carlisle in this category defines “dissonance.” It’s like trout at a slaughterhouse. Childish Gambino’s “This is America” wins.

8:42 p.m. However, John Mayer, Song of the Year winner for “Daughters,” deserves fifteen Grammys for his hair.

8:41 p.m. Alicia Keys: “I have been super impressed to win 15 Grammys.” Humility, I saw it fly out the window once.

8:38 p.m. “Post-Malone and Red Hot Chili Peppers are about to share the Grammys stage.” I may return to reading about the Pullman Strike of 1894.

8:29 p.m. Costumed in a fabulous jet vinyl space outfit with models out of a Robert Palmer video, Janelle Monáe does discrete upstrokes on her guitar for “To Make Me Feel.” The size of the stage — are they on a battleship? — dilutes her power, though. Again, we’re down to Solid Gold routines, complete with smoke machines. MIKE DROP.

8:25 p.m. “A songwriter whose songs radiate a light of their own,” Kacey Musgraves appears on stage to sing “Rainbow.” She’s nervous, disarmingly; also, to my ears, flat. Yet these developments turn this performance into a triumph. Not the most original song on the nominated Golden Hour — a “Yesterday” killer to which voters succumb.

8:20 “I’m so proud to be part of a movie that deals with mental health issues.” Is that how Gaga and Coop sold A Star is Born to producers? This is like saying Grand Hotel is a movie that deals with hospitality issues.

8:19 p.m. Best Pop Duo/Group, the evening’s first award, goes to “Shallow,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s duet for A Star is (Re)Born. One of the losers is Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton’s “Say Something.” Remember it? Do I? Do they?

8:17 p.m. I’m on board with Mendes reviving the Elvis style of vestigial-guitar-around-left shoulder if it means he doesn’t get to play it.

8:15 p.m. Never on God’s earth have I seen boots on legs as thin as Shawn Mendes’.

8:13 pm. So who follows these powerful women of color? Shawn Mendes again, playing “In My Blood” — on piano. His alabaster arms are tattoo-proof.

8:09 p.m. “They said I was weird,” Lady Gaga announces in a lineup that looks like a firing squad. Who said she was weird? “Music is the one place where we all can feel truly free,” Jennifer Lopez adds. Michelle Obama, however, overpowers them, with her simplicity of gesture, a high priestess of piety. It’s 2019, and the audience — we — need it, I suppose.

8:07 p.m. “I will always love you, Dolly,” Alicia Keys says, highlighting my Alicia Keys problem. She reminds everyone that she’s quoting Dolly Parton and also being sententious about it.

8:05 p.m. Never mind: Ricky Martin is here. Martin, from whom irony dribbles off like scandal to Reagan. I should mention that Martin is poignant as Versace’s lover in the FX series.

8:03 p.m. I’m watching this West Side Story revival and thinking, do watches 18-24 care? It’s like watching a Dean Martin roast in 1974 and wanting to kill everyone for being so old and smug.

8:00 p.m. Camila Cabello does a dollhouse routine, is not singing, and descends a fire escape. This is talent.

7:58 p.m. Shawn Mendes weighs more than his music.

7:55 p.m. I dislike Alicia Keys. She breaths falsity like lamprey eat plankton. I look forward to the ceremony.

59th Grammy Awards – poodle edition

11:11. A garrulous Chance the Rapper leads the Kirk Franklin choir through the kind of bombast rewarded by Grammy voters. I liked his first mixtape, but his timbre bothers me.

11 p.m. “Musical tributes” bore me. The best tribute is to kill yr idols.

10:54. Clapping, reprising his check-the-mirror routine with Jerome Benton, doing The Bird, Morris Day showed his cool remains intact. Bruno Mars looks like Liberace imitating Prince; he looks overwhelmed by the challenge. I didn’t know he could solo guitar, though

10:50. ‘Where glam meets funk, and rock meets flash, and leather meets lace’ — of course James Corden could’ve been describing Stevie Nicks.

10:40. I danced around my apartment to the few bars of “Award Tour” to which A Tribe Called Quest treated the audience and watched motionless when Q-Tip, Jarobi, Anderson Paak, Consequence, and a cast of hundreds (figuratively) turned “We the People” into a rebuke of “President Agent Orange.” I’m touched that the Grammys can still do this sort of thing on occasion while mobilizing crowds on stage in the hopes of selling as many units as possible.

10:35. Celine Dion looks terrific. She hands Song of the Year to Adele and Greg Kurstin, writers of “Hello.”

10:29. God — I thought those audience cutaways for the last hour were to Tom Petty, not Barry Gibb

10;24. Oh good — a version of “Staying Alive” in the noble tradition of Solid Gold. Inspirational lyric: I’m going nowhere, somebody help me.

10:18. I’m still thinking about Adele’s George Michael cover. Pop has a tradition of women embodying the text of torch songs by gay men who had to stay content with subtext, but Adele’s “Fastlove” adulterated this song about cruising into generic hankie waving. George Michael, an Album of the Year winner, wanted hundreds of millions to love his music. By 1990 he wanted to keep those fans and record music that didn’t check any of the boxes constituting “universality.” 2017’s biggest musical star, who has often sung and written well, shows that she believes in the pabulum of universality.

10:15. Taking a cue from Adele and Keys-morris, Sturgill Simpson pours honey oats over a horn section.

10:12. Dwight Yoakam! Now this guy is metal! But he looks like Tom Petty.

10:07. Lady Gaga’s always been metal, so fronting Metallica’s no stretch. But the band’s mikes aren’t working.

10:04. oh hell YEAH Schoolboy Q. But Chance the Rapper wins for Best Rap Album. A noble choice, suffused with compassion, and I never feel like listening to it. Although many colleagues loved this record, its Grammy win coincides with this awards group’s fetish for the grand gesture and uplift.

9:50. Adele, the point of FASTLOVE is that it’s FAST. You’d think when she started over she’d start with a faster arrangement, not Jessie Ware in dirge mode. This is slower than anything American critics accused George Michael of recording in 1990s. She gave the kind of well-meaning travesty that will forever separate crying bizzers from the rest of us

9;47. The fallacy of artists assuming that overstatement = honesty. Alicia Keys looks me in the eye and says fuck you, gleefully.

9:44. The fakest soul fraud of the last 20 years join Maren Morris for “Once,” an Eric Carmen ballad that sounds better on the album than as a blowzy Grammy ballad.

9:42. One of the phenomena of watching the Grammys on CBS and the commercials for the network’s prime time line up is understanding why it ranks dead last in ratings.

9:36. The nominees for Best Urban Contemporary Album are strong and worthy. Lemonade wins. I rooted for KING’S We Are KING.

9:32. Thank god or agents that John Mayer isn’t up there.

9:28. If you mus’t know, here’s a preview of my review of Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm”: “My delight at inserting distortion’ in a dance pop tune is mitigated by Katy Perry’s odd stresses; in this case they land on the last syllable, which has the effect of howling when someone digs a high heel into your big toe.”

9:26. Little Big Town turn Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” into “Afternoon Delight.” Note how they were photographed.

9:23. To rewrite that showbiz adage; “Well, he certainly doesn’t work hard.”

9:20. Never mind — he’s melding Boyz II Men and Prince’s “Adore.”

9:16. Clad in a tracksuit that El Debarge might’ve worn, Bruno Mars sings the song from his new album about strawberry champagne or something. It’s got a mambo piano break that’s the most striking element. As usual he gives an eerie impersonation of someone who watched a sibling sing Ready for the World.

9:15. The musicians in this clown car look mortified, J-Lo most of all. She’s thinking, “I recorded ‘Waiting for Tonight’ so I wouldn’t have to karaoke Neil Diamond.”

9:14. “Hi, I’m hosting the Grammys. Remember?”

9:11. Sam Hunt’s eyes seemed to have sunken into his skull while watching the four of five excellent nominees for
Best Country Solo. Maren Morris wins! “My Church” is the fourth or fifth best single on her excellent debut.

9:07. I of course thought of Dawn Richard watching Beyonce.

8:56. A proudly pregnant Beyonce, wearing Iman’s outfit from the “Remember the Time” video, performs “Love Drought,” not often cited as one of Lemonade‘s best tracks. It still isn’t. I’m not moved by the set: too close to Cirque du Soleil. But she commands the stage like few performers; she insists on the audience accepting her ideas, received or not. Such is the pop climate in 2017 that radio won’t let her score consecutive top five smashes like Madonna could in 1986-1987 yet her fans’ adoration is as fervent.

8:55. A bit much having Beyonce’s mom preparing the audience for her rage should her daughter lose Album of the Year.

8:52. I listen to about 300 singles a year thanks to my gig at The Singles Jukebox. Even in 2008 the most regrettable category was populated by young white men emulating a kind of wisdom received from AT&T commercials. That’s “7 Years.”

8;49. And now a word from Ryan Toothpaste, er, Seacrest, who long ago might’ve been a Chainsmoker but now is condemned to look saturnine while introducing Lukas Graham.

8:44. “Heathens” accepted, the Best Rock Song category is for old people. The late David Bowie wins for “Blackstar,” in a move so preordained that the cute fellow from the Chainsmokers forgets to look respectful. I should note that Bowie has won four of the awards for which he’s nominated.

8:38. Ed Sheeran plays his classic new single” doing what Grammys love auteurs doing: programming the loop, working up a sweat jumping from keyboards to acoustic guitar. Anyway, the #1 song of the country could’ve been an ode to body positivity if context didn’t matter; this is the fellow who wrote “Love Yourself” for Justin Bieber. You know, Prince would’ve let women play these parts.

8:39. Who the hell who cares about hosts in 2017?

8:30. Wearing a jacket I’ve seen on Dachshunds, Nick Jonas wraps his hare lip around the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance winner: Twenty-One Pilots’ “Stressed Out.” In response, the duo strip to their underwear, a reminder, we learn, of when they were young and watching Michael Bolton beat R.E.M. for Song of the Year. “You could be next,” Tyler Joseph avers, briefs around a caricature of a hip.

8:26. John Travolta, coming out before a billion people with lame old age jokes that work on twink waiters, introduces Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood on a synth-slick track with Urban’s hot licks you’re going to hear about soon. The beauty of this Urban-Underwood track is (a) the hyphenate (b) Daft Punk and The Weeknd could’ve recorded it.

8:24. After giving the matter some thought, I’ve concluded that The Weeknd repels me because he thinks he can combine the MJ of “Human Nature” and the MJ of “Morphine.”

8:22. A clue that Anderson Paak’s made it: “Am I Right” scores a Pixel commercial.

8:15. The Weeknd sucks when he doesn’t bathe his music in the easiest of eighties musical signifiers. He’s in a good voice in “I Feel It Coming,” in part because the voice he channels is Michael Jackson in “Human Nature,” the most influential of his Thriller singles. Daft Punk bring a not exactly inapposite kind of cultural necrophilia.

8:10. Jennifer Lopez, clad in a dress with a pink poodle dog chained to her right shoulder, recites Toni Morrison in a paean “universal language” called music. Oh — she’s introducing Best New Artist. Three of the nominees (Maren Morris, Anderson Paalk, and Chance the Rapper) are worthy. The winner: Chance! And he’s not new! He does rap, though.

8:07. Blasting the hair off between Beyonce’s eyebrows, Adele showed the gumption and showbiz instincts that endear her to the average Grammy voter. We’ll see if she does more than metaphorically blast Beyonce before I conk out reading Gjertrud Schnackenberg.

8:01. Oh, uh, hello! So distracted was I by rewatching Ivan’s Childhood that I forgot these things were on. Welcome! I promise I’ll do what I can to restrain jokes aimed at the host with the pink tux jacket.

58th Grammy Awards: loud ‘n’ proud

11:01. Performing “Ace of Spades” with Duff McKagan and Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp reprises the guitar stylings he brought to Oasis’ immortal “Fade In-Out.”

10:55. When Iggy dies Dave Grohl will shimmy shirtless in leather pants in a Grammy performance of “Loose.”

10:50. Although I haven’t given Alabama Shakes the attention they deserve, Brittany Howard looks and sounds wonderful and sinister.

10:39. Bonnie Raitt! Like her singing, her speeches are laconic and dry. But why isn’t she playing guitar with Chris Stapleton on “The Thrill is Gone”? EDIT: There she is, adding a few laconic slide lines and barely opening her mouth but investing every monosyllable with grace.

10:26. Isn’t the point of a tribute performance to honor the artist (Bowie) with your own interpretation? Rhetorical question, yes. I’m also tired and want to read Elena Ferrante. I’m 100 percent sure that during her 2010-2011 imperial phase Gaga would not have done a medley. The artist least likely to have done a crass medley does a crass medley that would have embarrassed the Rockettes.

10:18. WHEW. Meghan Trainor wins Best New Artst, thereby destroying her career.

10:12: Boy have I warmed to “Love Yourself”, but it does NOT get more sympathetic over barely competent strumming. The “rock” version of “Where Are U Now” tramples a trifle into paste. “I’ll give you the shirt off my back” — uh no thanks not with that leopard-skin pattern.

10:03: Does Adele sound…flat? Am I wrong? Forcing this non-descript ballad through her fingers, she sounds like she’s singing in a high school shower, and I’ve never minded her.

10:01. Alabama Shakes wins a rock trophy, presaging an Album of the Year win for  Eric Clapton.

9:55. Miguel sings “She’s Out of My Life,” why I’m not sure, when I want him to sing Bowie’s “Fascination” instead of whatever Gaga’s got in store.

9:52. Gwen Stefani, who might as well be undead, honors the spirit of Adam Levine.

9:48. Bliss it was that dawn to be alive/And to follow Kendrick with Seth McFarlane.

9:40. Emerging in chains and dressed as a prisoner, Kendrick Lamar tips his hat to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs show and Hamilton. Lamar is the only performer I’ve seen in recent memory who spits lines at light speed and neither loses his place or concentration nor uses it as a way to get offstage sooner. When this impressive rendition of “Alright” ends with a map of Africa with COMPTON superimposed, it’s almost redundant: that’s how explicit Lamar was. And the producers know it: I can’t remember another Grammy performance that used jump cuts.

9:32. Jokes aside, I guess I have to be there, right? This owner of the Library of America’s collected Alexander Hamilton wants to like this live excerpt. Every bit I’ve heard out of context sounds like “It was 1792 and a helluva night/George Washington was reelected with all his might.”

9:29. Cuts to Stephen Colbert at Hamilton production are Grammy equivalent to Phil Collins on Concorde.

9:27. As marvelous as it is to see a woman who isn’t Bonnie Raitt picking a guitar on a Grammy stage, “cuz I’m hollow” is an unfortunate hook.

9:24. “Make a Grammy moment together” following an Irving Azoff cutaway: vision of hell.

9:15…which segues into a Glenn Frey tribute: Jackson Browne leading the remaining Eagles, including Bernie Leadon but no Randy Meisner or banished Don Felder. They look shaken, men who may have been told yesterday a best friend has died — so shaken that Jackson Browne is off key or was asked to sing the song a couple of notes off key. As if to compensate, Don Henley actually pounds his drums. Why couldn’t Stevie Wonder play “You Belong to the City”?

9:12. “Thinking Out Loud” beating the Puth-Wiz track is like Anthony Kennedy beating Robert Bork, which delights Taylor Swift no end.

9:10. Song of the Year. This looks grim, gang.

9:09. Janelle Monae and Robin Thicke love Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix’s tribute to the late Maurice White. David Grohl hasn’t stopped nodding for forty minutes. Pentatonix honor Earth Wind & Fire’s fashion sense.

9:05. Although the strings are fusty, Karen Fairchild is in fine voice.A reminder that Little Big Town’s Miranda Lambert collaboration “Smokin’ and Drinkin'” is glorious.

9:03. “Some songs FLY to the top of the charts,” Ryan Seacrest coos about Little Big Town’s “GIrl Crush.” Wonderful song. Just like NARAS to defend sexual politics over racial-sexual politics.

8:55. Yesterday’s kitsch is today’s pitch, and “All Night Long (All Nite)” is suddenly as inevitable as “Hey Jude,” especially with Dave Grohl and Beck singing along.

8:53. Tyrese doing “Brick House.” I know Richie is the due who wore sequins and said OUTRAGEOUS but his songs are subtler than this.

8:50. Is John Legend too, ah, easy a choice to sing the immortal “Easy”? Not with his facile melisma. Never mind. Richie looks shattered. And while I have no trouble with Demi Lovato participating, Richie as singer is so mellow and behind the groove that the oversinging feels like an desecreation.

8:47. This Lionel Richie tribute sounds like they’re leading him to the gallows.

8:40. Best Country Album nominee readout generates loud applause for Ashley Monroe’s marvelous The Blade…and Chris Stapleton’s Traveler. Who wins. Because loud beats subtle.

8:39. Please welcome…Gary Sinise, imitating Harry Truman.

8:36. Resplendent in white fir, Andra Day turns the chorus of “Rise Up” into a decent prayer. But the demon of viral marketing forces Ellie Goulding to join her on stage. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences terrified nobody will give a damn if performers sink in the marsh together. Rather symbolically that Goulding and Ray look trapped in a kind of Wrestling Mania cage.

8:32. Waiting for musical tribute to Antonin Scalia, introduced by Michael Greene.

8:24. Ariana Grande sounds like she’s mocking her boy The Weeknd. Don’t worry about it. He’s in good voice during his performance of “Can’t Feel My Face,” despite atrocious dancing and hair that looks like Givenchy draped a dead mink over his head. On the other hand, “In the Night” transformed into a piano and strings ballad turns the line about the woman’s co-dependency into an unpleasantness he can sing past. Chris Stapleton’s clap is as sincere as LL’s hat.

8:14. Wreathed in smoke and kitsch, Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt perform “Take Your Time” and “Heartbeat.” Hunt wears a white T-shirt that makes his biceps look like porterhouse steaks wrapped in linen napkins. Although the cavernous mix and the Staples Center threaten to swallow them, they trade their lines expertly, and when Hunt aims “I don’t want to chase your freedom” and interwines it with lyrics from her song, it’s a full portrait of separation and commitment.

8:10. O’Shea Jackson, Jr., responsible for one of the year’s most searing performances in Straight Outta Compton, joins his dad Ice Cube to present the award for Best Rap Album. Drake’s album draws the loudest applause — louder than for Kendrick Lamar. Nicki Minaj comes second. Lamar is the winner. I love his voice: a knife wrapped in a silk bathrobe.

8:05. “These people sing for real,” LL Cool J intones, nodding towards Taylor Swift and the women in her section. He alludes to other bombastic Grammy collaborations in recent years: Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar, Elton John and Lady Gaga. Streamers and masks dominate.