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.