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.