The Grammys have never been a true measuring stick for the best in music.
Go back at look at some of the past winners and nominees in the biggest categories like Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year – which are not the same thing, though the same song has earned both awards a number of times, making it all the more confusing – and it’s obvious that The Grammys are another awards show where people that don’t actually have their finger on the pulse of what is awesome and deserving of praise in the industry gets acknowledged.
But at least the show itself used to be good. You’d see a bunch of awards handed out, sometimes to people you had never heard of before or to Best New Artist winners that had actually been around for quite some time, and the performances were usually top notch.
The Grammys were a night to show out in front of industry people and a large, captive audience watching at home on television. Even if your favourite singer, band, duo or group didn’t take home a little golden gramophone statue or two (or four as was the case for Sam Smith on Sunday), at least there were a handful of kick-ass performances that made the night entertaining.
The Grammys used to be one of the best nights of the year for music fans. Now, they’re tedious, laboured and annoying and the performances aren’t holding up their end of the bargain either.
The highlights of Sunday’s show weren’t the featured artists, but rather the “special guests” that performed alongside of them: Annie Lennox showcasing her pipes with Hozier, Jeff Lynne of ELO upstaging Ed Sheeran, Mary J. Blige teaming up with Smith for “Stay With Me.” Outside of those appearances, the night was mostly disposable.
Arianna Grande singing some ballad designed to let her do little vocal runs? Blah.
Tom Jones and Jessie J doing an awkward duet of a Maverick and Goose classic? Pass.
Pharrell doing a Hans Zimmer-infused version of “Happy,” a song that feels like it has been around forever already? Tip of the cap for trying something different, but wrap it up.
Katy Perry not doing some song where she’s dressed like Cleopatra or doesn’t have fireworks shooting out of her boobs? Yawn.
When the best overall performance of the night is Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga doing a jazzy little number where Ms. Germanotta sets aside her usual accoutrements and just sings (which she’s actually quite good at doing), that’s saying something because Tony Bennett is pushing 90. Dude is 12 years away from having been around for a full century and he was half of the best performance of the night in a night designed to celebrate the best in music.
Props to Tony Bennett, but that’s a sure sign that The Grammys need fixing and quick.
For starters, enough with LL Cool J as the host. Yes, he stars in CSI: Portland or NCIS: Phoenix or whatever on CBS, but he’s built to be a host. He’s only a marginally better actor. Find somebody with a little moxie and playfulness and let them actually host the show rather than sending James Todd Smith out there to throw to different presenters and performances because it doesn’t work.
Second, don’t put something as powerful and moving as Common and John Legend performing “Glory” at the end of the show. It’s the kind of piece that moves people and something that belongs closer to the start of the program. Put that effort after Bubblegum Grande’s ballad and you would have won some people back. Instead, Tom Jones and Jessie J followed and people stopped paying attention.
And as much as everyone loves a good ballad when they’re singing at home by themselves or driving with the windows up, have 47 of them on a live television broadcast is rough, especially when the performances that would normally inject some life into the proceedings – Usher, Kanye, Beyonce – are all keeping it low key. Madonna was the only performer to really put on a performance, outside of Kristen Wiig doing Sia as Sia stared at the wall.
Madonna is 56. Not that she didn’t bring it, but aren’t there any more youthful acts that can actually light it up at The Grammys any more?
The best part of the night were Taylor Swift’s various appearances. Whether presenting or grooving in the aisle, T-Swift was on point.
Come to think of it, that’s who should host next year.
And every year.
She gets it.
The people at The Grammys clearly don’t.