I sure am glad there was some simmering drama over all that Grammy record-breaking business this time. Because the show itself sure was a drag.
I mean it dragged on and on and on, coming in on time yet never finding any consistency, with the most sublime and exciting attractions scattered among just as many duds.
That made for frustrating viewing, given how many actually memorable performances there were — notably a handful of those special collaborations Grammy is so good at putting together, and which aren’t likely to ever happen twice.
For instance: Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige, together at last.
Much as I appreciate their charitable efforts, I expected to loathe hearing them sing Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” commemorating the 40th anniversary of that same-named album’s big night at the Grammys. Yet it was every bit as moving and passionately conveyed as the Michael Jackson tribute that found (in order) Celine Dion, a rather overcome Usher, Carrie Underwood, a regal Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson soulfully sharing vocals with the King of Pop on the inspirational “Earth Song.”
(That said, the 3-D effect that enhanced the segment, though fairly effective on my flat-screen, also turned everyone alien green. Also, forgive my picking on kids, but the acceptance remarks made by MJ’s two oldest children, Prince and Paris, just seemed ... awkward.)
Of the many pairings of legends with new(er) stars, I quite enjoyed Maxwell’s rendition of “Pretty Wings” segueing into a sweet revival of the original Grammy-winning “Where Is the Love?” (not the Black Eyed Peas’ later hit), with Roberta Flack sounding fine as ever.
Stony as ever, however, was Leon Russell, looking like the Ghost of Christmas Past after a year-long bender yet still somehow enlivening best new artist Zac Brown Band’s medley of “America the Beautiful,” Russell’s “Dixie Lullaby” and the Atlanta group’s own “Chicken Fried.”
And much as I’m already growing tired of Lady Gaga’s increasingly absurd attempts to outdo herself, once her show-opening segment settled into a post-blaze, bedazzled duet with Elton John on “Speechless” (with a little bit of “Your Song” tossed in for kicks), the moment finally won me over.
Jeff Beck and Dave Matthews Band, on the other hand, had me hooked in immediately. It was a treat to watch the guitar virtuoso pay homage to his friend Les Paul by largely replicating the late master’s intricate fretwork for “How High the Moon.” Likewise, the near-symphonic treatment built up for DMB’s “You & Me” eventually reached a shimmering peak ... despite Dave’s goofy dancing and mugging at the camera. (Green Day’s similarly overstuffed performance, of “21 Guns” with the “Glee”-like cast of the band’s soon-to-open Broadway version of “American Idiot,” struck me as a complete sell-out.)
Last on the good list: I may have been entirely wrong about Lady Antebellum live. Their performance of the drunken, sorrowful “Need You Now,” an instant country classic in my book, was stirring and superbly executed, with all of the harmonic polish of Fleetwood Mac in top form.
Quite unlike Taylor Swift’s performance; I’m really starting to think she’s just tone-deaf.
Did she and Stevie Nicks even practice that version of “Rhiannon”? “White Horse” was cheesy enough, but once she hit that lyric — “all your life you’ve never seen a woman taken by the wind,” not one note of it in tune — I feared Stevie might not finish the song, out of embarrassment. Then again, Stevie didn’t do Taylor any favors by barely knowing what to sing when the segment switched to a jaunty, folksy rearrangement of “You Belong with Me.” Blech, all of it.
Apart from an overlong but solid appearance from Bon Jovi (featuring Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and “Livin’ on a Prayer”) plus a disjointed jam from Lil Wayne, Eminem, Drake and Travis Barker, so censored it often lost its rhythm, the rest of the telecast was devoted to massive productions that tended to overwhelm (or at least bog down) even the strongest vocals.
Beyonce’s, especially — her otherwise commanding performance of “If I Were a Boy,” which momentarily dipped into Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know,” was toughened up and thoroughly powerful, even when her wailing turned a tad too operatic. Yet so much of what surrounded the sequence (her flailing hair, the traces of Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation” in the choreography) was just distraction.
Ditto the Black Eyed Peas’ bondage-masked routine for “Imma Be,” which found will.i.am looking like a robot sent to warn the world of its evils, “Day the Earth Stood Still”-style. That nonsense only delayed the joy that erupts whenever the Peas’ kick off “I Gotta Feeling.”
Ditto, too, the less-than-enthralling Cirque du Soleil acrobatics that ended Pink’s “Glitter in the Air,” a dazzler from her live shows that was an odd choice for this event, and strangely fell flat. (By the time she reached its soaked ‘n’ spinning conclusion, I was mostly left wondering how many celebrities got splattered by her water spray.)
Worst of all, apart from the disastrous Taylor & Stevie duet, was Jamie Foxx’s “Blame It,” which began as an opera joke ... soon spotlighted T-Pain, who had been conspicuously hiding behind a wild white Beethoven wig before Auto-Tuning a bridge for the song ... then added Doug E. Fresh, for a brief bit of beatboxing that couldn’t be heard ... and finally Slash, for some ham-fisted guitar-god posing.
Horrible, just horrible. Even watching Ke$ha stand awkwardly next to that cocky kid Justin Bieber was more amusing ... although I’m not sure who made for an odder pair of presenters, them or Katy Perry and Alice Cooper.
Guess I’ll never know. I’m officially done caring. Not in many years have I felt like I lost so much of my time to such a dull Grammy telecast.