While the show proclaimed itself, “ladies’ night”, more noticeable was the theme of robots, metallic fabrics, and the future. The Black Eyed Peas performed “Imma Be” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” with dancers dressed as speakers, Beyonce’s dancers resembled Robocop. Even the head of the recording academy referred to the future in his annual overwrought speech to the public.
Weeks before the event, commercials and print advertisements stated, “We’re All Fans” and featured YouTube clips of covers of the nominees’ hits. However, when the list of nominees were released, controversy erupted that they chosen not because of artistic merit, but to gather desperately needed attention from a younger crowd of viewers. A complaint that should be made now though, is the fact that even though the show ran over three hours in length, only eight awards were televised.
In previous years, commercial breaks were introduced by a list of the winners of lesser-known categories, but all we got this year is brief references to what was won by the presenters and performers. While the performances are often the most memorable part of a show, they completely took over this year. Those whose wins were televised, like Best New Artist winners Zac Brown Band, found their acceptance speeches often ushered out by the wrap-it-up music. The focus was instead put upon performances that most of the time were seemingly made up on the spot and sounded better on paper than they turned out. While Lady Gaga and Elton John’s duet of “Speechless” mixed in with “Your Song” was an unexpected bright spot of the night, other duets like Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks’ reinterpretation of “Rhiannon” and “You Belong with Me” just didn’t sound good. Other stars just didn’t seem on their A-game. Pink started off strong with “Glitter in the Air”, but it then turned into an odd display of ribbons, glittery bodysuits, acrobats, and spraying water. Before that, Beyoncé added to a strong “If I Were a Boy” a cover of Alanis Morisette’s “You Outta Know”, but she wasn’t nearly as good as the original and she forgot some of the words.
Unfortunately, in a year where many deserving people like Leonard Cohen, Loretta Lynn, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and received Lifetime Achievement Awards, little time were devoted to them. Instead, we got a messy collaboration from Jamie Foxx and Slash and three songs from Bon Jovi, one of which, “Livin’ on a Prayer” was voted by viewers at home to be performed.
Many of the night’s presenters were from CBS’ TV shows instead of the music industry, and not many of them really added anything to the event. Amongst the presenters, the most memorable was Ringo Starr, who seemed to make co-presenter Norah Jones nervous by saying that Bobby Darin’s Lifetime Achievement Award was overdue.
By trying to appeal to everyone, the Grammys slightly disappoint everyone. I’ve always said that it would be better if the whole thing were separated into different shows that were based on different genres. However, if they did that there wouldn’t be the chance to do unique, interesting things. The collaboration of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Mary J. Blidge, David Foster, and Andrea Bocelli became available as an iTunes single benefiting the American Red Cross’ Haitian relief efforts. While much hype was made over the 3D images in the Michael Jackson tribute, the floating butterflies and dandelion seeds weren’t as big of a deal as Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Celine Dion, and Smokey Robinson all on one stage. Plus, how many award shows would pair up Placido Domingo and Mos Def as presenters? All in all, the ceremony does befit the music industry as we know it. Despite the fact that we can all think of ways to make it better, it’s still pretty good to begin with.