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Rewinding the 53rd Annual Grammys

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Monday, Feb 14, 2011
Performance-filled show often gave excellent tributes to music greats, but barely passed out any awards. This is going to be a long post!

CBS devoted three and a half hours to the Grammys, not counting the many commercial breaks. (In all fairness, most of the ads featured musicians or were from Target’s backstage at an award show-themed campaign.) However, only ten awards were presented on air in order to make room for more performances and meaningless celebrity presenters. 


The Big Winners:


Best Pop Performance By a Duo Or Group: Train “Hey Soul Sister”
Best Female Country Vocal: Miranda Lambert “The House That Built Me”
Rock Album: Muse The Resistance
Best Pop Vocal Album: Lady Gaga The Fame Monster
Best Country Album: Lady Antebellum Need You Now
Song of the Year: Lady Antebellum “Need You Now”
Best New Artist: Esperanza Spaulding
Best Rap Album: Eminem Recovery
Record of the Year: Lady Antebellum “Need You Now”
Album of the Year: Arcade Fire The Suburbs
Lifetime Achievement Honorees: Dolly Parton, Julie Andrews, Roy Haynes, Juilliard String Quartet, the Kingston Trio, Ramones, and George Beverly Shea


The Big Winners That Weren’t Shown on TV:


Best Alternative Music Album: The Black Keys Brothers
Best Dance Recording: Rihanna “Only Girl (In the World)”
Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance: Paul McCartney “Helter Skelter (Live)”
Best Country Song: Lady Antebellum “Need You Now”
Best Contemporary R&B Album: Usher Raymond Vs. Raymond
Best Female Pop Vocal: Lady Gaga “Bad Romance”
Best Male Pop Vocal: Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are”


The Best Performances:


Some of the night’s performances were great and memorable, especially those which paid tribute to other artists.
  
The show’s opening number, a rousing melody of Aretha Franklin’s biggest hits performed by Jennifer Hudson, Christina Aguilera, Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine), Martina McBride, and Yolanda Adams, was one heck of a get-well card. Though Aguilera, who recently botched the lyrics of the national anthem, looked nervous at the beginning, she eventually warmed up to diva status on one of the best performances of the night. Remember those VH1 Ladies Strike Back specials? Someone needs to get this bunch together with Aretha herself and film another one.




It may sound strange, but the “In Memoriam” tributes are often the best part of award shows. (Why wasn’t Rich Cronin mentioned?) This year’s Grammys were no different, with the montage leading into Mick Jagger’s spirited take on Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love”. The crowd was on its feet and singing, so let’s do this again next year!


A clip from the No. 2 movie at the box office opened Justin Bieber’s set with Usher. Ninja drummers whisked Bieber’s pleasant acoustic version of “Baby” away in order to make time for a costume change, but “Never Say Never” was a solid hit, especially with guest rapper Jaden Smith’s parents, who were often filmed from the audience. (One question though, why didn’t Willow join them?) Usher arrived to perform part of “OMG” just in time for Justin’s third costume change, which led to the two duetting for a time that was too short.




Muse’s “Uprising“ was performed around and on top of video screens portraying televisions, paper money, and designs that gave the stage an almost 3-D look. The whole thing was a clever nod to ‘80s style for me, complete with the “rioting” dancers who set mock fire to parts of the stage.




Norah Jones, Keith Urban, and John Mayer teamed up for a short and sweet cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”.


The Worst Performances:


Other numbers were either over-hyped or just weren’t as good as they could have been, most of the time; this wasn’t the artists’ fault.


Considering Lady Gaga’s great spectacle last year, this year’s debut of “Born This Way” was just disappointing. Emerging from a glowing pod, Gaga donned a yellow genie-inspired outfit that included flesh-colored horns stuck on to her skin. Between dancing and playing a Phantom Of The Opera-esque organ, she changed in and out of a large hat and coat.




Much hype was made over Cee-Lo Green’s “F*** You”, which was named as “The song otherwise known as “Forget You”’ on air and sung as “Forget You” with Gwenyth Paltrow and The Muppets, but it just left me with questions. Was it a wise decision to have the Muppets there for a song that needed to be bleeped-out so much? Why weren’t Kermit, Miss Piggy, or Fozzie Bear there? And why did Gwenyth look so nervous on top of that piano?


 


Miranda Lambert’s heartfelt performance of “The House That Built Me” had a nice touch: video screens flashing pictures of celebrities as children. Due to some bad camera-work, however, viewers at home could barely see it.


Considering how many awards the group took home, why was Lady Antebellum’s songs cut so short? Their cool “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” should’ve been full-length. Isn’t it also strange that the winner of both “Song of the Year” and “Record of the Year” was deemed not worthy of a longer performance?


Couldn’t we have seen Espranza Spaulding and those upcoming musicians perform without hearing an anti-piracy speech from the head of the Recording Academy?




The burning fire in Rihanna & Drake’s “What’s My Name” was the third time we seen flames, both real and fake, that night. By the time this scantily- clad public display of affection rolled around, I was looking at my watch.


Also Performing:


The following numbers weren’t memorable enough to be considered a career highlight, but there wasn’t anything bad about them, either.


Bruno Mars and B.o.B’s “Beautiful Girls” didn’t have much added to it by guest Janelle Monae, and the song was cut short to introduce a black-and-white tinted “Grenade”. The video screens in the background made the retro-vibe come undone, but Janelle’s “Cold War“ was more lively. Backed up on drums by Bruno Mars and electric guitar by B.o.B, it was a real collaboration.




David Letterman’s apt but inappropriate Grammys-themed Top 10 introduced a set that included Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave“ and the Avett Brothers “Head Full Of Doubt Heart Full Of Promise“. Both of which were performed on an old-timey theatre-esque set that led to the better moment, the two bands joining Bob Dylan on “Maggie’s Farm”. Wouldn’t it have been much cooler if The Muppets were here instead? 


During a sweet rendition of “Not Like the Movies“, Katy Perry sat on a pink swing while images of her wedding played on a large curtain behind her. This however, was interrupted by a Valentine’s Day-themed version of “Teenage Dream”.




At a perfect Grammys, Eminem and Rihanna would be able to perform “Love The Way You Lie” a lot longer. However, it was cut to make room for “I Need a Doctor“, which also featured Skylar Grey. Despite the big reveal of special guest Dr. Dre, it just wasn’t as good as “Lie”.




Wasn’t it rumored that Rihanna and Barbra Streisand were going to duet? As random as it sounds, that would’ve been better than Barbra’s “Evergreen”, which didn’t seem to go anywhere.


Arcade Fire’s BMX bike-assisted “Month of May” led to an encore performance of “Ready to Start” after the group won “Album of the Year”.

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