The 55th Annual Grammy Awards were heavily hyped as THE only place to see special collaborations and the type of performances that you can’t see anywhere else. However, most of the night’s performers kept things simple, with a few splashy exceptions. While last year’s show was better, with jaw-droppingly good moments from artists as diverse as Jennifer Hudson and Paul McCartney, last night was still worth watching.
There were tributes to those we lost in 2012, unexpected (and predictable) duets, and some video screen trickery designed to keep music lovers entertained, but what was truly unique? Who had some sound problems? Who really made a comeback? And who really overdid their performance? Read on to find out.
The Black Keys, Dr. John, & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band “Lonely Boy”
It was a big year for rock music, and this performance brought the ROCK to the show. A rocking mess of a jam session (I mean that in the best possible way), not even Dr. John’s quirky owl outfit could take the attention off the quality of the music. If there is one award show that can take one of modern rock’s biggest acts, a legend, and a group very few people have ever heard of and turn them into the most memorable moment of the night, it’s the Grammys.
Kelly Clarkson “Tennessee Waltz”/ “Natural Woman”
Paying tribute to Lifetime Achievement Award winners Patti Page and Carol King, Clarkson’s haunting “Tennessee Waltz” was full of feeling and her “Natural Woman” hasn’t lost any of its American Idol performance luster.
Elton John & Ed Sheeran “The A Team”
Proving that it doesn’t take special effects to put on a memorable performance, Ed and Elton teamed up for a simple yet vocally spotless duet.
Elton John, Zac Brown Band, Mavis Staples, Mumford & Sons, T Bone Burnett, and Brittany Howard “The Weight”
A loving tribute to the late Levon Helm, this who’s who of modern rock came together and earned a standing ovation in one of the night’s most memorable moments.
Maroon 5 & Alicia Keys “Daylight”/ “Girl On Fire”
Maroon 5 offered up their new single before duetting with Keys, who managed to find a new way of performing the oft-repeated “Girl On Fire”, drumming for a version that placed emphasis on percussion. According to the sound of the screams and applause, it was one of the audience’s favorites.
Justin Timberlake & Jay-Z “Suit & Tie”/ “Pusher Love Girl”
The Grammys doubled as an infomercial for Timberlake’s upcoming album as nearly every commercial break anticipated his “comeback”. Is it still a comeback when someone has been off filming Hollywood blockbusters? Either way, the sepia-tinted 1940’s bandleader-inspired performance was unique, even if the material (especially the mixed drug-referencing second song) sounds more like album filler than singles.
Carrie Underwood “Blown Away”/ “Two Black Cadillacs”
Underwood wins “best dressed” in my book for her projection-screen ballgown that flashed bright images of jellyfish, fireworks, and butterflies during her second song. But why such inanimate objects? Shouldn’t two black Cadillacs be driving across that skirt or anything that related to what was being sung?
Miguel & Wiz Khalifa “Adorn”
Kelly Clarkson called it “the sexiest thing ever”. I definitely wouldn’t go that far, but this performance certainly made it obvious why Grammy voters showed so much love for the song.
Bruno Mars, Sting, Rihanna, Damien Marley & Ziggy Marley “Locked Out Of Heaven”/”Walking On The Moon”/ “Could You Be Loved”
It was a little odd to hear a tribute to Bob Marley open up with a duet between Sting and Bruno Mars of a Bruno Mars hit, but eventually, Rihanna, Damien Marley, and Ziggy Marley appeared onstage to sing “Can We Love” together. It seemed like a very short tribute.
Fun. and more…
Fun. “Carry On”
Neither one of the group’s two nominated songs were performed tonight. (Either one of which would have made for interesting duets with other artists.) Instead, a weaker ballad was showcased in a set that ended up with a sweaty band drenched in a simulated rain shower.
Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
The much-debated decision amongst Grammy organizers to have Swift open the show made sense, considering that her over-the-top spectacle was the most extravagant performance of the night. But her simple song about teen break-up angst lost all meaning amid an Alice In Wonderland-inspired cavalcade of loopy back-up dancers, flaming umbrellas, bicycling clowns, and some guy spinning around on a giant hypno-coin. Something about the whole thing seemed downright unoriginal, including Swift’s white mad-hatter costume, which was similar to a leather get-up worn by Shania Twain over a decade ago.
Rihanna & Mikky Echo “Stay”
Now this is a comeback. After several lackluster Grammy performances that did nothing to show off her voice, Rihanna did something shocking: she sang. The focus was not on sets, screens, or outfits, but a voice hitting all the right notes.
LL Cool J, Tom Morello, Travis Barker, Chuck D and Z Trip “Refuse To Lose”/ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”
It also made perfect sense for the night’s host to perform, including a song in tribute to Adam “MCA” Yauch, but CBS stomped all over this one, interrupting the final song to list award show rules and sponsors.
Frank Ocean “Forrest Gump”
Hyped as the newcomers first Grammy performance, Ocean had the neat gimmick of a projection of running legs on his piano, creating the illusion of a man running in place. And then it went on and on. Those digital legs needed something else to do, or at least a change in scenery.
The Lumineers “Ho Hey”
If there were an award for enjoying your time on stage, The Lumineers would have won it last night. They were technically there as musical presenters, but I consider anything that makes this many people in the audience bob their heads a true performance.
Jack White “Love Interruption“/”Freedom at 21“
Who was the all-female back-up band? Why did they disappear for the second song? All in all, this was a little too underwhelming for music’s biggest night.
Mumford & Sons “I Will Wait”
A spirited reading of their single, assisted by the night’s recurring theme of a big horn section, but it lacked anything special. Bright spotlights flashed on and off in the background, but we could have gotten that at any other venue.
Dierks Bentley & Miranda Lambert “Over You”/ “Home”
Through no fault of their own, there were some sound problems between the singers and the instruments. Things just weren’t synching up right, and the artificial tree in the background just made things more confusing.