Music

Ranking the Performances: The 56th Annual Grammy Awards

Was music’s biggest night worth staying up all night for? Read on to find out.

Kacey Musgraves and more...

 
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert, Madonna, & Queen Latifah -- ”Same Love / Open Your Heart”

The good news: 33 couples got married live on national television. The bad news: Queen Latifah spit out the ceremony way too fast and Madonna’s vocals sounded strained. It was nice and noteworthy, but I couldn’t help but think more camera time should have given to the happy couples instead.

 
Kacey Musgraves -- “Follow Your Arrow”

Surrounded by neon cacti and wearing strings of Christmas lights, Kasey and her band looked as if they were performing on Hee Haw or Pop! Goes the Country. It was a cutesy wink to her traditional country sound.

 
Nine Inch Nails, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham -- “Copy of A“ & “My God Is the Sun“

There were more dark spots and multi-colored flashing lights here, but at least it was an interesting collaboration. Was the flaming disco ball symbolic of the hold dance music had on the awards this year? I’d like to think so.

 
John Legend -- “All of Me”

It was a simple, elegant piano ballad performed in the center of an appreciative audience. Sometimes all you need is spotless vocals.

 
Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar -- “Radioactive” and “M.A.A.D City”

An overactive white fog machine and flashing red lights added a dramatic touch to this otherwise average performance.

 
Metallica and Lang Lang -- “One”

Combining a classical pianist with a hard rock band is the sort of thing that sounds good on paper, but doesn’t play out so well in real life. The instruments just didn’t mesh together, making it seem as if two separate performances were bleeding over each other. Lang’s later solo tribute to Van Cliburn was a better fit.

 
Taylor Swift -- “All Too Well”

In other years, Swift staged big production numbers. In 2010, Swift duetted with Stevie Nicks. This year, she just played the piano and swung her hair around. I give her credit for dressing tastefully and keeping it simple, but this performance could have been filmed anywhere.

 
Katy Perry feat. Juicy J -- “Dark Horse”

Perry emerged from a crystal ball surrounded by spooky tree people in this witch-themed spectacle. Half of her time onstage consisted of poorly pole dancing around an oversized broomstick. It was about as fresh and exciting as that bag of leftover Halloween candy hiding somewhere in your house.

 
Lorde -- “Royals”

Lorde was one of the night’s biggest winners, but viewers didn’t see her do anything different from her Grammy Nominations Concert performance. This version was a little longer, and half her vocals sounded taped in.

 
Beyonce and Jay-Z -- “Drunk in Love”

Beyonce kicked off the show with a homage/rip-off to the strip club routine in Flashdance. That might have impressed Jamie Foxx, but it was far too sleazy for such a highbrow event. Jay-Z then entered in to do some verses that were partially muted for language.

About 90% of the world’s population knows that Beyonce and Jay-Z are married. So despite the hype, it wasn’t very surprising that the two would perform together here. What is surprising is their total lack of onstage chemistry. Honestly, there were more sparks between presenters Steven Tyler and Smokey Robinson tonight.

Prev Page

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Literary Scholar Andrew H. Miller On Solitude As a Common Bond

Andrew H. Miller's On Not Being Someone Else considers how contemplating other possibilities for one's life is a way of creating meaning in the life one leads.

Music

Fransancisco's "This Woman's Work" Cover Is Inspired By Heartache (premiere)

Indie-folk brothers Fransancisco dedicate their take on Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" to all mothers who have lost a child.

Film

Rodd Rathjen Discusses 'Buoyancy', His Film About Modern Slavery

Rodd Rathjen's directorial feature debut, Buoyancy, seeks to give a voice to the voiceless men and boys who are victims of slavery in Southeast Asia.

Music

Hear the New, Classic Pop of the Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" (premiere)

The Parson Red Heads' "Turn Around" is a pop tune, but pop as heard through ears more attuned to AM radio's glory days rather than streaming playlists and studio trickery.

Music

Blitzen Trapper on the Afterlife, Schizophrenia, Civil Unrest and Our Place in the Cosmos

Influenced by the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Blitzen Trapper's new album Holy Smokes, Future Jokes plumbs the comedic horror of the human condition.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Fire in the Time of Coronavirus

If we venture out our front door we might inhale both a deadly virus and pinpoint flakes of ash. If we turn back in fear we may no longer have a door behind us.

Music

Sufjan Stevens' 'The Ascension' Is Mostly Captivating

Even though Sufjan Stevens' The Ascension is sometimes too formulaic or trivial to linger, it's still a very good, enjoyable effort.

Jordan Blum
Music

Chris Smither's "What I Do" Is an Honest Response to Old Questions (premiere + interview)

How does Chris Smither play guitar that way? What impact does New Orleans have on his music? He might not be able to answer those questions directly but he can sure write a song about it.

Music

Sally Anne Morgan Invites Us Into a Metaphorical Safe Space on 'Thread'

With Thread, Sally Anne Morgan shows that traditional folk music is not to be smothered in revivalist praise. It's simply there as a seed with which to plant new gardens.

Music

Godcaster Make the Psych/Funk/Hard Rock Debut of the Year

Godcaster's Long Haired Locusts is a swirling, sloppy mess of guitars, drums, flutes, synths, and apparently whatever else the band had on hand in their Philly basement. It's a highly entertaining and listenable album.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.