REVIEW WRITTEN BY MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER
Last night’s Grammy Awards certainly didn’t lack for topics of conversation at this morning’s office water cooler. From solid performances to surprise appearances to stunning upsets, the 57th annual edition broadcast from the Staples Center in Los Angeles ended up being one of the more memorable in recent memory.
Let’s start from the very beginning with the show opener, the hotly anticipated AC/DC. It was the first appearance on a United States awards program in their 40-year history, and the way it started, from the title track to the new album “Rock or Bust,” made it worth the wait. When guitarist Angus Young then began the riff to one of the band’s most popular songs, “Highway to Hell,” and the majority of the crowd donned light up devil horns, it had hopes of being epic.
But that didn’t happen.
The truncated version of the song was marred by a cringingly noticeable half step slower pace, sounding like the first rehearsal run through of the 1979 song. Still, the rockers from Down Under showed they haven’t lost the ability to get a crowd going, and when a tour of the States is announced later this year, it won’t be one to miss.
As in recent years, the Grammys were less about the awards it gives out and more focused on the performances. This time around there was a staggering 23 of them, opposed to just seven actual awards presented during the telecast. Seventy some additional statues were handed out before the cameras beamed the show into living rooms across the country.
Highlights were more than usual — especially in duet settings as the Recording Academy often tries to pair up popular acts with one another in order to cut down on the show’s runtime, calling them “Grammy moments.”
Sir Tom Jones and Jessie J taking on the classic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” worked out particularly well, as did Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett on the Irving Berlin standard “Cheek to Cheek.” Jeff Lynne, who revived his Electric Light Orchestra (albeit in name only) delivered two great songs with an assist from Ed Sheeran. Front row attendee Paul McCartney was having himself quite the time during “Evil Woman” where he was having a one-man dance party.
Unfortunately, Macca’s appearance onstage later in the evening didn’t have the same effect. Performing “FourFiveSeconds” with Rihanna and Kanye West, his backing vocals weren’t mixed in and he was basically left to provide an acoustic dusting while Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt ripped it up on guitar.
Leading the pack for the most dismal performances was Madonna, who has somehow made a career transition into self-parody. Her over the top “Living for Love” hardly pushed the envelope as much as it showcased an aging pop star clinging to a legendary status that doesn’t get any help from introducing Satanic overtones and an outfit that no 56 year old — man or woman — should be wearing.
Ariana Grande was taking herself way too seriously during “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart,” sucking all the fun out of it. Pharrell is clearly as tired of his mega-hit “Happy” as everyone else and looked for a new way to present it; this time was having a religious choir chime in and invoking the “hands up, don’t shoot” imagery that has become a common refrain in protests surrounding last year’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. And Kanye West still relying on Auto-Tune to carry him through his live appearances has just gotten grating and overdone.
Oh Kanye, speaking of “grating” and “overdone,” his little stage rushing stunt when Beck was awarded Album of the Year that was meant to mimic his interruption of Taylor Swift when she won Best Female Music Video at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009 came off initially as a joke. That might have been fine and even a bit fun. Instead, West ruined it and has again taken over the throne of most vilified artist in the music industry during a post-Grammy rant on E! where he said “Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé.”
Beck took it in stride later in the evening when he told US Weekly, “I still love [Kanye] and think he’s genius.”
Did Beck’s Morning Phase deserve to win the award? It’s all a matter of taste. Yet to say he “needs to respect artistry,” from a man who has spent years whining about how he isn’t respected is perhaps one of the more glaring hypocritical statements in recent memory.
West also took the spotlight away from Sam Smith in day-after coverage and talk. The UK singer took home four of the six Grammys he was nominated for, including Best New Artist and Song of the Year. His acceptance speeches were incredibly modest and tinged with appreciation – even for the individual who inspired the smash song “Stay With Me.”
“Just a quick one,” Smith began after he won Record of the Year. “I want to thank the man who this record is about, who I fell in love with last year. Thank you so much for breaking my heart because you got me four Grammys!”
To contact music columnist Michael Christopher, send an email to email@example.com. Also check out his blog at our sister publication www.delcotimes.com