Grammy-matically correct: a round-up of last night's highlights
- February 9, 2009 2:41 PM |
- By Arts Online
A performance by a very pregnant M.I.A. was one of the highlights of the 51st Grammy Awards on Feb. 8, 2009. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
Despite last-minute setbacks -- scheduled performers (and couple) Chris Brown and Rihanna were no-shows, due to Brown's arrest following an alleged domestic brawl -- last night's Grammy Awards was a relatively disaster-free affair.
Certainly, there were a few questionable pairings (Stevie Wonder and Jonas Brothers? Really?), a smattering of lame-duck performances, and some cringe-inducing Moments In Teleprompter-reading Awkwardness (oh Natalie Cole, I'm so sorry they forced you to "flirt" with your co-presenters). And I felt like something was off with the overall tone of the ceremony, though I still can't quite put my finger on it. It seemed like the first post-Obama Grammys were striving to celebrate what Tracy Morgan might call "post-racial America," but failed to acknowledge the enduring segregation that happens within the music industry.
I haven't quite teased out what elements felt particularly awry -- was it the moment where Morgan Freeman (?!) introduced country singer Kenny Chesney as his "friend"? -- but I suspect my discomfort had something to do with the sense that many folks involved were acting as though, with Obama in office, pre-existing tensions, instances of oppression and disparities had vanished, and everything was A-OK! The glorious tribute to N'Awlins music was one of the few truly honest, unflinching moments that broke through the slightly Pollyannaish undertones of the broadcast.
Weirdness aside, there were a number of highlights (and lowlights) that stood out during the Grammy Awards. Here's an overview of some that stuck with me:
Thom Yorke, lead singer for Radiohead, performs with the USC marching band. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
- Radiohead + rag-tag marching band = AWESOME, SQUARED. Did you catch the expressions on the faces of those nebbishy dudes playing drums? You know they were thinking, "All you jerks who mocked me for going to band camp and rejected me when I asked you out on dates, screw you! Look at me! I'm playing with RADIOHEAD! Didja get that? I'm playing with RADIOHEAD!"
- Jennifer Hudson's beautiful acceptance speech after she won R&B Album of the Year. Though Hudson's personal life was marred by excruciating tragedy last year, the singer was a total class act. She gracefully acknowledged her losses in a speech that was both heartfelt and restrained.
- Ready-to-burst M.I.A. totally rocking it during the Swagga Like Us performance. Not only did the singer/rhymer hold her own with the killer boys' club of T.I., Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne and Kanye, but she did it while 9 months pregnant (she was slated to deliver last night) and wearing a bananas outfit that featured a "bikini" appliqued onto a formfitting body stocking.
- Neil Diamond, whose fantastically cheesy casino-circuit run through Sweet Caroline proved he's a) still a great performer; and b) the celebrity version of everyone's blissfully-oblivious-to-cool uncle. Which I suppose makes him mega-cool.
- The aforementioned tribute to New Orleans, which ran the gamut from tender pathos (Lil' Wayne's Tie My Hands) to joyful exuberance (Allan Toussaint and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band throwing their own Mardi Gras rave-up).
- The Reverend Al Green. 'Nuff said.
You want low points?
- Jay-Z's uncomfortable grunting during that duet with Chris Martin. Actually, though I frequently enjoy their live shows, Coldplay's performance last night felt rather tiresome. I wasn't buying Martin's antic gallivanting around the stage.
- Best New Artist Adele's pitchy singing during her duet with that Sugarland chick. I love Adele and think she's a fine, fine singer. But something was definitely off last night -- at one point, it sounded like she was a full semi-tone sharp. I'd wager her ear monitors were on the fritz.
- Kid Rock's hamfisted "social commentary" (read: shamelessly pandering) ballad, Amen, and the performance thereof.
- U2, who pulled off their Great Big Rockstar Performance as though by rote.
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