Out of all of the major awards shows, the Grammys are in many ways the wild card — sometimes you get a show that shows an organization as desperate to be hip as your needy uncle, and sometimes they decide that they want to be the snobby next-door neighbor who sits around and eats caviar with their pretentious friends.
This year, however, the entire show carried with it a rather different feel. The memory of Whitney Houston loomed large in the building, and you felt it from the opening prayer of host LL Cool J to the closing notes from Paul McCartney and his super-band that included the likes of Dave Grohl and many others. Whitney played a huge role on molding the careers of many in the building, so it only seemed appropriate for her to receive so much of the billing.
The shock of Whitney’s passing also changed the tone of what would have otherwise been a rather predictable evening — one that appealed to both the mainstream and the hipster scene. It was next to inevitable that Adele was going to walk away with the majority of the awards she was nominated for, and she ended up walking away with six trophies — including the top prizes in Record and Album of the Year. Some of the other big winners included Foo Fighters (who were apparently too “rock n’ roll” to actually be allowed to perform inside the Nokia) and Kanye West (who national television is apparently too afraid to give airtime to), while some other notable performers including Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga were surprisingly upstaged.
Outside of the sadness and the speeches, all we were really left with was (as always) the performances — and there were some notable ones. Adele stunned with her first live performance since vocal surgery with “Rolling in the Deep,” Coldplay and Rihanna delivered a far-too-brief take on “Princess of China,” and the Beach Boys reunion (even if some of the founding members have passed) was still a nice touch. Unfortunately, these moments were at times marred by a performance from Nicki Minaj that tried way too hard to be Lady Gaga 2.0, and a new song from Katy Perry that was actually rather catchy –but has already been destroyed by a desperate press trying to claim it is about her split from Russell Brand.
All in all, the Grammys through their highs (Jennifer Hudson’s Whitney tribute) and their lows (LL Cool J joking about Paul McCartney) are still one of the better awards shows out there. Even though they have a tendency to run long, you an see that there is still some effort here to recognize that the show has to cater to viewers as much as the people in attendance. By keeping the awards portion short and focusing on the performances, it’s a three-hour concert and music history lesson that you can’t quite get anywhere else.