Building off the overall disappointing nominations, Grammy voters managed to find some good to reward with awards but there were just as many undeserving champs. And, among the performances, there was the same mixed bag of results.
Eminem’s mediocre “Recovery” led among nominees but, fortunately, he only won two Grammys last night and Arcade Fire bested him for the night’s top prize, Album of the Year.
Most pundits, including myself, predicted either Justin Bieber or Drake and, to a lesser extent, Mumford and Sons or Florence and the Machine, would win Best New Artist. So it was pleasantly surprising to watch underdog Esperanza Spalding, a very talented singer, songwriter, composer, bassist/jazz musician, take the gold instead.
The weak R&B field produced strong winners. John Legend and the Roots’ critically-acclaimed “Wake Up!” album won three Grammys while “American Idol” album Fantasia finally picked up her first Grammy for Female R&B Vocal. Industry vets Sade won R&B Duo/Group (beating Aretha Franklin and Ron Isley for their cover of “You’ve Got A Friend” and John Legend and the Roots’ “Shine”) while Cee Lo won Urban/Alternative Performance for his hit “F*ck You.”
The massively-talented alternative rock duo The Black Keys put out a career-best album last year and campaigned heavily during the voting period. They pulled off an upset in Best Alternative Music Album, besting eventual Album of the Year winners Arcade Fire, and Best Rock Duo/Group (edging out Arcade Fire and Best Rock Album winners Muse).
After rewarding Katy Perry with four undeserved nominations, including Album of the Year, Grammy voters sent the pop tart home empty-handed. And after snubbing Lady Gaga’s ubiquitous “Bad Romance” in Record and Song of the Year, it was nice to see Gaga best Perry in the pop field and win Grammys for Female Pop Vocal, Pop Album and Short Form Music Video.
Neil Young finally won a Grammy. I thought I’d never write those words.
“Empire State of Mind” is a rousing anthem so it was thrilling to watch it beat the overrated “Love the Way You Lie” for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
For the most part, the performances were pretty solid. The Cee Lo – Gwyneth Paltrow pairing was playful and funny; Rihanna and Drake smoldered on stage together. Despite some off key vocals from Bruno Mars, he, along with an electrifying Janelle Monae and B.O.B.,delivered explosive performances. Katy Perry and Rihanna were almost on key for their songs and the reunion of Dr. Dre and Eminem did not disappoint. Mick Jagger schooled the young’uns on the art of performing. And up-and-coming rock bands Arcade Fire, Muse, Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers, showed great promise during their performances, too.
Despite some strong vocals, the Aretha Franklin tribute delivered by Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Florence Welch, Martina McBride and Yolanda Adams felt, at times, like a karaoke tribute.
Barbra Streisand is a legend, but her lifeless performance of the dated “Evergreen” was unnecessary.
An urban song still was unable to win Record of the Year. “Need You Now” is a lovely tune, but “Empire State of Mind” and “F*ck You” are more current and exciting.
Tired, old man Usher was upstaged in his performance by his protégé and his mundane album bested Janelle Monae’s masterpiece in Contemporary R&B Album.
Lady Gaga’s messy, overhyped performance and her egg coffin felt forced and ridiculous.
Bob Dylan is a legend but his scratchy, off key vocals are not. To listen to his performance with Mumford and Sons was painful.
Miranda Lambert seems like a talented artist and a nice woman, but her performance made me want to doze off.
And, finally, the blue ribbon panel has outlived its usefulness. How is it possible that Arcade Fire lost Best Alternative Album but won Album of the Year?