In one way, the Grammy Awards clearly got it: People don’t tune into the Grammy Awards for awards. They want to see the performances. And in the last few years, they’ve made the show a must see with performances like the Jutin Timberlake-Rev. Al Green pairing and Sir Paul McCartney’s rave last year.
But this year, instead of letting magic happen, Grammy tried to make it happen. Usually, it didn’t.
The night started with Lady Gaga, one of the night’s most anticipated performers, appearing to give a theatrical, over-the-top performance of “Poker Face,” but it turned into a duet of “Your Song” with Elton John. How did so much outrageousness become so, eh?
And that called the tune for the night. Green Day’s exhilarating “21 Guns” seemed to turn into “525,621 Guns” with the Broadway cast of “American Idiot.” Green Day and “Rent” — two great things that do not go great together.
Taylor Swift, one of the evening’s big winners, was grossly ill served by a duet with Stevie Nicks and medley of their songs.
The problems with this show were exemplified by the Michael Jackson tribute, a 3-D sing off of his “Earth Song” that did nothing to illustrate the King of Pop’s magic, which was shown several times on the Grammy Awards.
There were some bright spots, like Pink’s mesmerizing and acrobatic performance of “Glitter in the Air,” the return of Maxwell and Jeff Beck’s tone-perfect tribute to the late Les Paul. But there are a few things Grammy needs to do if it wants to maintain a reputation as most watchable awards show:
~ Not everyone needs to be paired with a older artist. Gaga and John was inspired, though poorly executed. But Nicks and Swift? Leon Russell and Zac Brown Band? No.
~ Enough with the medleys. Numerous times it was disappointing to hear acts like Black Eyed Peas get out only part of a hit. Pick one song, and play it.
~ Enough with the productions. BEP’s staging was impressive, but Grammy seemed to constantly be trying to wow us. Chill.
~ Three hours! Grammy pulled an Oscar, meandering through its last hour, including a nauseating lecture by Recording Academy president Neil Portnow. Tighten up and finish by 11.
~ Show a little respect to the lifetime achievers. Loretta Lynn got a total of 12-words on the show acknowledging her honor. Same for Leonard Cohen. Think of the great tributes that could have been put together in their honors.
~ Performers, leave your F-bombs backstage. The networks get fined if your R-rated words go out across the country, so they are not going to let them air. The result is a performance marred by silent hiccups, so we are not talking about how great you (Eminem and Lil Wayne) were. We’re talking about how weird all those yawning gaps of silence were while you were dropping your f-, s- and other assorted profane bombs. So bring your radio versions to the stage, because you ain’t gonna win this fight.
Grammy, most of your nominees made it there by being great performers. For a great show, let them perform, and stop getting in their ways.