Grammys: The awards show needs more awards
By DAVID BAUDER / Associated Press
For the first hour of the Grammy Awards on Sunday, there was only trophy given out — for a live version of a Train song done better in the studio.
It illustrated how the Grammys aren’t really an awards show anymore. As the music business has splintered and sputtered in recent years, the Grammys have become a performance show, advertising musicians who need the attention. Show producers don’t even bother with a host anymore.
In theory, it’s a great idea. If you’re unfamiliar with an artist’s work, it’s much better to watch him or her in action than to listen to an endless speech thanking managers, producers and hairstylists. Or, in Train’s case, Howard Stern.
In practice, the show’s success or failure is tied to whether the artists can bring the goods. For the first half of the Grammys, results were decidedly mixed.
The opening Aretha Franklin tribute continued Christina Aguilera’s lousy month. Unlike her four collaborators, she seemed intent on making the moment more about her, losing the song in the process. Were she there, you can imagine the famously competitive Franklin hip-checking Aguilera — and that silly decorated microphone stand — out of the picture.
Let’s pray that the ailing Franklin’s taped message that she’ll see us on next year’s show comes true.
Lady Gaga emerged from an egg to lay one, debuting her new song “Born This Way,” which apparently refers to pointed shoulders. The song’s uncanny resemblance to Madonna’s “Express Yourself” distracted from the dance production. And when she later received an award for “The Fame Monster,” her bleeped expletive distracted from what became a touching tribute to Whitney Houston.
Maybe, on some nights, Justin Bieber can sing, but he sounded distressingly flat on Sunday. He was out-danced by Usher, of course, and Jaden Smith (loved watching dad Will Smith mouthing, “That’s my baby,” from the audience).
We’ll give Bieber credit, though: He looked good.
The rock band Muse gave a strong performance of “Uprising,” although we’re still trying to figure out what those dancers were trying to do. It also seemed a missed opportunity to explicitly tie the song’s message to Egypt’s revolution.
There were highlights, though. Bruno Mars sang “Grenade” in a soulful homage to James Brown, the screen even going black and white. Janelle Monae’s “Cold War” was a star-making turn.
The acoustic set with Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers was terrific, too, sweeping and anthemic. Bob Dylan came out to croak “Maggie’s Farm” with the two bands’ backing, his voice almost lost beneath the desperate strumming. But the fun was infectious. And did we actually see a dance step or two from the old master?