Monday, February 13, 2012

54th Grammy Awards in Review

Sunday night marked the 54th Grammy Award ceremony. The show had a tinge of sadness cast upon it as Whitney Houston's passing on Saturday affected the mood. LL Cool J, who hosted the event, started the show with a prayer and a short clip of Houston singing one of her greatest hits, "I Will Always Love You." The song was later performed by Jennifer Hudson, who offered a restrained and respectful take on it. Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt also paid tribute to the late Etta James with a performance of "Sunday Kind of Love."

Performance-wise, the night kicked off with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing "We Take Care of Our Own." Although no horn section was included, I'm sure that the band felt the missing presence of late saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Bruno Mars performed a fun and rousing rendition of "Runaway Baby," in which he urged the crowd to "get off [their] rich asses and have some fun."

The first televised award went to Adele, as did many of the other awards, including "Record of the Year" and "Album of the Year" for "Rolling in the Deep" and 21, respectively. The night truly belonged to her as she also gave a wonderful performance of "Rolling in the Deep" and received a standing ovation. The singer recently had surgery on her vocal cords, but they sounded in top shape. She easily had the best performance of the night. An award went to Bon Iver for Best New Artist. Despite frontman Justin Vernon's apprehension about attending and accepting his award, he assured the crowd that he was honored. Best Rap Performance was won by "Otis" by Jay-Z and Kanye West who were both absent from the ceremony.

Rock music was also brought to the ceremony in the form of the Foo Fighters who performed twice, the first being the hit "Walk" and a the second being a performance and remix of "Rope" during a dance portion, which was strangely dedicated to the late Don Cornelius (Soul Train). The band also won Best Rock Performance and singer/guitarist Dave Grohl made an inspiring speech about the "human element" of music and not sounding perfect, but "singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft." Sure, he sounded a little pretentious and he went on to perform with Deadmau5, but his sentiment was still nice.

Also receiving two performances were Paul McCartney and Chris Brown, which marked the latter's return to the ceremony since the Rihanna incident in 2009. Brown danced on a box set to his hit "Beautiful People." His performances remain consistently good if you're a fan, but his lip-syncing cannot be overlooked. The singer also won the award for Best R&B album for F.A.M.E. The second included a performance of "I Can Only Imagine" with dance DJ David Guetta and Lil Wayne. The whole dance portion of the show that also included Deadmau5 seemed like an attempt to appeal to the younger crowd, but it was a somewhat enjoyable change of pace. Stevie Wonder introduced McCartney who performed a new song called "My Valentine." He also closed out the show with some lesser known Beatles songs from Abbey Road, including "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End," which included Joe Walsh of the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. The six guitarists present on stage by the end proved to be a fun and high energy ending to the show.

It was nice to see an up and coming band like The Civil Wars do a short performance and showcase their talents before introducing Taylor Swift. The country starlet sang her hit bully-bashing song "Mean" atop of a hillbilly set.

As has been Grammy tradition, there were a couple of duets between artists. Rihanna performed an impressive vocal and dance-heavy version of "We Found Love," and then took the stage with Coldplay for a short acoustic rendition of their song "Princess of China." Both Chris Martin and Rihanna's vocals were shaky, which carried through to Coldplay's performance of their hit "Paradise." Also, to celebrate the Beach Boys reuniting, rather than just bringing them on the stage, Maroon 5 and Foster the People performed "Surfer Girl" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" respectively. Then The Beach Boys came out showed us how vocal harmonies are done and did their seminal classic "Good Vibrations." Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean performed "Don't You Wanna Stay." Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood got together and sang a nice version of "It Had to Be You."

The night's most bizarre performance did not come from Lady Gaga, whose presence was mostly absent from the ceremony. Nicki Minaj tried her best to fill that void, with an over-the-top performance of "Roman's Revenge" and new song "Roman Holiday." The theme of the performance was the exorcism of Roman Zolanski, Minaj's alter ego. The performance was messy and disjointed, but it was surely one of the more memorable ones. Katy Perry also tried to make an interesting performance, but ultimately fell very flat. She started out with "ET" before going into a first-time performance of break-up anthem "Part of Me," which sounds like a reject P!nk song. Both artists' stage presence left something to be desired.

Overall, the show was pretty enjoyable and tried to include something for almost everyone.

For a full list of winners, head to the Grammy website. For the performances, go to the Idolator.

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