Kanye West did his damnedest to steal the spotlight from the music industry’s biggest party this past weekend, but Monday night still belonged to the Grammys. Kanye’s Twitter feed even maintained radio silence during the show, making this the rare Grammy night gone un-interrupted by the rapper – though we all would have loved to see him live-tweet it.
Anyways, maybe eight awards were handed out over the course of three-and-a-half hours, and if the Grammys don’t care particularly about the awards, why should I? Instead, let’s talk about the real winners and losers – and, sure, some of the actual winners and losers – of last night’s show.
Congratulations, everybody, that’s the closest we normies are ever going to get to seeing "Hamilton"! If that is the case, though, I could die pretty happy. Lin-Manuel Miranda and company’s rendition of their blockbuster Broadway smash’s opening number was incredible – and just the most wonderful rude tease to those of us who probably won’t be able to see it until 2027.
Then, after winning Best Musical Recording, Miranda perfectly rapped out his spoken-word acceptance speech surrounded by his giddy cast still in costume. In about 10 total minutes, "Hamilton" broadcast to the nation, to both those already initiated into the fan club and those who knew nothing of it, why it’s become more than just a big Broadway show – it’s a genuine cultural sensation. That was my first taste of the actual music last night, and the only bad part about it was how annoyed I was that I couldn’t see the rest. Well, see you there next decade!
Kendrick Lamar and "To Pimp a Butterfly" may not have won the big award of the night, losing out to Taylor Swift and "1989" for Album of the Year (which, ha ha ha, no, but fine), but he easily won the night, nabbing five total awards and easily coming away with the best non-"Hamilton" performance of the night. From doing the jazzy "The Blacker The Berry" chained up inside a mock prison to a literally fiery rendition of "Alright" to a captivating, currently untitled new song to the triumphant endnote of "Compton" written over Africa, Lamar’s medley was a truly electric, breathtaking performance – an actual "Grammy moment" in an evening so desperate to create them.
Even with all of Taylor Swift’s drama stage arms and stares, the Grammys struggled to wake up in the early going. Then Andra Day came on stage and busted out her soulful voice for a duet with Ellie Goulding. The Brit star did fine, but at the end of the number, Day became the name to really know.
Like Kendrick Lamar, soulful Southern rockers Alabama Shakes also lost out to T. Swift for Album of the Year, but in the end won the night. Brittany Howard and company still came away with three golden megaphones, and their growly yet groovy performance of "Don’t Wanna Fight" was one of the highlights. For a smaller band still on the rise like Alabama Shakes, the Grammys aren’t about the awards; it’s about getting your name and sound out to a wide, massive audience that may not have heard you – or even heard OF you – before. And last night, you sure as hell heard Alabama Shakes.
BB King tribute
Coming hot off the heels of Lady Gaga’s Bowie medley (more on that later), the BB King tribute showed how a memorial performance should be done. Performing "The Thrill Is Gone," earlier country winner Chris Stapleton – which, what’s actual country music doing in the Best Country category? – Bonnie Raitt and Gary Clark, Jr. all brought the ache, the soul and the riffs to the stage. The lesson? Play one song really well with feeling and meaning, not all of the songs thrown into a blender with ham and set to "grate."
I have no idea what the left half of Pentatonix was wearing (says the guy currently wearing an oversized Packers hoodie from the ’90s). I assume they went back to fighting Magneto after presenting their award. Luckily I was mostly distracted by their predictably awesome a cappella skills alongside Stevie Wonder, who not only had a charming line about being the only one who could read the Braille-enshrined card but turned it into a nice, powerful moment about making things accessible for all people. I’d be very happy if I got more of these two – the classic and the kids – at future Grammys.
The British crooner pulled off the big upset of the night when "Thinking Out Loud" beat out the likes of an extremely excitable Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar for Song of the Year. How? That’s a damn fine question; last year, it was Sam Smith, so maybe the Grammys just have a thing in this category for mopey Brits with accents. Either way, good for him, and if last year was any sign, he should be on his way to writing a bad Bond theme any minute now.
Good news, 12-year-old Joey Alexander: You pulled a mild Jacob Tremblay, briefly stealing the show from some of the biggest stars in the world with your mind-blowing piano skills. Bad news: You were followed by the in memoriam and the Grammy head talking about the industry problems with artists getting paid correctly. Way to buzzkill Joey’s big moment, Grammys! Still, the kid rocked it, and he can now put on his resume, "For one night, most of America liked me more than Johnny Depp."
As much as OBVIOUSLY "To Pimp a Butterfly" should have won here, Taylor Swift is a fine pick. "1989" is a very good pop album, and in a generally populist award show, she was certain to win. Whatever, Taylor; you win. You win everything.
At least she gave us that awesome Kanye West dig in her acceptance speech, a response to Kanye’s controversial "Famous" lyric claiming he made her famous. Judging by the amount of contained viper-like venom seething out of her pronunciation of the word "fame," I starting to think Kanye didn’t get the permission he thought he did for that line. Sure we’ll be hearing from him shortly.
As, eh, fine as I am with Taylor Swift winning Album of the Year, let’s be honest: We were all feeling Tori Kelly’s unamused face during T. Swift’s acceptance speech. She may have lost out on winning Best New Artist, but she won something even more beloved last night: a place in the Internet's meme-ing heart (warning: if Tori Kelly apologizes for this face, her winner status will be revoked).
Normally, criticizing Adele’s voice would put you on a fast track to some sort of military prison to be locked away for crimes against pop culture. But last year, even the songstress’ biggest fans had to admit that her performance of "All I Ask" sounded … off. Her voice sounded flat, and some malfunction in the background made it sound like someone was banging on a tinny pot. It was a rare rough night, but in typically Adele fashion, she stuck the landing after the show.
The piano mics fell on to the piano strings, that's what the guitar sound was. It made it sound out of tune. Shit happens. X — Adele (@Adele) February 16, 2016
Because of it though... I'm treating myself to an in n out. So maybe it was worth it. — Adele (@Adele) February 16, 2016
For the second straight major event, CBS’ broadcast crew was not up to the task. Adele’s performance got knocked off kilter by some piano mics falling onto the strings, and CBS’ audio cut for a brief two seconds. And while she got the worst of it, many of the performances were marred by some generally bad audio mixes. The female songwriter of "Thinking Out Loud" got cut off, leading to a boo-heavy crowd reaction. And how in the name of all that is holy do you get Justin Bieber to perform "Love Yourself" and not have a picture-in-picture of Selena Gomez stat? If you’re going to force me to watch ads for your miserable lineup of television shows, CBS, the least you could do is put on a competent show.
Lady Gaga’s Bowie tribute
The idea of Lady Gaga paying tribute to the late, great David Bowie seems perfect on paper, and from the first shots of Bowie glamour and history projected onto the pop star’s face, it seemed like it would be so on stage as well.
Unfortunately, it kept going.
The thought was clearly in the right place, but Gaga’s performance was ham-tastic, turning Bowie, his constantly changing aura and his hit songs into caricatures in a coarsely blended medley number. It was also just kind of loud, visually and sonically, and the fact that it was capped with an Intel ad starring Gaga made the whole thing feel a bit cheap. Jareth deserved a tribute with a lot more tact and heart than that.
Before the Grammys aired, I was tempted to write up a blog about how, you know what, I don’t mind Justin Bieber. Oh, him as a person? I mind. But as far as his music goes, he’s made some pretty good pop tunes this year. "Sorry"? "Where Are Ü Now"? "Love Yourself"? These are some frustratingly catchy pop numbers – even more frustrating because it’s Bieber, and uuuuuuugh, he’s just the worst.
Well, I dodged a bullet there, because his performance last night of "Where Are Ü Now" was quite terrible. His singing was a touch off for the first part, "Love Yourself," but when it came time for his hit with Diplo and Skrillex, the night turned brutally sour. For some reason, the trio decided to rock-out the EDM tune, turning it into a desperately loud and clanging mess. Instead of watching EDM/pop stars, it felt like we were being subjected to a bad wannabe teeny-bop punk rock band – complete with awful facial hair. "Sorry" indeed.
I love bad puns as much as the next person, but woof to that "Earned It" joke intro. And trying to salvage it with a random collection of runs did not improve matters. My ear started bleeding from how awkward and uncomfortable I felt for Grande. Or at least I hope that’s why that happened. *calls doctor*
Coming after the joint showstoppers of "Hamilton" and Kendrick Lamar was guaranteed hard duty. Why the Grammys decided Seth MacFarlane should be the guy to do it was the most baffling decision made Sunday night – and this was the same evening Meghan Trainor won an award. Speaking of which …
Did the Grammy voters even hear "Dear Future Husband"? They must have because it was playing as the pop star took the stage to accept her trophy for Best New Artist, and playing that song over somebody receiving an award is an affront to the concept of awards.
But subjective opinions about pop music aside, how was Meghan Trainor up for this award? She released her self-titled debut seven years ago. She was up for Song of the Year and Record of the Year last year for "All About That Bass." How can she be new if she’s already got a year of Grammy nominations under her belt? How did this happen? First presidential candidate to commit to getting to the bottom of this gets my vote.
I’m pretty convinced Johnny Depp is in the midst of some sort of Joaquin Phoenix becoming a rapper/"I’m Still Here" statement on fame art project. Either that, or Johnny Depp thinks last night’s performance along grumpy old men of rock Alice Cooper and Joe Perry was genuinely a good idea, which in that case, congratulations Lily-Rose Depp, "Yoga Hosers" will not be the most embarrassing thing your family will participate in this year!
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.