As an avid music fan, the Grammys should be an event that I care about dearly. Unfortunately, since the winners do not get selected by fan voting, air play, or measurable success, the highlight of the show, at least for me, is the interaction of the musicians in the crowd and the live performances on stage. Perhaps the Grammys have realized that the awards do not matter so much since they’re showing about nine awards live this year.
To kick off the show is AC/DC which is bold since all of the controversy over the Phil Rudd’s murder for hire arrest. The crowd seems to have been given glow in the dark devil red horns which Katy Perry was rocking proudly. Now THAT is rock and roll and that is how you start a show, with real rock legends.
LL Cool J then takes the stage to really get us started. After just a few puns, no ridiculous comedic monologue, we get to the awards. The first award was probably the easiest to predict, Best New Artist, Sam Smith. This is the first of many awards for him tonight.
Ariana Grande is our second performance with “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart.” It was a very low key performance which is entirely out of character for her. Sadly, this performance is entirely forgettable. Jessie J and Tom Jones performed “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” almost immediately after and what an amazingly strong vocal performance it was. It eclipsed Grande in a second.
Immediately after performing without missing a beat Jones and Jessie J handed out the Best Pop Solo Performance award to a shocked Pharrell Williams. While he always has a unique and questionable look, those shorts just do not work. Who told him to wear shorts to the Grammys?! It’s almost worse than the hat from last year.
We then got to take a foray into country music when Miranda Lambert performed “Little Red Wagon.” She insisted on shattering the stereotypical country musician look by wearing leather and performing with a full out rock band. Not her best vocal performance ever but she still made a statement.
Barry Gibb, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award with the BeeGees, and Pentatonix, who just won the A Cappella Grammy, award Best Pop Vocal Album to Sam Smith. His night was still just beginning at this point.
Always having to make an impression, 21-time Grammy winner, Kanye West took the stage to sing for the first of two times tonight. This time he performed the song he wrote with Sir Paul McCartney, “Only One.” I like this song but it sounded horrible live and it looked awful. The auto tune on the vocals made him sound like a joke and to really wear a velour track suit while standing over a light that looks like a trash can fire? Classy. Someone tell me how that man has 21 Grammys.
The train kept on going off the rails when Miley Cyrus and Nikki Minaj then took the stage to introduce, Miley’s “bitch” Madonna. Madonna was very impressive except for her bulls and bull fighting outfit and the dancing. Okay that means just the music was good but, hey, that’s what we’re here for.
Josh Duhamel almost fell up the stairs and was flanked by two Super Bowl Champion Patriots immediately after the performance to award the Grammy for Best Rock Album. After a cheesy joke about Butler making an interception, the award goes to Beck for Morning Phase. Poor guy is the first one who has the music played to cut him off and what scary cut off music it was. Next, the Best R&B Performance went to Beyonce and Jay Z for “Drunk in Love.”
To switch musical gears we get Ed Sheeran performing “Thinking Out Loud” with John Mayer, Questlove, Adam Blackstone and Herbie Hancock. This performance is the best of the first few. The performances seem to keep getting better as the night goes on. “Thinking Out Loud” is such a sweet song and John Mayer had a great guitar feature. Ed Sheeran then got to perform with classic rock greats, ELO. The best moment of that performance was Sir Paul McCartney being embarrassed for standing and dancing for the band.
Former The Voice co-hosts Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani perform Maroon 5’s “My Heart is Open” and it’s awkward. I was let down. There are songs that would make both of them sound so much better that they could’ve performed. The chorus sounded great but everything else was kind of muddled. Luckily, the next performance on stage was much better. Hozier took the stage to perform “Take Me to Church.” Annie Lennox took the stage to sing with Hozier and they complimented each other wonderfully. She added another dimension to the song and then transitioned into “I Put a Spell on You.” I haven’t liked any version of this song since Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version from 1968 until now. This is the first performance I feel the need to download immediately. She wins the Grammy performances thus far.
Nick Jonas and Meghan Trainor award the Best Country Album to Miranda Lambert for Platinum, her third time being nominated for the award but her first win.
Pharrell took the stage to perform in an outfit even more peculiar than what he was wearing earlier and the shiniest shoes. This is a performance that needs to be seen because it’s indescribable. No matter how weird he or his performances are, he has an amazing ear for talent, skill for producing, and ability to make people “Happy.” I really thought he looked kind of like Mickey Mouse so please, just watch it.
In the middle of our night of music, there was President Obama pleading for an end of violence against women and girls. Then a survivor of domestic violence took the stage to tell her story and show her strength and how important it is to get out of those situations. Inevitably most people online were tweeting about Chris Brown as soon as the announcement was made. Without introduction immediately following the survivor, Katy Perry started to sing “By the Grace of God.” She looked beautiful and sounded wonderful but there were also many comments online stating that Obama probably should’ve had this PSA before Katy Perry at the Super Bowl as opposed to the Grammys.
Tony Bennett and Lady GaGa lightened the mood when they performed “Cheek to Cheek.” Tony Bennett is such an iconic musician so to pair him with Gaga is nerve-racking, but Gaga exuded class and grace. After all of her performance and spectacle is taken away, all we’re left with is an extremely talented singer and it’s a shame we don’t see this side of her more often. The unlikely pair outperformed many of younger newer musicians.
Speaking of iconic musicians, the Grammys honored Stevie Wonder with a performance by Usher singing “If It’s Magic.” Usher started the song basic, just him and a harpist. Performances like this remind me of how talented a musician Usher is and how talented as a songwriter Stevie Wonder is. Then came Stevie Wonder and his harmonica. In mere seconds he received a standing ovation.
It’s not fair to have to follow that performance, especially when you have other things on your mind but that is just what Eric Church had to do. His wife is about to have a baby any minute but was slated to sing “Give Me Back My Hometown.” This song is not my favorite song of his and this is most certainly not his most on-key performance but he reeled it in as the song built up. New country star, Brandy Clark, however, outperformed Eric Church with just two guitars and her voice. “Hold My Hand” is a simple song that just blew away the audience and cemented the importance of Brandy Clark in the country music world.
This isn’t an award show or anything apparently. Why announce any awards? Right from Brandy Clark we dive right into “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West and Sir Paul McCartney. At least Kanye is wearing a real suit now. He may not have a shirt on under it (or if he is, he’s trying to show off his man cleavage) but that’s only because he had to match Rihanna’s suit jacket no shirt look. I really don’t want to like this song or performance but I really do enjoy it.
This year’s Grammy poster child, Sam Smith and Mary J Blige perform a moving and emotional version of “Stay With Me.” As the night progresses, the performances just get better. This was one of those Grammy moments that will be remembered.
Still, without another award announcement, we continue the performances. This time we get a more diverse sound, Juanes performs “Juntos.” I have never heard this song before and have no idea what he’s saying but the vibe is fun and the beat is an easy one to groove to.
The standing ovation Prince received when he took the stage to introduce Album of the Year may have been for him or for his outfit. Beck won Album of the Year for Morning Phase. I cannot believe it. Again they try to kick him off stage. Give him a damn minute! Kanye fakes taking the Grammy away and Beck’s supporters are hindered from getting on stage at first. Not Beck’s night.
Then Shia LaBeouf takes the stage. I thought he quit being a celebrity but then he reads from a paper in hand awkwardly and I hoped that would be the end of the weirdness. Silly me, Sia is about to take the stage. We are in a trashed home with performance art like the music video for “Chandelier.” Sia officially continues the awkwardness because, why yes, when I perform at the Grammys, let me face the wall. If you aren’t brave enough to face the audience, just say no! I understand that you have been through a lot but this is the one stage to be PROUD of what you’ve done!
Enrique took the stage to give away Song of the Year to, surprise surprise, Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” I think either the panel is getting tired of hearing Sam Smith or they’re running out of time because he got cut off too.
Chris Martin and Beck performed together. This is another of those moments in which the Grammys pair together artists to perform and you wonder why they do not perform that way all the time. The harmonies were on point. At least now everyone in the audience who never listened to a Beck song even though he won two Grammys tonight will finally know what he sounds like.
Stevie Wonder and Jamie Foxx go on stage to give away the Record of the Year award and Stevie starts making jokes about blinking at the crowd. It’s fitting since Stevie Wonder won that same award more than two decades earlier. The jokes continue when Jamie Foxx slips into his Ray Charles character from his movie, Ray. The winner of Record of the year is…. Sam Smith. He, amazingly, has not run out of people to thank though this one tops them all. He thanked the man who broke his heart because it got him four Grammys.
We then had our In Memoriam part of the show starting with Joe Cocker. We also lost Jack Bruce from Cream, Johnny Winter, Tommy Ramone, Maya Angelou and Robin Williams to name a few. So many talented people were lost this year.
At the closing of the show, LL Cool J and Gwyneth Paltrow introduce Beyonce to sing the iconic hymn to promote understanding, “Take My Hand Precious Lord.” She can belt out a song for church any day. She then introduces John Legend and Common. I thought that Beyonce had the emotional performance looking for change and harmony locked down but, once again, the performances continued to get better and John Legend, Common, the choir and symphony backed with images of protests and images of the past outperformed Beyonce and her choir. That is how the show goes out. Another year, another set of awards have been distributed. Until next time, I will keep listening to the people who lost or won regardless of their awards.
Lisa Pikaard is a senior writer of Pop-Break who can be read weekly as part of Pop-Break’s Singles Party. She can also frequently be found reviewing and interviewing hard rock bands but her photo is secretly (or not so secretly now) on the Backstreet Boy’s Never Gone album booklet. Country, pop, rock, the genre doesn’t matter; she loves it all. Lisa also likes to dabble in book reviews and somehow convinced Monmouth University to award her a Master’s in English for writing a thesis called ‘Harry Potter and the Rhetoric of Terrorism.’ While her dream is to interview musicians on a daily basis, she is currently works as Group Sales Account Manager at Brooklyn Nets. Music, football and literature are her passions. Follow her on Twitter: @nygiantsnjgrl