Open Mic

Grammy Awards: Highs or Lows, a Tough Year to Top

Hillary Atkin Posted February 2, 2010 at 12:07 PM

Where was Kanye West when you needed him? Perhaps he could have mitigated some of the Taylor-phoria at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards, which many people are complaining was more like the Country Music Awards, what with the Zac Brown Brand (who?) winning for best new artist.

And even though West is famous for complaining at award shows, he actually scored some hardware for producing one of my favorite songs of the year, "Run This Town.” Rihanna wasn't even listed as a nominee, but she bolted up on stage with Jay-Z. and his cute little kid to accept the Grammy. So Kanye, you were missed — and congrats on your Grammy.

Whatever was going on in front of the camera in the 3½-hour telecast, audiences were liking it, to the tune of almost 26 million viewers, up about 35% from last year.

It was a big night for pop’s favorite not-really-single lady, Beyonce, although most of her record six Grammys were scored in the non-televised pre-show.

Let's get right down to the best things about the program: the tribute to Michael Jackson, Pink’s Cirque du Soleil-esque performance and some of the duets that rocked the Staples Center stage and small screens everywhere.

The 3-D tribute to Jackson had been hyped before the show, but in order to see it properly, you had to have a pair of glasses from Target, or maybe some you nicked from "Avatar.”

Not living in the vicinity of a Target or willing to make a trip, we had to see it cold, in regular, boring old 2-D. No matter. The staging was beautiful, and the performers (Celine Dion, Carrie Underwood, Smokey Robinson, Jennifer Hudson and Usher) soared in concert with the enviro-lyrics from the late, great King of Pop.

And then came the most touching part of the tribute, Jackson’s kids Prince Michael and Paris taking the stage to accept their dad’s lifetime achievement award. The last time a TV audience saw these pre-teens was on the same stage, at Jackson’s memorial service — and you could feel the audience holding their collective breath, riveted by the sight of the poised brother and sister dressed in dark suits with red armbands. This time, Prince spoke — sounding uncannily like MJ in his delivery — and promised to continue to spread the message of love that was instrumental in his father’s songs.

Can we talk Pink? The pop singer pulled off a similar aerial performance at the recent VMAs, but this was truly spectacular. The nude bodysuit, the white bondage-y outfit — and being aerially dunked in water while spinning in a harness and still singing like an angel. Hard to top.

Another big moment, the inspired pairing of Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige. Bocelli started off singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” in Italian before Blige joined in and gave the classic Simon & Garfunkel song a sweet R&B twist.

A couple of the other duets weren’t so in sync. Take the show opener — Elton John and Lady Gaga, whose crazy costumes are getting a little tiresome. How long has Elton been pounding the ivories and singing his soul out — more than 35 years? Don’t think her music will have the shelf life of a “Candle in the Wind.” I was distracted by whether she painted her teeth translucent red as part of the apparent monster theme that was many months late for Halloween.

Stephen Colbert — man, you’re great but your monologue really blew. Asking your teenage daughter three times if you were cool was a bit much. (You kind of redeemed yourself when you did pick up the Grammy for best comedy album — and spoon-feeding it on “The Colbert Report” last night was pretty damn funny.)

Oops, the audience voting for what song Bon Jovi would sing was closed to West Coast viewers.

If you were paying close attention — and mine certainly drifted during the ubiquitous and overexposed Black Eyed Peas performance — you somehow realized the Recording Academy had handed out a number of lifetime achievement awards, to music legends like Leonard Cohen, Bobby Darin and Loretta Lynn, but these were mentioned quickly in passing, without even a clip of a song to recognize the artists.

Instead of going to commercial after the “in memoriam” segment, as is traditional, the show went to “Crazy Heart” start Jeff Bridges, apparently now considered a musician. Tough segue.

More program notes:
Quentin Tarantino — you could get a job as a carnival barker. Maybe dial it down a few notches.
Ricky Martin — did you get the heat you asked for twice?
Kaley Cuoco — was your dress on backwards?
Bon Jovi — why did the fan-chosen “Living on a Prayer” only run about 1:30? Always leave them wanting more, I guess.
Beyonce — did you really grab your crotch?
Whichever Jonas brother — do glasses make you look more mature? It kinda worked.
Lionel Richie — can you read the teleprompter a little more smoothly or memorize your intro better? It distracted from the significance of what you were saying.
Kings of Leon — maybe not so many shots before the show next time. This isn’t the Golden Globes.

With all the high and low moments — as Robert Downey Jr. called them, the “gauche festivities” — this will be a tough Grammys to top.