Okay, so I think I just figured out what’s wrong with almost every major televised awards ceremony in this country, but especially the Grammys: They spend so much time reminding us of how important and magical and woven into the fabric of a life we can barely understand in these crazy digital times their television program has been over the last half-century, they forget that the whole point of the ceremony in the first place is to celebrate the best of what is happening in our culture right this very second. And so while I think we can all agree that an Album of the Year race comprised of Coldplay, Radiohead, Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, and Plant/Krauss is nothing to sneeze at, there was absolutely no need to announce the nominees in that or any other Grammy category during an hour-long Tribute To Songs Your Parents Like On That Network With Shows For Old People, designed to highlight the opening of an actual museum devoted to the aforementioned important magic.
Yes, last night’s telecast was basically the equivalent of historically landmarking a Taco Bell Express, with performances from Celine Dion, Foo Fighters, and the most overexposed blond since Lady Godiva, Taylor Swift. And there were also nominations, both positive– I’m sorry, did you say “Paper Planes”? are you sure?– and not so much. (See the major categories here.) We’re putting up a gallery of the worst snubs later today, but feel free to share yours in the comments. (I’m saving my controlled rage about Sugarland for the end of this article – only five paragraphs away…) Let’s begin, shall we?
Live, from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles– where John Mayer and B.B. King are quite possibly still playing “Let the Good Times Roll”– it was the 2009 Grammy Nomination Special, a fun little project that probably wasn’t worth pre-empting an episode of Criminal Minds for, but whatever, sweeps ended on Sunday. I’ve got a pretty bad head cold at the moment, so when we opened on Mariah Carey in a sexy Santa outfit singing “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and throwing teddy bears out to the audience, I checked the channel to make sure I hadn’t recorded the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting ceremony by mistake. But no, I was right, because soon enough there were your hilariously mismatched hosts, Taylor Swift and LL Cool J, mincing awkwardly around as the camera circled them in front of the Staples Center before cutting to Ne-Yo as he announced the Best New Artist nominees: Adele, Duffy, Lady Antebellum, the Jonas Brothers, and Jazmine Sullivan. Shocking not to see Leona Lewis, Estelle, MGMT, Vampire Weekend, or Katy Perry come up here, considering they even used the latter’s “I Kissed a Girl” in the introductory montage (a montage clearly designed to teach Criminal Minds viewers about the existence of the internet). Not shocking to see the Jonas Bros. grinning in the front row after the announcement of the nominees. Something tells me they weren’t propped up there just so Ms. Swift could spend the night glaring at whichever one she used to date.
Next was a performance of Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” from Celine Dion that one might call “understated,” but mostly left me wondering whether the dinner cruise would be docking soon. It was followed by an obligatory shot of Smokey Robinson, then a montage leading up to the Album of the Year nominations which proved that 1998 was the musical equivalent of Oceanic Flight 815. Again, I have no quibble with the nominations in this category, though I’m sure Alicia Keys and the Eagles would beg to differ. But who would you pull to fit them in? Lil Wayne and Coldplay are good and sold huge; Ne-Yo and Radiohead are just good; and Plant/Krauss could have played noseharp over a backing band of barking dogs and still gotten a nom, so the fact that they didn’t was a nice bonus. But no time to dwell, for we must listen to the Foo Fighters slaughter
Faster Pussycat’s Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”! I take no pleasure in calling out Grohl for that mess, though I did enjoy the disdain for Rascal Flatts he barely bothered to mask while reading the noms for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group. (Side note: Random to pick the Duo/Group performances in both Country and Rap to announce live, no?)
Christina Aguilera’s lovely rendition of “I Loves You Porgy” should hush up those who found her corseted antics on the American Music Awards a bit unrestrained; Taylor Swift’s barely serviceable rendition of Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” (see embedded clip) should open the door for anyone who’d care to join me in saying for the millionth time that this girl may be a savvy little songwriting/marketing genius, but she has no business singing professionally. Really, we’re running out of excuses here, people. And of all the artists in the world, why was she the only one chosen to perform a snippet of her current single (“White Horse,” which apparently requires that she sit down at some point)– especially when she received exactly zero nominations this evening? Was that the snub of the night? Justice at last? Or does someone just really have it in for that one Jonas Brother?
It was fun to see tiny little Grammy president Neil Portnow yelp with joy as he and Swiftie introduced the John Mayer/B.B. King Rock n’ Roll Ain’t Dead But We’re Gonna Jam On This Song Until It Is memorabilia project, and then it just got kinda boring until Mayer cracked the joke that he “played cash register” on M.I.A.’s Record of the Year-nominated “Paper Planes.” Can’t make too much fun of John n’ B.B.– after all, unless you’re counting Mariah sharing a gospel nod with three other people and a church choir, those two dudes are the only performers tonight who got nominated for any actual awards. And if my math is right, Mayer has the chance to win five times. So. Let those good times keep rolling, I suppose. Other nominations for Record of the Year, btw: Adele (big night for her!), Coldplay, Leona Lewis, and Plant/Krauss. Here again, we find Estelle and “American Boy” getting snubbed– curiously, the 87 writers on that track got a Song of the Year nod instead– along with folks like Chris Brown, Kid Rock, Rihanna, and Lil Wayne, although I’m not sure which one of his ditties could have been safely performed on the big show, so that’s just as well.
And that was it. It was only an hour. Not too painful, but like I said, not too necessary, either. Now, as threatened: Seriously? Sugarland gets NOTHING for Love on the Inside, an almost universally-praised No. 1 album that was not only predicted to be a frontrunner in the country category but a dark horse for Album of the Year? (No, “Life in a Northern Town” doesn’t count.) Probably what happened here was the whole thing was too “poppy” for the “country” voters, but my god it’s like Steely Dan beating out Kid A all over again. Argh. I gotta take my rage and my head cold to bed.
Meanwhile, what did you think, PopWatchers? Did any of those performances do it fer ya? Have you now been persuaded to schedule a trip to the shiny new Grammy Museum (which, to be fair, looks pretty cool), and/or tune in for the big ceremony next year? Am I the only one who snickered when the announcer said, “All this, and the nominees for Record of the Year” as we headed to commercial, like he couldn’t believe his cornucopia of luck? And can you think of a persuasive reason why they couldn’t have somehow combined this shindig with the AMAs and saved us all some time?
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