If Adele could rap, she probably would have won that Grammy as well.
Sunday night's Grammy Awards made for interesting viewing, with Adele's sweep, some amazing tributes, performances, and a downright weird and horrible showing from Nicki Minaj.
Host LL Cool J opened up with a prayer for Whitney Houston, whose shocking death on February 11 cast a shadow over the proceedings, especially later in the evening, when Jennifer Hudson sang "I Will Always Love You" in tribute to the great Houston. Her death was hardly the only notable one, as the show paused to honor Etta James, Don Cornelius, Steve Jobs, and so many more. The scope of losses made the whole thing feel like a wake from time to time.
There were passionate performances -- like Adele and the Foo Fighters -- and then of course, there was that thing Nicki Minaj did, which boggled our minds.
The night started with Bruce Springsteen, bringing a kind of halftime heat to the stage. You've got to start with a solid performance like this when you're worried that America is going to flip the channel. (Oh, and, folks, that "Is anybody alive out there" is a Springsteen-staple, and should in no way be considered a tone-deaf reaction in light of Houston's death.)
Bruno Mars surprised me. It would be nice to hear the Bruno Mars that I saw and heard on the stage more so than the typical mainstream radio crud. Mars moved like James Brown and hit all the right notes. As for Chris Brown's performance? I couldn't stop laughing. Brown was all over the place. Literally. He was continuously jumping around, up, down, and side-to-side on blocks. He danced more than he sang, and I wouldn't be surprised if he were lip-synching. It felt more like a workout routine than a performance (although Brown did take home the R&B award -- I don't get it).
The duos of the night worked well. Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson took the stage, followed by Rihanna and Coldplay. All I kept thinking was "Wow, these artists match up so well together." The former makes perfect sense, but the latter was a little more off-kilter. Sure, RiRi shows up on Coldplay's latest, but the risky move of pairing them mostly worked for me.
A surprising performance by Taylor Swift caught my eye and brought ears. It seemed to be a serious bid for country authenticity, with Swift armed with a banjo and dropping much of the pop in front of an apocalyptic backdrop. If this is her way of making a statement saying, "Hey, I am country music," then keep it up, Swift.
The Beach Boys appeared on stage with Maroon 5 and Foster The People for their 50-year reunion. Singing "Good Vibrations," the members looked old, but their voices sounded the same. (And how about Mike Love's Beach Boys hat?)
Don Cornelius may be gone, but he created a dance and music revolution. Now with a new dance revolution happening, the Grammys recognized the electronic revolution. David Guetta, Chris Brown, and Lil Wayne preformed together getting the crowd riled up. It didn't stop there though. The Foo Fighters appeared after soon joined by Deadmau5. It was a difficult collaboration to imagine, but it worked. It cast Grohl's comments earlier in the night about "real" music in new light. As the Foos finished up their tune, Deadmau5 dropped in with a live remix. Grohl, standing off to the side, seemed pretty into it. The Grammys did a good job recognizing the burgeoning EDM scene; even Skrillex got some love, though you've got to wonder what was going on with Deadmau5 sporting Skrillex's cell number on his shirt was all about.
The Grammys appeared to strive for diversity, stepping away from a broadcast dedicated solely to mainstream music. Sure, folks might be scrambling to figure out who "Ron Iver" is, but it was cool to see genres other than the typical mainstream get some attention.
It all flowed so well, until Nicki Minaj the stage. What the hell was up with her performance? I mean, if you want to call it a performance, because it felt more like a cheap exorcism horror flick. I couldn't grasp why the Grammys would allow such a disgrace to take place on its stage. There was hardly any music, unless you count the hymns being sung by others on stage and someone dressed as a priest. My mind was blown. Nicki is occasionally great, but whatever that was wasn't good or even interesting. It was downright weird and out of place. I don't think Lady Gaga would have pulled this one. I'd wager even Minaj's biggest supporters were perplexed.
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Without Minaj, I think everything went well. Adele's 21, inspired by her "rubbish relationship" swept the awards all thanks to her amazing voice and album. Her performance of "Rolling in the Deep" cemented exactly why she's at the top of her game right now. Pitch-perfect, charismatic, with just one hell of a voice. New standards were set for next year's Grammy awards, and I don't think Nicki Minaj will be doing that particular performance on live television ever again.