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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Best of the Grammys

Oh, Grammy, Grammy, Grammy, how much we love thee whilst also despising thee? No sooner had last night's broadcast of the 52nd Grammy Awards ended when thousands took to their comment pages to denounce Arcade Fire's win for Album of the Year, while others hailed the band's win as a triumph of critical success over more superficial popular success. Either way you look at it, the Grammys definitely make for great talk around the water cooler..Luckily, unlike the other three major awards shows, (Oscar, Tony and Emmy), the Grammys long ago made the decision to ditch the trophy bestowing and the painfully awful acceptance speeches in favor of actual musical performances, which annually gives us one of the most exciting t.v. shows of the year. Even if you don't like all the performers, you have to admit, they're all striving to bring the house down; they all want to be the act that's talked about the next day, and thus the show vibrates with the fervor of a camp meeting revival at fever pitch, just before someone brings out the snakes..So who scored last night, and who fell on their faces? Here are our picks for the Top 8 moments of the show:.
8. At #8 were two great jokes during the show. At one point, David Letterman appeared in a pre-taped video segment announcing a Grammy "Top Ten List", and his best joke was the one which revealed that Lindsay Lohan was seen leaving the Grammys with a "Grammy-shaped bulge" under her blouse. But the best joke of the night was relayed by Seth Rogan when he mentioned being backstage "getting high with Miley Cyrus".
.7. The #7 best Grammy moment came when John Mayer, Norah Jones and Keith Urban appeared to present an award, but first performed Dolly Parton's "Jolene". Parton had earlier taken a Lifetime Achievement Grammy, but as usual, the Lifetimer's were not allowed to take the stage to say "thank you", or even stand up in the audience to let the rest of the audience applaud them. We've always thought the Grammys are making a horrible mistake by slighting the greatest of our great musical icons, so it was nice to hear the talented trio take it upon themselves to give a little recognition to the legendary Dolly Parton. But aside from the recognition factor, the trio's performance of the song was just damn good.
.6. At #6 was the Bob Dylan, Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons mash-up performance. Mumford and Sons first performed "The Cave", followed by the Avett Brothers rendition of their song, "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise". And then Bob Dylan stood in front of the two joined bands to perform his classic "Maggie's Farm", with the younger Mumfords and Avetts excitedly playing their hearts out. It was one of those rare moments in which the entire world, especially younger music lovers, are reminded that great, and very enjoyable, music is not just restricted to what one hears on Top 40 radio. The musical set was folk acoustical nirvana, almost rockabilly at times, and even though Dylan's voice was almost unrecognizable, it didn't matter. It was an amazing performance, and we're hoping that the confused-looking Justin Bieber sitting in the front row was taking notes, after someone explained to him who Bob Dylan was.
.5. Almost as a sign that Rap music has peaked in popularity, and that serious guitar rock is ready to stage a comeback, the band Muse performed their hit "Uprising" early in the show and blew the roof off the Staples Center. We've so long been held hostage by the Diddy/Jay-Z/Eminem dreck that passes as popular "music" that Muse's performance seemed like something totally new. But it's not new, it's simply really good rock music played by people who know how to play instruments and who can sing. Wow, what a concept. More Muse, please, more. And sooner than later!
.4. In an effort to promote newer artists, Bruno Mars, B.o.B and Janelle Monae performed a medley of each other's hits, first Mars and B.o.B., then Mars on his own "Grenade" and ending with Monae's "Cold War" with Mars on the drums. Mars was spectacular, while B.o.B. flamed out, another indication that Rap artists just can't hold their own when they're paired with really talented singers. But perhaps the most exciting moment came with Monae's performance. It was one of those moments where most of the viewing audience probably had no idea who Monae was at the beginning of her song, but by song's end, she was an instant hit. It was the closest we came last night to a Ricky Martin Grammy moment where one song performance makes an artist's career. We're guessing her website got a lot of hits last night.
.3. We almost made this set our #2 moment, but at #3 comes the Aretha Franklin tribute in which five singers, Yolanda Adams, Martina McBride, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson and Florence Welch performed some of the Queen of Soul's hits. Franklin is recovering from a health scare which, according to rumors, threatened her life, so the Grammys wasted no time in kneeling at her feet, kissing the ring. And we were the better for it. All five women, even McBride, showed an incredible amount of soul in their performances, and even Aguilera dialed back her need to over-trill every note to deliver a breathtaking set. Not that the five women weren't tempted to steal each other's thunder, Hudson seriously considered blowing the others away on "Respect", but then Yolanda showed the other girls that she had some respectable pipes herself. It was a great set; a great melding of various talents, and luckily, each remembered that they were there to honor someone other than themselves.
.2. At #2 was another rock blow-out when Arcade Fire performed "Month of May", afterwhich they provided the shocker of the night by winning for Best Album of the Year, beating the much-vaunted and expected winner, Eminem's "Recovery". But regardless of the trophy win, as with Muse, what made this performance great was that we got to see a real rock band showing the rest of the musicians in the room how it's done. A lot of people today didn't agree with Arcade Fire's Grammy win, evidently they're confusing popularity with critical achievement, but people, Arcade Fire's performance was rock and roll at its best. It was loud, it was mind-blowing, it was electric, it was frenetic, it was damn good. And we're sure that when confronted with real rock music, it made Justin Bieber wet his pants.
.1. But let's face it, the best moment of the night was Mick Jagger's tribute to recently deceased soul legend, Solomon Burke. Jagger, who unbelievably had never performed at the Grammys before, danced and shouted through Burke's most famous hit, "Everybody Needs Somebody (To Love)", electrifying the crowd and showing that, at 67, he still has it. It was an unbelievable performance, but as much as we enjoyed it, we couldn't help but feel a little sad as we thought that once Mick is gone, there will never be another rocker with his talent and sheer charisma. But for now, we've still got him, and god, was he on fire! Many tried, but it was Mick who really brought down the house last night. "Gimme Mick, gimme Mick, baby's hair, bulging eyes, lips so thick, are you woman, are you man? I'm your biggest funked up fan". Oh, Candy Slice, you had it so right.

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