Grammy Awards: Still influenced by nostalgia
Restrain and soberness: these aren’t words one would associate with the biggest night of the music industry, and yet at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, broadcasted live by CBS from the Staples Centre Los Angeles, the mood, though not totally, was definitely along these lines.
Top honours were given to Mumford & Sons, Fun., Adele, among others (some more old school-inspired than others) were awarded in limited categories, while more internationally known icons took the backseat.
For 2013, the voting academy had a purpose, and the three-and-a-half-hour broadcast, which routinely lingered, became a perfect stage to showcase, stress and recognise the importance of music teachers throughout the US.
Acoustics guitars, drums, pianos, stylish anachronism and inexact unisons — although practiced at least annually — rumbled and rocked the house; electronica, modern mixes and jazz were left out on purpose. The homages, and the concerts, were a mix of the popular and the nearly popular. It was a wise move.
The Grammys are an international event, which after several years of fine tuning — especially with the tremendous fall of music sales in the last few years — is a perfect platform to sell music; it is after all music’s biggest recurring platform to boost business.
The show, with returning host LL Cool J, mixed the Internet — he infrequently responded to tweets and clearly talked about hashtags (the trending twitter labels) — with what can be considered a long music-playlist, with live performances by big-name stars. The formula, like last year, paid off in spades. About 11 award presentations were sandwiched within 20 music segments, while the majority of the categories were awarded before the show in pre-telecast sessions.
In order of acceptance, the first award of the night for Best Pop Solo Performance went to Adele for Set Fire to the Rain; the
singer, also nominated at the Oscars for her 007 song, Skyfall, is the first woman to win the award two years in a row since Barbra Streisand in the mid-60s.
Country Solo Performance went to Carrie Underwood for Blown Away. The song, a powerful soul-touching number, which she also performed later in the evening, was one of the night’s most imaginative presentations (as she sang, a spectacular show of lights, in shapes, colours and video, were projected on her gown with pinpoint precision).
“I don’t know what I was thinking writing the chorus for this song,” said Nate Ruess, the lead of the group Fun., “if this (broadcast) is in HD, then everyone can see our faces, and we are not very young.” The group, who had won the Song of the Year for the single, We Are Young, confessed that they had been in the music biz, struggling and touring, since the last 12 years.
In contradiction to their early statement, as the broadcast went on, Fun. ended up winning the title of Best New Artist as well.
Urban Contemporary Album went to Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. Ocean would also go on to win in the category of Best Rap Collaboration for No Church in the Wild, with Jay-Z, Kanye West and The-Dream.
Rock Performance was awarded to The Black Keys for Lonely Boy; the group had also won Best Rock Album before the show for El Camino.
Then, Kelly Clarkson won Pop Vocal Album for her hit, Stronger, beating out fellow nominees which included Maroon 5 and
Fun. Clarkson, her hair blonde and physically slightly plump, said “I get nervous,” and rambled up a small story about getting stuck to Miranda Lambert on her way up to the stage.
Best Country Album was won by Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged, while much later, Record of the Year was awarded to Somebody that I Used to Know by Gotye Featuring Kimbra — the award was presented by Prince, who looked younger if more than a little
plastic, when he walked onstage.
The last major award of the night, the coveted Best Album of the Year, was finally awarded to the British folk-rock group Mumford & Sons for Babel. The group, by now, had only been on stage for performances. “We figured we weren’t going to win anything because the Black Keys have been sweeping up all day, and deservedly so,” said Marcus Mumford, within his brief thank you moment on stage.
Apart from Carrie Underwood’s performance of Blown Up, the night jumbled between artistic and flamboyant.
Jazz had a brief show with Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and Stanley Clarke who played a percussion-less rendering of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five.
A vocally disarrayed performance by Frank Ocean on Forrest Gump was almost salvaged by a technically savvy production, which mixed front, side and rear projections of Ocean running on a highway while he partly appeared live on top of a podium.
One of the night’s top moments was a collaborative tribute to Bob Marley from Bruno Mars, Sting, Rihanna and three of Marley’s children: Damian, Stephen and Ziggy Marley. The unit shared a medley of Message in a Bottle, Locked Out of Heaven and Could You be Loved.
A little later, there was a Bruno Mars-like moment all over again from last year, when a tuxedoed Justin Timberlake performed his new single, Suit and Tie (with Jay-Z’s cameo verse), in a world premiere moment. The song, which was set to ’40s theme and partly telecast in black and white (until the following song Pusher Love Girl), is also Timberlake’s return to music after a four-year concentration in acting — which he was getting rather good at. As Timberlake danced with precision and sang in his classy falsetto, one could almost feel the naturalness of his transition into a classic music icon.
The night’s final big moment came when LL Cool J left his (aptly performed) hosting chores and went Whaddup — that’s “what’s up” to the non-rappers out there — a bangin’ rap number designed to get the audience moving until next year.