Not your grandma's Grammys

Strong production values, stellar performances make for unexpectedly awesome awards ceremony


I have learned time and time again to never expect much from an awards show. This rings especially true for the Grammys, and I have reached the conclusion that their only redeeming quality is the occasionally spectacular performance by a well-seasoned or breakthrough pop artist. That being said, this year’s show wasn’t too shabby by my standards. It was clear we were in for an engaging night from the start when Taylor Swift kicked things off with her circus-style rendition of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Swift’s radio hit was even augmented with a brag, “I’m sorry I’m busy opening up the Grammys” inserted into the spoken-word part of the song, sending the crowd into applause.

LL Cool J, the show’s host, occasionally sparked some laughter, especially with his mock tweet suggestions, but his schtick was generally cheesy. Despite the emcee’s unimpressive interludes, the broadcast was still carried strongly by its performances. Following Swift’s inspired intro, we were treated to a sweet duet of “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran, with Elton John on the piano, followed by a great rendition of “Carry On” by Best New Artist winners fun., and then a solid performance of “Adorn” by newcomer Miguel, featuring Wiz Kalifa.

One of the most anticipated moments of the broadcast was Justin Timberlake’s performance of “Suit and Tie,”, the lead single from of his upcoming album The 20/20 Experience. The stage coloring was changed to a plain black and white as Timberlake took the stage in an old-fashioned getup, setting up a “classic” JT act — great dancing, an appearance from Jay-Z and a rather generous amount of falsetto. He then transitioned into a previously unheard track, “Pusher Love Girl,” which sounded exactly what you’d think a Justin Timberlake song would sound like — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Alicia Keys and Maroon 5 took the stage next, singing a mashup of “Daylight” and “Girl On Fire,” which started out a bit rough, but was saved by Keys’ surprise drum performance. That was followed up by one of the better acts of the night, which unexpectedly came from the always unpredictable Rihanna, singing “Stay” with Mikky Ekko.

The show then transitioned into a tribute series — performances honoring a series of musical greats. The very talented Best Pop Vocal Album winner Kelly Clarkson started things off with a tribute to Patti Page and Carole King, followed by Bruno Mars, Sting and Rihanna paying homage to the great Bob Marley. These were both very entertaining, but the best tribute of the night was in honor of The Band where an unlikely collaboration of The Zac Brown Band, Elton John, Mumford and Sons, Mavis Staples and more performed “The Weight” to great applause from the audience.

As is done every year, the show also featured a tribute to the “late greats” of music — greats in the music industry who had recently passed. While this was touching at first, the show started to drag into a funeral as the memorial went on slightly too long.

Other notable performances came from Carrie Underwood, performing “Blown Away” and “Two Black Cadillacs” with an amazing voice, and Frank Ocean, performing “Forrest Gump,” in his inaugural Grammy appearance. For the finale, LL Cool J unfortunately came out to the stage for a few minutes of rap, but was not received well at all by viewers and marked a poor ending to a relatively good show.

The night’s big winners, who were overshadowed by the show’s star-studded performances, included Mumford and Son’s Babel for Album of the Year, Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” for Record of the Year, and fun.’s anthemic “We Are Young” for Song of the Year.

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