grammy post-mortem 2013

zac brown and mavis staples at the grammy awards’ tribute to levon helm. photo by larry busacca/getty images.

Host LL Cool J dubbed last night 3 ½ hour Grammy Awards ceremony as The Greatest Music Show on Earth. That’s a bit of a stretch, to be sure. While it was more of a streamlined Grammy-cast compared to years past with no dominate winner, the same highs, lows and infuriations prevailed. Let’s dig up a few in this years Grammy post mortem.+ LL Cool J – An articulate and involving host, but also a choice that underscored the dominance of CBS stars as presenters. Self promotion lives on at the Grammys.

+ Taylor Swift – The night’s first and by far most bloated performance set Swift’s latest hissy fit pop hit in an Alice in Wonderland setting. This was what was known back in the day as a bad trip.

+ Elton John/ Ed Sheeran – The first of many duet/collaborative performances and one of the few that worked. Sir Elton sounded a bit ragged, but the unadorned guitar/piano duet was refreshing unforced.

+ Adele – Best acceptance line of the night: “We work so hard to make it look so easy.”

+ Mumford and Sons – I try and I try and I try to get into these guys, but it doesn’t work. Good performance drive, nice instrumentation, but, ultimately, weak songs.

+ Justin Timberlake – A splashy art deco-decorated performance that reminded us that Timberlake is a genuinely gifted singer. Too bad his performance had nothing to with the Grammys at hand. His record won’t be eligible until next year.

+ Rhianna – Nice to see her in a torchier moment without the glitz and dance marathons. But what was up with Mikky Ekko singing alongside her looking like a longshoreman?  

+ The Black Keys, Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band – A technical mess with Dr. John lost in the mix. But the music still conjured some seriously cool ju-ju.

+ Bruno Mars, Sting, Rhianna, Ziggy and Damien Marley – A surprisingly spirited Bob Marley tribute that grew out of equally flattering Mars/Sting exchange. How nice when generations collide that can actually sing.

+ The Lumineers – No sale. Somehow this group discovered the lost, frightening plateau that links Arcade Fire and The New Christy Minstrels. Very scary.

+ Jack White – A two-song segment that shifted from Gothic hootenanny into over-the-top Led Zeppelin crunch. Jolly, discordant mischief.

+ Katy Perry – Best intro line of the night, when announcing Best New Artist: “I was never even nominated in this category and I have my own eyelash line.”

+ Fun – Rudimentary pop full of manufactured cheer wins Best New Artist over Frank Ocean and Alabama Shakes. Then they state in their acceptance speech, “I gotta go pee.” Nothing like a classy winner.

+ Carrie Underwood – Her performance was advertised as a “Grammy moment.” The big deal? Light images that projected off her dress. Well, she’s a shoe-in then for Best Performance by a Light Bulb.

+ Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Kenny Garrett – A wonderful, drummer-less version of Take Five that roped in Blue Rondo a la Turk as a coda for a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck. Then came the buzzkill – the immediate introduction of Ryan Seacrest.

+ All Star Tribute to Levon Helm – Elton John, Mavis Staples, T Bone Burnett, Mumford and Sons, Zac Brown and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard teamed up for The Band’s The Weight. Sister Mavis stole the show.

+ Babel – Mumford and Sons win Album of the Year over The Black Keys’ El Camino? Someone’s gonna pay for that.  

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