Mash ups, train wrecks, tributes and triumphs – all of these and more make up The Musical Box’s annual Grammy post-mortem. We focused exclusively on the performers this year, as they, for better or worse, were infinitely more interesting than the winners.
+ Adele: A solemn, straightforward reading of “Hello.” Nicely compensates for the down-in-flames delivery of “All I Ask” from last year’s Grammys.
+ James Corden: “I’m in over my head.” His own introductory words as host. Agreed.
+ The Weeknd and Daft Punk: Introduced by Paris Jackson as “cosmic.” “Robotic” was more like it, although The Weeknd has the vocal pipes to wail above such formulaic pop.
+ Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood: Synth pop version of “The Fighter” that masqueraded as country music. A duet marriage made in a corporate board room.
+ Ed Sheeran: “Shape of You” offered an intriguing mix of loops and live performance, but the song itself was anemic.
+ Kelsea Ballerini and Lukas Graham: Squeaky clean pop duet mash-up of “7 Years” and “Peter Pan.” Oddly and innocently appealing.
+ Beyonce: Trippy, indulgent but quite empowering medley of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles.” A head scratching pop aria of sorts, introduced, no less, by her mom.
+ Bruno Mars: Ultra confident, exuberant, focused old school pop soul delivery of “That’s What I Like.”
+ Katy Perry: Debut of a new song, “Chained to the Rhythm.” So this is what’s it like to be inside your house when a tornado hits. Zero relevance to the ceremony at hand.
+ William Bell and Gary Clark, Jr.: A no-frills version of Bell’s blues classic “Born Under a Bad Sign.” A master class on soul essentials. Coolest two minutes of the night.
+ Meran Morris and Alicia Keys: Two perfectly capable but mismatched singers trying way too hard to shove soul solace into “Once.” Their wardrobe, by the way, was hideous.
+ Adele again: Even with the false start, an undeniably honest and moving tribute to George Michael through a turbulent, orchestral version of “Fast Love.”
+ Metallica and Lady Gaga: Well, at least “Moth Into Flame” lit a fire under an otherwise orderly evening and watching Gaga crowd surf was a hoot. Mostly, though, the Grammys just look silly the more they try to act dangerous.
+ Sturgill Simpson: Here’s your Grammy moment. Introduced by fellow Kentuckian Dwight Yoakam and bolstered by a choir and the Dap Kings horn section (making this a tribute to the late Sharon Jones, as well), Bluegrass born Simpson turned “All Around You” into a world class soul confessional.
+ A Tribe Called Quest: The message of cultural exclusion was loud and clear. Similarly, it was heartening to witness Quest’s resilient sense of purpose. Still, there was no denying how ragged and tentative the group sounded.
+ Morris Day and the Time: Yeah, Bruno Mars and the rest killed it. But the ballyhooed Prince tribute was ruled by the ageless move and groove “Purple Rain” contemporaries Day and Jerome pumped into Time hits “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.”
+ Chance the Rapper: Hip hop went to Church with help from Kelly Price and Kirk Franklin as Chance heartily sermonized through “How Great” and “All We Got.”
+ John Legend and Cynthia Erivo: An appropriately sparse duet reading of “God Only Knows,” which bookended the memoriam tribute.