I find most award shows similar to a line at the DMV: Boring, way too long, and nobody knows how to dress. However, the 2011 Grammys provided some adequate entertainment; here’s my quick review:
The show opened with a tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin; by the ultra-electric quintet of Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Florence Welch and Yolanda Adams. They were very impressive. (Though I must say while I find each of the five vocalists equally talented, Martina McBride and Florence Welch were overshadowed by the other ladies due to their more subtle singing styles versus the flamboyant nature of Aretha’s songs.) And by the end of the medley, everyone forgot about Aguilera’s Enrique Palazzo-esque improving her own version to the Star-Spangled banner. God Bless the Queen of Soul!
Lady Gaga performed her new single, “Born This Way”. She hatched out of a giant egg wearing a banana yellow, abs-and-thigh-revealing outfit complete with more eyeliner than Divine and a hat shaped just like the ones worn by those Vietnamese dudes who carry buckets. She had a group of 20 dancers wearing similar outfits doing outlandish, complicated, synchronized moves throughout the song. She even had a massive explosion of lights brighter than a meteoric shower falling from the Big Dipper. And all of this still didn’t hide the fact that “Born This Way” is a carbon copy of Madonna’s “Express Yourself”.*
Bruno Mars blew me away when he sung and played piano to two of his hits THEN jammed out on the drums to another song. He also happens to be young and good-looking. Gee, I wonder if he got laid that night?
Cee-Low did a duet with Gwyneth Paltrow to his song also known as “Forget You”. (You gotta love censorship in 2011; when I was a kid – you’d never hear a song called “Fuck You”, much less one that’s nominated for a Grammy!) They rocked it, and I loved the Muppet backup singers….but for some reason, Cee-Low was dressed as a multi-colored bird. He looked like Michael Clark Duncan stuck in an a giant Peacock outfit. My guess is he lost a bet with Lady Gaga.
Justin Bieber performed with Jaden Smith, an obvious PR move on daddy Will’s part to have his son follow in his footsteps. Though Jaden had some flashy moves and Will and Jada’s encouragement was touching, the self-indulgent nepotism was annoying. Usher then did “OMG”, culminating with a dance sequence with his boy Bieber. Though Usher is clearly the superior dancer, Bieber proved he belonged onstage with his idol. I credit the kid: Justin Bieber is one of the few young pop stars who doesn’t try the rebellious shock value or flash-over-substance image; and he doesn’t illicit the Jonas Brothers/Taylor Swift angelic persona. He just admirably lets his talent speak for itself. No wonder he didn’t win a Grammy.
Bob Dylan came out and played “Maggie’s Farm” with modern folk bands, Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers; which was kickass. However, each band first played one of their songs; they both totally rocked with contagious high-energy and sheer joy….but when Bob, who turns 70 this year, strolled out and barely grabbed his mic in time to sing the opening line (which was initially muted due to an audio screw-up); it became very evident that the young cats are much better live performers than their idol. But hey; Bob – whose avid drug usage famously made even John Lennon sober up and go home early – is lucky to be alive and a true legend. It’s an honor to watch him work, even if he’s unaware of what exactly he’s doing.
Mick Jagger did his first performance at the Grammys; and he proved that 67-year-legends can still get down like the youngsters. Mick was just as energetic and entertaining as ever with his tribute to Soloman Burke with his version of “Somebody to Love”, though he kept shoving guitar player Raphael Saadiq throughout the song. He received a standing ovation, though I think it was partially meant for Saadiq for not falling over.
I have mad respect for Barbara Streisand, but I found her performance to be beyond boring. Then again, I’ve never been into Liza Minnelli and don’t own a Cher album; so go figure….
The most electric performance was the medley of “Love the Way You Lie” and “I Need a Doctor”; which combined the talents of Rihanna, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Adam Levine from Maroon 5 and Skylar Grey. Everybody completely nailed their live performance. The only thing I would change is the lack of light on Ms. Skylar Grey; you couldn’t see her face. I’m sure that was purposely done for effect; but a vocalist of her ability deserves complete visual recognition by the public. And Eminem NEVER smiles, even win he wins a Grammy. He does need a doctor; he’s keeping it way too real.
The disappointment of the night: Lady Antebellum won 5 awards; including Record of the Year and Song of the Year; for “Need You Now”. Why is this disappointing? ‘Cause the song is a DIRECT RIP-OFF of “Eye in the Sky” by the Alan Parsons’ Project. Check it out:
Esperanza Spalding; or as most viewers call her, “The hot, skinny black chick who plays bass”; beat out Justin Bieber for Best New Artist. It’s cool that the Grammy members are honoring all types of musicians; but I think I speak on behalf of the public when I say, “Who the hell is she?” And Arcade Fire won the last award – Album of the Year, beating Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Eminem. Most people had no idea who they were – but their live performance included two drummers, violins, bullhorns and a dude swiftly riding a bike across the stage with a helmet-cam. Finally, originality can win a Grammy! At least that happened once in the 210-minute ceremony.
*That’s incorrect; I made a mistake. “Born This Way” is not completely a carbon copy of “Express Yourself”. It also rips off “Vogue”. My apologies.
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