Obviously there were a bunch of actual winners at the 54th annualGrammy Awards and dozens of artists have shiny, new gramophone-shaped statuettes to prove it. However, between bold, superstar-affirming appearances and misguided performance concepts, the night as a whole was a big triumph - and a major fail - for only a select few. Check out the highs and lows of this year's show.
Months after getting her vocal chords fixed up at Massachusetts General Hospital, the songstress slayed the crowd with a straightforward version of "Rolling in the Deep" that proved her vocal might was intact. Oh, and she swept all of her categories, rolling home with six awards, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year.
The songstress inadvertently stole the show with her tear-jerking tribute to the late Whitney Houston. Belting an abbreviated but still stunning version of Houston's signature show-stopper, "I Will Always Love You," Hudson gave her musical idol a powerful tribute, elegant in its simplicity, that got the audience on its feet and reminded fans of the scope of the loss.
The Foo Fighters not only raked in the Grammy gold, taking home five awards, but they also took the stage three times throughout the night, rocking twice from the outdoor, Grammy cage thing where all the dance music artists performed, and helping to close the show with a rock-god, riff-packed finale alongside Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger. Frontman Dave Grohl even gave us a little controversy when he was cut off by that "wrap it up" awards show music after he suggested that actually playing instruments - versus, say, pressing a button marked "Auto-Tune" in a tricked-out studio - is what music is all about.
Actually, both the Recording Academy and country great Glen Campbell won by letting the singer, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, perform on the big stage. Teaming with newbies the Band Perry and hitmaker Blake Shelton, Campbell was able to engage in a tribute that honored his legacy and allowed him to do what he loves. It was a beautiful moment that demonstrates the ethos of Bruce Springsteen's show-opening song and the RIAA president Neil Portnow's mid-show speech: "We Take Care of Our Own."
The hip-hop starlet's performance checked off all the "We don't get it" boxes. The elaborate exorcism-themed performance, which she alluded to when she arrived on the red carpet with a fellow dressed as a clergyman, came off as overproduced. After Minaj "confessed" (screamed at, really) to the priest on stage, the screen cut to a way-too-long video of Minaj as her possessed alter ego Roman Zolanski, looking like she's about to chomp into a tube of lipstick. When the camera returned to the stage, Minaj debuted her new song "Roman's Holiday," rapping in restraints on the cathedral-themed set above dancers backing it up monk robes. Three minutes later, after a choir sang "O Come All Ye Faithful" and Minaj was hoisted into the air after her pretend mental breakdown, most of the audience just seemed thankful to have survived ... whatever that was.
Foster the People
These California lads have carved out a buzzed-about career with their plucky, sunny love songs, so having the trio contribute to a Beach Boys tribute makes a ton of sense. However, that logic goes out the window when the seemingly nervous lead singer has the stiff, bug-eyed stage presence of one of those animatronic children on the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland.
Another pop starlet who bites the "What was that?" dust. Like Minaj, Perry clearly wanted to break the mold with a game-changing performance, so she kicked things off with a decoy pop star lip-syncing to her hit "E.T." The real poptress then appeared in a giant, clear box with frizzy blue hair and some shiny latex getup that recalled a superhero who has been forced into stripping. Also like Minaj, she debuted a new song, "Part of Me," sprinting back and forth across the stage beneath sculptures of beefy male specimens as flames shot through the air. The fiery revenge track appears to rip apart her soon-to-be-ex husband, Russell Brand, but the performance made Perry look like the nut job former flame.
See more Grammy highlights here
Read more from the Boston Globe: "Big wins, big loss"
For anyone wondering where Chris Brown and Rihanna were - the pop soul stars were nominees and slated to perform separately- they both scratched their appearances earlier in the day due to a police investigation into an allegation of felony domestic battery against Brown.
It turns out that the Al Green/Justin Timberlake/Keith Urban/BoyzIIMen performance was a last minute fill-in, so judged in that regard it was pretty impressive how quickly they pulled it together.
-That if the woman who has won the most Grammys and the singer of one rock 'n roll's greatest bands to never win a Grammy team up, they will win awards.
-That if you are a dreadlocked rapper with a shiny grill you will win awards but not in the top category.
-That if you are Kid Rock, it doesn't matter if you made one of the biggest selling records of the year you will go home emptyhanded.
-That the era of the clean sweep may be over in our fragmented musical universe.
-That if you are a veteran black actor you will become friends with a younger, white musician.
-That if you are Stevie Wonder you can apparently make a deal whereby you consent to performing with the Jonas Brothers in exchange for closing the show solo style.
-That the great awards show acceptance speech, at least at the Grammys, is a lost art.
-That if you were the cute Beatle you still command awe and respect.
Final score on Grammy predictions:
Reed 3 of 4
Rodman 2 of 4
Who got robbed? What did you think of the performances? Join us for the Grammy chat tomorrow at 2 p.m.
Album of the Year - Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, "Raising Sand"
"I'm bewildered. In the old days we would've called this selling out, but I think it's a good way to spend a Sunday." - Robert Plant
Good for them, good for Rounder, good for good music.
If whoever programmed the performances wasn't tipped off, they had good instincts, having P&K hit the stage right before the big award.
But a fan? Really? Has Alison Krauss turned into Diana Ross suddenly? Love the sexy, black bustier/corset dress though. It seems to me the bright red and yellow lighting was all wrong for that medley of tunes, however, that it should've been more shrouded and backlit to play up the backwoods, gothic element to their sound.
To all the Led Zeppelin fans the world over muttering, "He threw over a reunion tour for this?" it's no substitute but give "Raising Sand" a chance.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand (2007)
Best Rap Album- "Tha Carter III," Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne apparently got the memo to keep things short and sweet as he thanks God, New Orleans, the posse of kids, relatives, and crew he has waved onstage, and "you." You didn't do anything to help you say? No worries, Lil Wayne thanks you anyway. That's just how he rolls.
If just one person is turned on to Allen Toussaint, Terence Blanchard, or the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, or is inspired to remember the people of New Orleans still need help, then sitting through the ho-hum Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke portion of that will have been worth it.
We lost a lot of good ones this year from across the board, and many before their time. Motown and soul music were hit particularly hard. This year the Academy foregoes the applause-o-meter route and goes right into a curiously muted Bo Diddley tribute featuring Buddy Guy, B.B. King, John Mayer, and Keith Urban. Lots of guitar face and soloing and, apparently, confusion between the players and the sound men over what order in which they're supposed to play. Is that Rickey Minor from the "American Idol" band on bass?
The show is nearly over and it's been fine, but it just doesn't feel like there's been that one transcendent/controversial/unexpected performance that everyone will be talking about tomorrow. Except maybe outrage over the bizarre Wonder-Jonas collab.
Yet another veteran artist who put out an artistically interesting record last year trotted out to sing one of his big hits, this time Neil Diamond and "Sweet Caroline." Why do these guys agree to this? Neil clearly appeals to the younger demo though as Jay-Z and Jason Mraz agree that it was off the chain.
The sole surviving member of the Four Tops "Duke" Fakir looks great and still moves with fluid grace during this snappy medley of songs like "Reach Out (I'll Be There)" and "Standing in the Shadows of Love." Smokey Robinson has also clearly found the fountain of youth (although he might've missed one of the choreography rehearsals). Ne-Yo and Jamie Foxx pay the proper respect. Hopefully, the three Tops who've gone on to that great gig in the sky- most recently the tremendous Levi Stubbs- were singing along. Macca loved it, as did Jordin Sparks.
Do you think since Morgan Freeman said he was good friends with Kenny Chesney, that Samuel L. Jackson decided to come out with his man love for Justin Timberlake?
Oops T.I. must've said a bad word in his duet with Justin Timberlake because the CBS censors dumped him for a few moments. A quick perusal of the lyrics of "Dead and Gone" prove that T.I. is actually doing a pretty impressive job of dropping all the N- and S- words that pepper this ode to his old life and those who were casualties of it. The mix is again something of a mess, too much guitar, not enough strings and the bucket brigade.
Now here was an inspired idea, Radiohead rocking "15 Steps" with the help of the USC Trojan marching band with Thom Yorke all wiggles and shakes and raspy moans. Good times. And given how many instruments were involved, the mix wasn't that bad. Those kids have an excellent story to tell tomorrow in Psych class.
Sugarland is becoming the go-to awards show team-up artists. (The duo did a great take on "Irreplaceable" with Beyonce on the 2007 American Music Awards). But after the Jay Mohr/LL Cool J tease I thought it would be more of a mash-up. One chorus does not a duet make. It was really just Sugarland playing their song and Adele singing hers with a brief, albeit lovely, assist from Jennifer Nettles. But since they both sounded great, I'm not complaining.
Best Male Pop Vocal-John Mayer, "Say"
Wow, I think the TV just blacked out because the gods can't believe that Mayer just beat out McCartney for an award. (Oh and the Michael McDonald Mayer thanked was his manager, not the former Doobie Brother.)
On a side note, it's nice that since Jack Black married into Charlie Haden's family the legendary, cross-genre musician is getting some more mainstream love.
Best Male Pop Vocal -- 2009 Grammy Awards
Look at Dave Grohl grin. Although it's irritating that this song is actually nominated for a Grammy tonight, Sir Paul still sounds scrappy.
Why is this in black and white? 'Cuz of the ill-fitting "Rat Pack" comparisons? The boys do look nice in tuxes but why do they get to look so classy and M.I.A. is dressed like a ladybug?
The band was so loud and overpowering I'm not sure that was the success they were hoping for, but the crowd in the Staples Center gave it a standing O, so maybe it played better in the room.
Good on Kate Beckinsale, looking smoking, for giving M.I.A. a hand.
Record of the Year-
Adele, "Chasing Pavements"
Coldplay, "Viva la Vida"
Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love"
M.I.A., "Paper Planes"
Plant & Krauss, "Please Read the Letter"
T Bone Burnett is a man of few words: "Good things happen out of nowhere." This album was one of them.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss - Raising Sand (2007)
It's good to see something survived the Zellweger-Chesney union, the friendship of the country superstar and Zellweger's "Nurse Betty" co-star Morgan Freeman.
Kenny goes low-key tonight with "Better as a Memory."
Best New Artist- Adele
If you haven't checked out this Brit songbird yet, put it on the to do list.
I wonder how chilly that hug was since Estelle complained to the Guardian newspaper about the promotion of white soul singers like Duffy and Adele last year. "I'm not mad at them, but I'm wondering - how the hell is there not a single black person in the press singing soul? Adele ain't soul. She sounds like she heard some Aretha records once, and she's got a deeper voice - that don't mean she's soul."
Oh and for anyone keeping score at home, my fellow pop music critic James Reed and I are now two for two in our Grammy predictions.
Adele - 19
Well aren't Kanye and Estelle a sparkly pair bouncing through "American Boy"? Fizzy, cross-continental fun. But is 'ye rocking a mullet?
Did Katy Perry wander in from a new Fruit of the Loom commercial shoot? And is there some odd subtext going on here equating a girl kissing a girl with being fruity?
Hopefully, this means we will never have to hear this song again. Unless it's ten years from now at a state fair.
CBS is trotting out all of its stars including Ferguson, so why not let the former musician, excuse me, drummer, host? He's gotten the only real laugh of the night: "Twenty years ago when I was a drummer in a punk rock band in Glasgow if you'd told me that someday I'd be onstage at the Grammys I would've said you were crazy. I would've also vomited on your shoes and stabbed you."
Best Rock Album - Coldplay, "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends"
"We're not, of course, the heaviest of rock bands as you may have noticed, but we're more a sort of limestone kind of rock, a little softer but just as charming," Chris Martin. (I wonder how Metallica's therapist will console them?)
Macca shout out meter: 3
Anyone else notice the response to the "Blink-182 is back" announcement was kind of tepid?
Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends
Wow, the Bonus Jonas has a new face. I wonder how they pitched this to Stevie? (He does have some young kids so they're probably loving this.)
Those Jonas boys certainly have a lot of energy though as they do "Burnin' Up" into "Superstition." Something about one of them yelling "show 'em what you got Stevie" is a little disturbing though.
Fresh off her Grammy win Jennifer Hudson returns for a classy and graceful version of "You Pulled Me Through," complete with gospel choir. Nobody knows the trouble that girl has seen and she did beautifully.
Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals-Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, "Rich Woman"
Expect to see a lot of these two tonight. "This song is such a spooky song, it's the heart of the kind of American underworld of rhythm and blues and shimmy," says Plant. We're not arguing.
Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, 2009 Grammy nominees
Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift teaming up for Swift's cautionary tale "Fifteen" is actually pretty sweet. Cyrus sounds good getting her twang on. Score one for the purity ring crowd.
After a 45 minute wait the night's first shot of real adrenaline comes from the Detroit rap-rocker on a medley of a righteous "Amen," "All Summer Long"- with a tip of the cap to the recently deceased Lynyrd Skynyrd keyboardist Billy Powell- and "Rock N Roll Jesus." While he may be no savior, the Kid is sometimes underrated when it comes to bringing the heat.
Song of the Year
"American Boy"- Estelle feat. Kanye West
"Chasing Pavements"- Adele
"I'm Yours"-Jason Mraz
"Love Song"- Sara Bareilles
Viva La Vida- Coldplay
Sir Paul is clearly going to get a lot of attention tonight. This time it's a shout out by Coldplay drummer Will Champion for the band's "blatant recycling" of the "Sgt. Pepper" outfits. I bet with each award they win a different member will offer the thanks.
Song of the Year, 2009 Grammy nominees
Best Country Duo/Group Performance with Vocals- Sugarland, "Stay"
How cute was Jennifer Nettles freaking out that Paul McCartney was in the house? The duo faced some formidable competition but that song really resonated with people. Good for them.
For Sugarland fans, a reminder that they'll be on the big Kenny Chesney Gillette Stadium bill August 15.
Best Country Performance By a Duo or Group With Vocals, 2009 Grammy nominees
How far has Underwood come from her "Idol" days? Remember when she used to stand like a statue with glazed eyes? Now there she is in her funky mini running around singing about benders with real fire in her eyes. And kudos to the rocking blonde guitar player. Although the back-up singers were drowning Underwood out at first it seems like the tech people are finally getting the sound together.
So that first part was, um, weird.
Chris Martin and Jay-Z may be homies but I'm not sure what that particular bit of soft rock was missing was a rhyme about dead rappers, Jesus, Judas, and Bobby Brown. But Brown's probably psyched that he got a shout out on the heels of Whitney's big moment.
On a side note is periwinkle officially a rock 'n roll color and why does he have a piece of carpet fringe attached to his jacket?
Okay the night's first big team-up: Boyz II Men, Keith Urban, Justin Timberlake, and Al Green on the Rev's timeless "Let's Stay Together." Wow, Al is killing it, especially that last long high note. He played Showcase Live in November and the whole show was that good. All the guests are fine but superfluous. It's too bad that they're only letting him sing an old one though, since he has a great new album "Lay it Down" out. (Which just lost the Best R&B Album category.) They could've thrown the man a new verse. Just saying.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss approve and so do we.
Best R&B Album - Jennifer Hudson
"I would like to thank my family in heaven and those that are here today." God bless her.
Miss Whitney looks good but she still sounds a little funky, no?
Jennifer Hudson - Jennifer Hudson
U2 kicks things off with its zippy new single. Do the cadences of the verses remind anyone else of "Pump it Up" by Elvis Costello? The boys sound good but those mondo pinwheeling graphics behind them are dizzying.
We'll be live-blogging the show tonight so join us, won't you? I will try and approve comments as quickly as possible, so feel free to share your thoughts, quips and complaints.
Who were you happy to see win? Who was overlooked? What kind of grill did Lil Wayne wear? Do the Grammys even matter? Come chat with us on Monday at 2 about all the moments sublime and ridiculous.
Each new day brings a new announcement about the line-up for the Grammy Awards. This year's ceremony, airing next Sunday Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. on CBS, is going to be jam-packed.
The list of performers includes: U2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Rihanna, Kid Rock, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Kenny Chesney, the Jonas Brothers, Katy Perry, Jennifer Hudson, and Carrie Underwood. Special pairings we already know about include Paul McCartney with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters on drums and Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, T.I., and Kanye West teaming up for "Swagga Like Us."
CBS will also air a pre-show special hosted by Katie Couric next Wednesday Feb. 4 at 9 p.m.
"Sound Effects" will once again be live-blogging the show so feel free to join us in enjoying the songs and the snark.
About Sound Effects
ContributorsSarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
James Reed is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.
Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.
Julian Benbow is a staff writer at the Boston Globe, covering sports and music.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.