The last several years have seen me avoiding the Grammys for some pretentious reason. I guess I thought it sounded cool to talk about how I was above paying attention to an awards show that regarded Katy Perry and Bruno Mars over my beloved indie acts. It occurred to me this year, though, that in order to work toward my goal of becoming ‘that guy who knows music,’ I probably should just watch the Grammys along with all the real music critics out there. Ultimately, it turned out to be a pretty good decision. The Grammys are ridiculous on a number of different levels, but all that ridiculousness makes for a pretty entertaining three hours of television. That being said, there were still plenty of things to complain about. Here are my own personal pros and cons of the night:
-Bon Iver wins Best New Artist, Best Alternative Album. Is Justin Vernon actually a new artist? No. His second record came out this year. Was it the best record of the year? No. It was somewhere in the top fifteen or so. The Grammys have an odd definition of what constitutes a ‘new artist,’ and it’s easy to decry them for making an extremely safe choice in handing off Best Alternative Album to a quiet and folksy indie record. These things being said, I still enjoy Bon Iver and think Justin Vernon seems like a genuinely decent guy, so good for him. His characteristically humble and awkward acceptance was one of the better speeches of the evening.
-Surprisingly, The Beach Boys. I say ‘surprisingly’ because the addition of Maroon 5 and generic indie poster-boys Foster the People to the on-stage reunion signified an impending trainwreck to me and everyone else I discussed it with. Thankfully though, a trainwreck it was not. The two supporting acts taking on Beach Boys classics (‘Surfer Girl’ and ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice?’) was certainly inessential, but far from terrible. When surviving members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks finally took the stage for ‘Good Vibrations,’ they actually sounded quite good, despite bearing just the slightest resemblance to zombies. Energetic stage presence will not be a virtue of their impending 50th anniversary tour.
-The amiable Dave Grohl and his Slayer t-shirt appearing roughly every twenty minutes. I’ve admittedly not listened to a whole lot of Foo Fighters, but Grohl has always seemed like one of the cooler and more down-to-earth rock stars out there at the moment. That awkward collaboration thing involving Deadmau5 and David Guetta was pretty ill-advised, but otherwise I took no issue with the ubiquity of Foo Fighters throughout the night. And it’s pretty damn cool that they won a Best Rock Album Grammy for a record they recorded in a garage.
-Paul McCartney. There’s not a whole lot that needs to be said about this. Sir Paul remains vocally and musically gifted. And the show-closing jam on Abbey Road‘s side b song suite was a definite highlight of the evening.
-Speaking of ubiquity: Chris Brown. Fuck Chris Brown. The internet has already driven this point into the ground, but it bears repeating that Chris Brown is not a good guy. He’s an abuser and otherwise pretty awful person. Things he is not include talented, interesting or important in any way. Why, then, did the Grammys subject us to multiple Chris Brown appearances last night? We will likely never know.
-A distinct lack of Kanye. While the bad-crazy of Chris Brown ran rampant throughout the show, the good-crazy of Mr. West was absent despite his being nominated for (and winning) several awards. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy being denied even a nomination for album of the year was some complete bullshit, so perhaps he chose not to show up as some form of silent protest. Or he just had somewhere more important to be. I’m happy in assuming that it’s the former.
-The less said about the Deadmau5/David Guetta/Foo Fighters/Lil Wayne/Chris Brown collaboration incident, the better. Lil Wayne’s enduring popularity continues to astound and confuse me. I listened to a good half of Tha Carter IV last year, and yes, it was that bad.
-Nicki Minaj’s part-film, part-performance art, part-musical event drew the biggest WTF of the evening, by far. I think there was an exorcism happening at one point. There was definitely a priest. And a good deal of fire. I can’t say that I understood much of this, or that I will ever want to hear that song again, but I commend Nicki on pulling off something so thoroughly bizarre on network television.
So yeah. I’ve left plenty of things out, but it wasn’t all worth documenting. I still don’t think people should take the Grammys half as seriously as they do, but watching them proved to be pretty worthwhile in at least a few ways this year.