I. LOVE. THE GRAMMYS.
They are my national holiday. They are my birthday. They are my Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Fourth of July, and New Years. I love them. I know a lot of people don’t like them because they have a political stamina behind them, but so does everything else in this world so LET ME LIVE AND HAVE THIS MOMENT.
Why do I love the Grammy Awards so much? Because it’s a show that gathers music’s finest from across every genre in the world and puts them all in one big room, and everyone’s there to celebrate each other and the industry they’re a part of. The Grammys normally base their nominees and winners off of quality over quantity, too, which isn’t something that most awards shows do (even though indie acts rarely receive recognition, but that stems into an entirely separate argument that I’m not touching). Having said that, the show, as well as the winners, was pretty darn commercialized this year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it ostracizes the audience that prefers the indie sound over the mainstream one…which is also the audience that is probably reading this article. Oops.
A Play-By-Play Review
(For those that aren’t aware, there are about 100 annual categories for the Grammy Awards. Simply put, handing out 100 awards on television and maintaining literally anyone’s interest would be impossible to do, so they hold a pre-telecast every year before the ceremony, where the bulk of the awards are handed out.)
- Taylor Swift’s1989 won Pop Vocal Album and “Bad Blood” won Best Music Video (which I have such an issue with, but I won’t open that can of worms*), which all but set her up with at least one guaranteed win during the actual show, where 3 categories she was up for – Song of the Year, Record of the Year (both for “Blank Space”), and Album of the Year (1989).
- *Yes I will. The music video for “Bad Blood” was hyped up and built around huge celebrity appearances and female empowerment. It was being heralded as the biggest music video of 2015 before it was even released. Obviously expectations were set high, so when we got the admittedly very visual and aesthetically amazing, but plot-wise awful and weakly executed final product, I was annoyed. Swift is a smart businesswoman; that’s no secret. What was frustrating was the hype built around something so…basic. If you’re going to have all of these megawatt stars come in (Mariska Hargitay, Ellie Goulding, Selena Gomez, etc.), people expect them to be present. There were upwards of fifteen female celebrities included in this video, and they all received maybe five full seconds of screen time each – maybe less. Why couldn’t the video have been longer? Lady Gaga creates videos for 3-minute songs that last 10+ minutes. “Bad Blood” was described to be a video that shows the strength of women and how diverse and physically intimidating they can be in a world where the patriarchy continues to oppress them (note: I identify as a feminist). The final product, though, gave us a discombobulated collection of clips that included women training for battle with nun chucks and bazookas like they were about to fight in The Hunger Games, and them facing off against each other in two teams with fire and explosions and pyro and green screen magic and all that glorious good stuff that comes along with a multimillion dollar production budget for a pop star’s music video, all for a song that revolves around the shaming and takedown of a woman (Katy Perry), which completely negates what Swift’s public social stance on feminism bases itself on. I don’t think it deserved the Grammy, but I have no voice in this matter so what do I know anyways? I’m just a snob. Rant over.
-I actually have no other thoughts about the pre-telecast. My frustrations towards “Bad Blood” took up most of my time. I’d like to mention, though, that I really do like Taylor Swift, her music, and all that she’s done for other musicians and the industry. I respect her work and her showmanship, and I’m genuinely happy for her and her success. I just had an issue with the “Bad Blood” music video. Don’t call me a “hater,” don’t redirect me to “Shake It Off”. Save us both some time.
THE MAIN EVENT: LITTLE THOUGHT NUGGETS
- …and then Taylor Swift opened the show with “Out of the Woods”. I like this song. I liked this performance. It was moody and electric, and it was a great opener for an event as big as the Grammys. It was also a perfect way to help bookend the day: start the show with a Swift performance; end the show with an Album of the Year win for 1989. Oh, yeah: spoiler alert…? If you’re reading this for a full rundown of the show and wanted to know the winners in order, then you shouldn’t have done that because I just ruined everything for you. Your fault, not mine. Also, I’d totally provide a video for this performance, but we’re all aware of Swift & Co.’s policies on posting videos of anything, so I can’t find anything available. Oh, well.
- Kendrick Lamar was presented with the award for Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. I can’t think of anyone or anything more deserving than this win.
- Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt collaborated for a mashup of their two similar-sounding hits, “Heartbeat” (Underwood) and “Take Your Time” (Hunt). The mesh worked well, but what was really intense about this performance was the chemistry they had. Underwood is happily married and has a son, but the two were undeniably connective musically. Have I ever mentioned that I absolutely love Carrie Underwood and her artistry? Not sure if I’ve ever brought that up before. *beats the horse some more*
- Surprise of the Year for Craig Jaffe: Andra Day. I honestly had no clue who she was or what she sounded like prior to seeing her perform with Ellie Goulding, and I’m now infatuated with her. She was one of the best vocalists on the stage that evening, and her stage presence was confident, sultry, and empowering. I’m a new fan!
- Best Country Album was presented to Chris Stapleton for Traveller, and I was overcome with a multitude of feelings.
- OVERJOYED! It’s an incredible album and he’s an incredible artist.
- Slightly holier-than-thou, just because I’ve been raving to my friends and family about him for such an extended period of time, and they all continued to ask the same question in response: “Who?” Well, now they know, and they heard it from me first. *insert sunglasses emoji here*
- Upset, because now that he has 2 Grammys, his stock undoubtedly just went up and I may not ever get the chance to see him in as intimate of settings as I was able to before he hit it big.
-The Lionel Richie tribute was interesting. It included Tyrese Gibson, John Legend, Meghan Trainor, Luke Bryan, and Demi Lovato. I’m not really sure which otherworldly dimension we stepped into when this happened, because it was definitely bizarre when all of them were up there at once. Not that they’re bad artists (I own music by all 5 of them and respect them all very much!), but what an odd collection of artists. Lovato and Trainor run in the same circle, Legend has his sound, Tyrese has his, and Luke Bryan has his, as well. It was a very oddly-meshed tribute, but it was well-executed. Can we take a brief second to talk about Demi Lovato’s vocal prowess on “Hello”? Holy crap. I knew she could sing well, but that was one of the most impressive moments of the night, and by someone who’s yet to ever see her first Grammy nomination. Methinks that will change in the very near future. She’s been churning out some stunning live performances as of late.
- Song of the Year was awarded to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”, which should’ve come as a surprise to absolutely no one. Sure, my pick would’ve been the intricately penned “Girl Crush”, but I can’t scoff at “Thinking Out Loud” taking home the gold. It’s a genuinely good love song, which isn’t something you hear on Top 40 radio. It’s sweet and sticky and full of cliches that Sheeran and Amy Wadge (his cowriter on the song) somehow breathed new life into. I also love covering this song on guitar. Does this…make me a sap? Probably.
- James Bay and Tori Kelly are both absolute superstars. This year’s crop of Best New Artist nominees was incredibly strong. These two were both nominated, as well as Sam Hunt, Meghan Trainor, and Courtney Barnett. Their duet of Kelly’s “Hollow” and Bay’s “Let It Go” was ethereal. It consisted of 2 microphones, 2 guitars, and 2 amazing voices. Sometimes, that’s all it takes for a performance to shine.
- Kendrick Lamar delivered the performance of the night, and this isn’t even an opinion up for debate. His medley of “The Blacker the Berry”, “Alright”, and “Untitled 3” was strong, passionate, energetic, and honest. In the humblest of opinions, I think he’s the strongest rap artist in the game today. Yes, that includes Kanye West. Quote me.
- Alabama Shakes accepted the award for Best Rock Performance for “Don’t Wanna Fight”, which was an incredibly obvious win given their other nominations (the album that includes “Don’t Wanna Fight”, Sound & Color, was up for Album of the Year). It was well-deserved, too. “Don’t Wanna Fight”, along with the entire Sound & Color album, was very well-crafted and engineered tremendously. I love their artistry, and Brittany Howards is an unreal lead vocalist.
- Alrighty, Adele. Let’s cover this. What happened during this performance? What was that odd, awkward plucking noise coming from the background? Did she change the arrangement of “All I Ask” to include an out-of-tune acoustic guitar? What’s going on with the mic feed? Why did she get quiet all of a sudden? Someone undoubtedly got fired that night. To sum up the answer to all of these questions, as per Adele herself, the piano microphones fell into the piano. That’s what caused the technical difficulties and ended up tampering with what was projected to be the performance of the evening. Still, Adele was a professional about things, and she delivered the best performance she possibly could under such circumstances. To make up for the sound issues from this performance, she performed “All I Ask” on Ellen a day or two later, and it’s as magical as you’d expect a live piano ballad performance of Adele’s to be.
- Best New Artist was presented to Meghan Trainor, to the surprise of a ton of people, myself included. She was unabashedly the most commercially-successful nominee in this year’s crop of nominees, which is partly why I didn’t think she’d win. I also thought her chances were slimmer simply because her music isn’t of the same quality as some of the other nominees’, but that’s just my opinion. People apparently have a lot of beef with Trainor. Not to the extent of the public’s beef with Iggy Azalea, but it’s still relatively prominent, and I’ve never particularly understood it. (If someone wants to email me why this disliking for her exists, feel free! email@example.com) I don’t mind her. Do I think she was the best choice for this award? No. I probably would’ve given it to James Bay or Tori Kelly, but none of them were wrong choices by any means. And her acceptance speech was cute, so that was nice.
- Gary Clark, Jr., Chris Stapleton, and Bonnie Raitt delivered a soulful tribute to B.B. King. It was a standout because it highlighted three very different artists with distinct voices and huge talents. Raitt is a legend, and I’ll always appreciate her artistry. Clark is a quiet force; he’s not one people normally think of when making a list of “the most talented artists in the industry today,” but I hope he gets to that point where he’s common knowledge instead of a second thought. Stapleton? Anyone who’s read my column knows about my love for him, his voice, his music, and, basically, his existence.
- As the rest of the show teetered off after this, Album of the Year and Record of the Year sealed the important portions of the evening. Album went to Taylor Swift’s 1989 to nobody’s surprise. I get that people wanted other nominees to win (namely Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, a camp which I was also in, as well as Stapleton’s Traveller), but 1989 was too huge to ignore. Be prepared for 25 to win Album of the Year next year, too. I’m willing to make bets with everyone and anyone on that right now. Record of the Year went to “Uptown Funk!” and everyone in the world turned their television sets off because they didn’t want to hear that song anymore after it engulfing radio for the last year and a half, even though its presence has made it feel like it’s been a century.
- Overall, I loved the show this year. I just didn’t like the “Bad Blood” win for Best Music Video. Seriously. It’s made me very upset. I’m bummed. Ok I’m done.
CRAIG JAFFE | Bitter | KXSU Reporter