Story by Sara Snoddy and Jordan Trice
Was it just us, or was Monday night’s Grammy Awards a little off?
Whether it was the frequent technical glitches — the sound guy might want to steer clear of Adele fans — or the awkwardly arduous tributes to music legends, something about this Grammy’s year just didn’t sound right. Maybe it can’t all be blamed on the theme of the night, after all, much of the performances were spent honoring deceased artists, but it did seem as if the show was trying too hard.
From Rihanna bowing out of her performance to the lack of a Nina Simone tribute performance — because everyone else got one — the night had a series of setbacks, which ended with Pitbull’s same old song and raunchy dance routine. The Latino crooner capped the night with his “El Taxi,” which featured a surprise appearance from Sofia Vergara, who proceeded to just dance awkwardly until past the end of the song. And then of course, he debuted his new single with Travis Barker, Joe Perry and Robin Thicke, “Bad Man,” which really should have been called “One Man,” since Pitbull sort of made it all about him.
If you missed Monday night’s highest honors in the recording industry, here are the highs and lows — and everything in between — of the 58th Grammy Awards:
So-so: T-Swift opens with “Out of the Woods”
Already a winner that night for Best Pop Vocal Album (“1989”) and Best Music Video (the Kendrick Lamar-collab “Bad Blood”), Swift took to the Grammy’s stage for the sixth time and opened the show with “Out of the Woods,” a track that she had never performed on live TV. Donning a dark, glittery bodysuit and setting off a “glitter bomb” over the audience, Swift looked like she was having the time of her life after becoming the first person to ever win both Best Country Album and and Best Pop Vocal Album, but we still can’t ignore how pitchy her voice was. Host LL Cool J followed up her electric performance with this sentiment: “With all that divides us today, our love of music binds us together.” Unfortunately for T-Swift, not everyone was united on their love of her performance. While the viewers adored her, some in the audience were not too pleased about the glitter — well, at least Adele had been singing along beforehand, so she enjoyed some of it.
Low: Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt don’t make our hearts beat
It’s hard to imagine either of these giving a bad performance, and maybe that doesn’t describe it very well. Lifeless is a much better word. Underwood has consistently been a snooze-fest on the red carpet (to be fair, no one really hit it out of the park), but her “Heartbeat” duet with Sam Hunt was just not a match made in heaven. Fans took to social media to decry their union, saying that Hunt’s voice was not strong enough for Underwood and caused her to try too hard. Her usual inability to connect with song partners on stage probably didn’t help either; we didn’t miss how determined Hunt was to retain eye contact with her.
High: Kendrick Lamar gives a charged performance
Grammy-nominees Little Big Town’s phenomenal performance of “Girl Crush” and Tori Kelly and James Bay’s chilling rendition of Bay’s “Let It Go” were great segways into one of the most interesting parts of the night. Kendrick Lamar had already set a new record for being the rapper with the most nominations in a single night, having 11, yes 11, nominations, and he took home five Grammys, including Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly and Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for his single “Alright”. But then Lamar gave a chilling performance that was “pure poetry,” about stereotypical depictions on minorities and how, as time passes, everything will be alright. The performance was so intense that the stage caught on fire. Literally.
So-so: Ariana’s blunder and The Weeknd’s struggle
And then, because someone thought it would be a good idea, fallen-darling Ariana Grande wobbled up to the stage and introduced The Weeknd, since they collaborated on her “Love Me Harder.” But the pun about the artist having “earned” his nominations fell flat and was met with a couple of boos, which weren’t helped by her attempt at singing “Earned It” in acapella. And while The Weekend went on to give a phenomenal performance of “In the Night,” many were displeased that they only got a few lines of his much bigger and nominated hit, “Can’t Feel My Face.”
High: Duets from Andra Day and Ellie Goulding, and Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix
In a mash-up of “Rise Up” and “Love Me Like You Do,” Grammy-nominees Day and Goulding proceeded to give the first breakout performance of the night with their angelic voices, although Goulding was a little out-shined by her partner. And then there Stevie Wonder’s tribute to the late Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire. Stevie was accompanied by acapella group Pentatonix in performing a powerful vocal and beatbox version of “That’s the Way of the World” by Earth, Wind, and Fire. They had the audience crying before making them bust a gut, with Wonder joking that he was the only one able to read the winner card because it was in Braille, before movingly stating that there should be better access for people with disabilities. Of course, the love he showed for Ed Sheeran was a highlight of the night, when the soul-singer presented Sheeran and Amy Wadge with the award for Song of the Year, which T-Swift was more excited about then him.
Low: Bieber flails, Adele flops and Trainor cries
While his mustache threatened to steal the show, the Biebs began his performance of “Love Yourself” in acoustic before smashing his guitar and joining Skrillex and Diplo on the main stage for a ‘hard rock’ version of “Where Are Ü Now.” We’re having a hard time forgiving him for his flailing dance moves, but he probably was happy after winning Best Dance Album for Purpose. To make it worse, one of the most highly-anticipated performances of the night, Adele’s big return to the Grammy’s stage, was marred by technical difficulties, and the songstress was a bit pitchy. We’ll never be able to get her wide-eyed fearful look out of our minds. Worst gifable moment ever. In contrast, one of the best gifable moments came when Meghan Trainor won Best New Artist, the only Grammy you can’t win twice. She adorably blubbered her way through a speech while her dad cried along with her in the audience. Better luck next year, Tori Kelly.
So-so: Lionel Richie and the Eagles tribute was a bit awkward
While there’s nothing wrong with a tribute to the late Glenn Frey, Jackson Browne leading the Eagles performance of his original hit “Take it Easy,” which is more associated with Frey than Browne, was a bit more uncomfortable than it was poignant. The band members stern faces belie the pain of losing a friend, and it may have been too soon. In contrast, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Tyrese Gibson, Luke Bryant and Meghan Trainor (random much) joined forces to sing a medley of Richie’s songs after the legend was named MusiCares Person of the Year. While Lovato slayed her rendition of “Hello,” the rest of the performances were a bit lukewarm, and toward the end all performers including Richie, who had joined them on stage, were left just swaying awkwardly arm in arm.
High: Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt salute B.B. King
He’d already won the Grammy for Best Solo Country Performance for his song “Traveller” when Chris Stapleton accepted another Grammy for Best Country Album (Traveller). As a part of a tribute to the late great B.B.King, the bluegrass musician teamed up with guitarist-actor Gary Clark Jr. and 10-time Grammy award-winner Bonnie Raitt. Their six-string salute of “The Thrill is Gone” was exactly what the other tributes lacked. They traded vocals and solos over an aching rendition before each singing the last verse, bringing the blues song to an mournful close.
So-so: Lady Gaga’s David Bowie
When Gaga stepped out on the red carpet as Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” we thought we were in for the tribute of a lifetime, and what better person to have perform then an artist who has reinvented herself so many times and been inspired by Bowie’s legacy? When she took to the stage, she took us on a journey that spanned each decade of his illustrious career, featuring 10 of some of his most famous recordings. Gaga also set a great theme, using lights and technology and changing into various costumes like the ones Bowie was known for, giving us a dynamic and energetic performance. But some were less then pleased, possibly including David Bowie’s own son, comparing her performance to that of a seven minute acid trip rather than a meaningful tribute.
High: Alabama ‘Shakes’ things up while Johnny Depp plays a rockstar
When Foo Fighters David Grohl announced that Johnny Depp would perform at the Staples center for the Grammys along with Joe Perry and Alice Cooper there was a collective, “Huh?” As it turns out, not only is he playing music with his band Hollywood Vampires, which includes Cooper and Perry, but this was their TV debut. Lucky us. Actually, they weren’t that bad performing “As Bad as I Am” and “Ace of Spades” as a tribute — yes, another one — to Motörhead frontman, Lemmy Kilmister. To add more rock-and-roll to the night, Alabama Shakes snagged the awards for Best Rock Song and Rock Performance with “Don’t Wanna Fight,” which they also performed.
Low: T-Swift and Bruno Mars win biggest honors
So a lot of people are talking about that speech that Taylor Swift gave when she accepted the Grammy for Album of the Year for her fifth studio album 1989, only the second woman to do so. But many felt the award was underserved, with her competitors producing albums that were ‘more’ significant in the music industry. Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly, also up for that award, has been hailed for the political and intellectual standpoint it makes on current issues, while former country star gets criticism for writing slews of breakup songs. But finally, after three-and-a-half hours, the final Grammy of the night was passed out. It may come as a surprise to some, what with “Uptown Funk” being over a year old now, but the single that just missed out on last years Grammys came back around to scoop up the award for Record of the Year, presented by a wedding-dress clad Queen Bey.
Follow Sara Snoddy on Twitter at @Sara_Snoddy.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email firstname.lastname@example.org.