Justin Timberlake performs the Grammys
(All photos Getty)
There’s no sense complaining about this year’s Grammys, because the 2013 ceremony delivered everything you want in a mind-numbing awards brouhaha: unexpected winners (Adele in Pop Vocal Performance for a live recording — gasp!), a couple of stellar performances (specifically The Black Keys and Kelly Clarkson covering standards by Patti Page and our girl Carole King), a pint of top-shelf gayness (Elton John, NPH, and Frank Ocean in a performance that was both immediately emotional and oddly static) and a nice smattering of idiocy (Host LL Cool J is addicted to Twitter lingo! Hashtag Kangol!). The only thing I found distinctly lacking were the acceptance speeches, which were neither spontaneous nor scripted enough throughout Music’s Biggest And Most Pompous Night. Only Kelly Clarkson delivered on that front, as she shouted out to fellow performer Miguel, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but we have to sing together!” And then she accidentally said “Zach Braff” instead of “The Zac Brown Band” when she announced the winner of Best Country Album, so this was arguably the most adorkable night in Kelly’s career. You know she originated dork-cute-coolness. Take a quirky seat, Zooey.
Taylor Swift opened the night with an Alice in Wonderland-tinged performance of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” complete with freaks on tricycles, dudes in bunny costumes, and sluggish choreography that I’m calling a tribute to the hookah-smoking caterpillar. It was as if Ms. Swift were proclaiming, “I just tried marijuana for the first time, guys!” Cute enough, but then she made the mistake of dipping into a British accent during one key line, which was a clear reference to her breakup with One Direction’s Harry Styles. Look, I like Taylor Swift and consider her songwriting akin to P!nk’s older, lightly insightful work, but these ex-boyfriend shout-outs are totally lame. And disingenuous! What if Alanis Morissette punctuated every performance of “You Oughta Know” with a few bars of the Full House theme? Sure it’d be funny, but it’d also be deeply immature, right? The stunt cheapens the song. And by the way, Alanis was younger than Taylor when Jagged Little Pill came out. The obvious maturity gap has always weirded me out, even if 23-year-old Taylor makes enjoyable singles.
Taylor Swift opens the Grammys
Then came a few less notable performances, namely Elton John and singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran‘s duet of “The A Team,” fun.’s squawky performance of “Carry On,” and country stars Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley‘s duet of “Over You” and “Home.” Country music in 2013 is a sad, sad affair. It’s become a competition to see who can express the least individuality. There was nothing one-of-a-kind about the performers we saw, and that’s apparently what the country audience wants: a strict adherence to backwoods imagery and phony, home-cooked values. Bring me back the phenomenonal Dixie Chicks, who remain the only meaningful country phenomenon of the past 15 years, unless you count the jingoistic streak that Toby Keith sicked on everyone in ’03. Carrie Underwood can sing very well (as she did last night on her Grammy-winning “Blown Away”), but her songs may as well be 30 years old. Emerge from your aerie, Miss Natalie Maines. Pronto.
Justin Timberlake tried performing his unthinkably inspid new single “Suit and Tie.” Ugh. He is my anti-catnip. A GQ-sponsored farce of loverman poses and laughable “sensuality.” Worse, he read some teleprompter feed about the Grammy Foundation later in the evening, and he used his infuriating “Let me teach you about Black History Month” serious voice when doing it. No to him. No also to fun.’s “We are Young” snatching Song of the Year honors away from Carly Rae Jepsen, who — though not my favorite perpetrator of a cultural touchstone ever — certainly ruled 2012 with “Call Me Maybe.” It’s a little weird she went home with nothing and Gotye — whose song was freakishly enormous, I admit — went home with two trophies, including Best Alternative Album. Oh, God. You know what that means: He beat Bjork. He beat zero-time Grammy-winner Bjork, whose Biophilia only took home the Best Recording Packaging award, and Bjork doesn’t even get to claim that trophy as her own. Jesus, how is it that certain underwhelming “kooky” acts garner major Grammy love while Bjork, who basically rivals the Gershwins in terms of state-of-the-art musical invention (try me, I’m serious), can’t get a specially designed Alternative Nordic Sprite award?
From what I understand, LL Cool J was terribly annoying as the host throughout the evening, but I tuned him out the minute he referred to Taylor Swift as “T-Swizzle.” Moving on.