(from Macklemore‘s Instagram)
It’s hard to believe in the sanctity of the Grammys when it’s possible to have, like, 17 of them. (Ahoy, Beyonce.) Katharine Hepburn didn’t have 17 Oscars. Hell, we’re on the fence about giving Meryl a fourth. But if you stick around long enough and maintain a baseline level of radio palatability, you’re likely to pick up a trophy every couple of years. Sheryl Crow has nine, you know what I mean?
But even if you’re a major skeptic, you couldn’t have hated too many of the chosen winners from the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night. I, for one, relished in Kathy Griffin‘s first win for Best Comedy Album. The woman is an unstoppable force of neurotic, popcult nerd flavor, and she remains as audacious now as she was when she outlasted Stephen Baldwin on Celebrity Mole: Hawaii. She is informed and cool. Love her. Didn’t so much love Justin Timberlake‘s Best Music Video win for “Suit & Tie.” I don’t believe Grammys should be awarded to glorified Armani Exchange commercials.
Otherwise, here were the highlights and lowlights (staggered randomly for your personal amusement) of a star-studded, even poignant Grammys.
Fosse Presents: All That Jay-Z (and Bey)
Beyonce — looking unreal in a black leotard and a strange, wet, bobbed haircut that reminded me more of vintage Bobcat Goldthwait than Diana Ross — swerved and bounced and gyrated and kept total control of the world’s Pepsi-addled attention during the night’s first performance. On “Drunk In Love,” she gave one lucky chair the Fosse-to-Flashdance treatment and bopped along aside Jay-Z once he came out and dropped a verse that concerned “breastices.” These two have the talent. The goods. The legend. Their song choice was oddly boring to me (and say what you will about her new disc’s overnight success, but Beyonce has never been a compelling album artist) but you can’t really nick a pair of supernovas. Their very presence is room-shattering. When Jay-Z later picked up a trophy for “Holy Grail,” he turned his statue on its side and called it a “sippy cup for Blue.” Slow clap for the cute prop comedy.
“Royal” Pangs (of Awesomeness)
This Lorde person. She’s 17 and and sneers hard with George Sand angst (or at least Judy Davis-as-George Sand angst), and she gave what I’d call the crispest vocal of the evening on “Royals,” which also took home Song of the Year honors. Lorde likes to twitch onstage in a trippy way, sort of like when Julia Stiles impressed the clubland divas with her “hardness” in Save the Last Dance. I dug it.
I do think the lyrics of “Royals” deserve a rewrite — Is it a profound poetic statement for a 17-year-old white woman to dismiss the excesses of hip-hop culture as if they’d apply to her world of ambition at all? — but it’s nice to watch a Grammys and be absolutely excited for a new artist’s future. Love hearing her speak and/or write. She is also intensely gorgeous, which I’m sure we all noted.
I felt the Earth move when Carole King and Sara Bareilles became musical soulmates in front of us.
God, Carole. An unspeakably fabulous music legend, not to mention underrated as an architect of rock ‘n roll. And Sara Bareilles, flawless vocalist. Did you see her tribute to Laura Nyro at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Perfect. Carole and Sara combined forces on Carole’s “Beautiful” and Sara’s “Brave” to make a logical, empowering medley. And so warm! Carole is the queen of warmth and a pretty damn good warbler for 72, y’all. You could see her pride in collaborating with such an inspired youngster, and it reminded me of how well she deferred to new-ish talents like Shania Twain and Mariah Carey during Divas Live ’98. The catchy “Brave” sounded perfectly classic when arranged alongside the Tapestry jam. This is why the Grammys are great, people.
Songs in the Key of Droid
Another winning collaboration: Daft Punk (in their robo-Lego heads; think VR Troopers if you’re a ’90s child), Nile Rodgers, Producer of the Year winner Pharrell Williams (in a strange-ass Smokey the Bear hat), and three-time Album of the Year winner Stevie Wonder. It’s what you wanted, even if you’re finally getting sick of “Get Lucky.” With Stevie and Nile in the picture, the dance track became immortal.
Queen Latifah had, like, a prayer of impressing us as a gay wedding officiator.
Let’s break down this whole spectacle: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who picked up a bunch of Grammys (four — a little much), sang their gay-approving, affecting hit “Same Love” with Mary Lambert. All three of those people did a very nice job, particularly Mary. Queen Latifah intruded at one point to announce that a slew of gay and straight couples would be marrying in the audience. She would also officiate the proceedings. If you know one thing about Queen Latifah in 2014, it is that she’s famously closeted and hostile about it. (“I don’t care if people think I’m gay or not. Assume what you want. You do it anyway,” she said in 2008.) For some reason this stalwart closet case who treats gayness like a dastardly family secret is the ringmaster of the Grammys’ gay explosion. Hmm. Then Madonna, dressed as Colonel Sanders’ thug niece, busted in with a few bars of “Open Your Heart” as the couples started to kiss — not on camera, mind you, but they kissed. Suddenly 33 couples were wed, and some of them were gay.
Related: Relive The Grammy Wedding! (VIDEO)
OK! I think that’s cute. I also think Queen Latifah is the most cynical entertainer alive if she thinks it somehow bolstered her reputation to stand near gay couples at the Grammys and read teleprompter feed about liking them. What is her message here? “I support openly gay couples but I have specific, intense, personal, and unknowable reasons for not acknowledging my own gayness in public. You wouldn’t understand.” Such positivity? She believes in equality but will stand in a room full of mostly straight superstars and their significant others and represent no gayness in front of them. Gay people get about 3-4 major pop cultural moments a year, I’d say. Now one of them is jaundiced by Queen Latifah’s scripted attempt at a gay cred rebound.
Next Page… But what about Madonna’s participation?