You’d think a Grammys saddled with old-timers, expected wins, and repeat performances (Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, apparent phoenix Chris Brown, and Bruce Springsteen all took the stage twice) would make for a languid viewing experience, but get this: The 2012 Grammys was one of the slickest and most entertaining award ceremonies I’ve seen in the past… three years? At least two, anyway.
It was pleasurable and seemingly fast, even with the bewildering shock of Whitney Houston‘s death still in the air and without Lady Gaga‘s magnificent ovoid entrance of 2011. We found fun in a truly hopeless place. And a dubious new hairdo for Rihanna too, to boot! Everyone wins.
I hate gushing snarklessly about an organization as execrably out-of-touch as the Grammys, but I can’t help that the performances were palatable. Bruce Springsteen isn’t quite the shuffling troubadour of Asbury Park anymore, but he was a perfect opening act: With the E Street Band in tow (sans his beloved saxophonist, the late Clarence Clemons), Bruce emanated a fighting spirit and awesome glow on his single “We Take Care of Our Own.” Also: The man is still hot and a wearer of fine jeans. Respect. Host LL Cool J is notably hotter, but he was placed in the not-hot position of following Bruce and addressing High Holy Empress Whitney’s death at the top of the show. Oh, yikes. A prayer ensued, but then the hotness resumed. We live, see.
Bruno Mars and his hip-as-hell backing band were decked in gold blazers and bow ties, and they jived on a big golden stage. It was the fourth or fifth best Chips Ahoy commercial I’ve ever seen. Bruno in his silly pompadour looked like a cross between George Chakiris and Harry Belafonte, but womanly if that makes sense. The spectacle was so crisp, I can almost forgive the lyrics to his song “Runaway Baby,” which go like this: “So many eager young bunnies / That I’d like to pursue / Now even now they eating out the palm of my hand /
There’s only one carrot and they all gotta share it.” Carrot punography. Hide the kids. From the Easter funny.
Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys followed up with a sweet tribute to Etta James in a rendition of “A Sunday Kind of Love.” Yay and good. Except here’s the difference between Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys: Bonnie is the first woman to have a guitar named for her, and Alicia named herself after piano keys. One of those is more awesome than the other. Discuss that at dinnertime with your kids. Raitt and Keys also presented the worthy Adele with a Pop Vocal Grammy. Fellow nominee Lady Gaga reacted stiffly while wearing a lovely facial net. She knows this isn’t her night. She dressed as a carryout bag.
Thank God for Kelly Clarkson‘s recent comeback; she slayed her duet with Jason Aldean (“Don’t You Wanna Stay”). I actually wanted her to whip out a pistol, shoot Jason with it, and start belting “Miss Independent” as cops dragged her away, but we can’t always get what we want. But we can admit that would’ve been a triumph.
Foo Fighters went fooed around in the next performance (and picked up a Grammy too), and then Rihanna and Chris Martin of Coldplay “duetted.” It was more like “competitive weeping.” The reunited Beach Boys could’ve sounded worse, but not older, and their collaborators Maroon 5 and Foster the People didn’t do much to up the energy. Yawn. Though I have to admit, the best seat in the house was Adam Levine‘s face.
I guess we’re supposed to love Chris Brown now, which is — you know — completely impossible. He picked up a Best R&B Album trophy and jigged on a bunch of psychedelically lit blocks. Paul McCartney, who looks like your peeping lady neighbor named Gertie now, went classy with a Diana Krall/Joe Walsh collaboration. Then, tucked before Taylor Swift‘s very respectable performance of “Mean,” came one of the night’s best moments: New duo The Civil Wars trilled a few bars of their fiddle-licious country single “Barton Hollow.” If Lady Antebellum cared to be interesting or dark, they might be The Civil Wars. But instead they have the word “antebellum” in their name, like idiots.
Flashing past Katy Perry‘s eyelash-batting spectacle, Adele‘s serviceable balladeer skills, and a sleepy Glen Campbell tribute featuring Blake Shelton, The Band Perry, and the rhinestone cowboy himself, Jennifer Hudson seized the emotional wallop of the “In Memoriam” reel (which featured Amy Winehouse, Phoebe Snow, and Ms. Houston), and sang the hell out of “I Will Always Love You.” She belted it note for note, slipping into neither self-indulgence nor unfeeling austerity. She was so perfect that she reignited the 24-hour marathon of Whitney hits on my iTunes. Currently playing: “My Name is Not Susan.” And by the way, my name is not Susan. You bad man.
Unfortunately, the night’s obvious lowpoint came near the climax: Nicki Minaj burdened us with the showing of a short, Exorcist-esque film that preceded her completely random, histrionic performance of “Roman Holiday,” a showcase for her alter ego Roman. Sasha Fierce would’ve thrown tripped Roman in gym class.
As for the actual awards, that precious, self-victimized Adele picked up the sacred trifecta: Record, Song, and Album of the Year. With six trophies altogether, she ties Beyonce for most awarded female performer in a single year. This is why the Grammys are worse than the Oscars, because guess how many Oscars Katharine Hepburn, the most awarded thespian of all time, has? Four. Adele picked up more statues than that in an hour. And maybe she’s not as brilliant as past winners (of less Grammys) like Carole King, Alanis Morissette, and Lauryn Hill. She has a gorgeous voice and gives a lovable speech, I admit. But making Grammy history with a sextet of wins no longer feels like much of a feat. It feels like an indication of the shabby competition.
Follow us through a photo journey of the night at hand!