In my opinion, the Grammy Awards are always the best awards show of the season. While my first love is film, a night that celebrates music is always just more fun. The performances usually make or break the show and this year there was the extra challenge of dealing with the passing of a legend- Whitney Houston- on Grammy Eve. All eyes were on LL Cool J the first host in years and he surely delivered.
LL Cool J opened the show with a prayer for Whitney, referring to her as a ‘fallen sister’ but went on to remind the audience that Whitney loved the Grammy’s and she would want us to treat the Grammy’s for what it is- a time to remember and to celebrate. LL Cool J gave a nod to Adele (returning to the music scene after throat surgery) by remembering her big Grammy moment just last year. He then asked the audience if they were ready for the biggest night in music to begin!
The 54th Grammy Awards, held at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, opened with Bruce Springsteen who rocked the stage with “We Take Care of Our Own” fitting for the time while still pumping up the crowd. Next up on stage was a nominee who’s had arguably the biggest breakout year (just not bigger than Adele)- Bruno Mars performing “Runaway Baby”.
Then we slowed it down with a tribute to another fallen icon, Etta James, by Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt who performed her classic “Sunday Kind of Love”. Both Etta and Whitney were also remembered in the In Memoriam part of the program as was Amy Winehouse and all those lost throughout the past year. We quickly picked up the pace again with Chris Brown (who went on to win a Grammy for Best R & B Album) showing off his dance moves to on stage. Later in the evening, he took to the tents in the Nokia Plaza to perform for select fans alongside David Guetta who manned the turntables.
Then it started….the night of Adele. Adele brought home her first Grammy of the night winning Song of the Year and went on to win all six categories for which she had been nominated including Best Pop Solo Performance (“Someone Like You”), Best Pop Vocal Album (21), Record of the Year (“Someone Like You”), Album of the Year (21), and Best Short Form Music Video (“Rolling in the Deep”). Adele sang her hit “Rolling in the Deep” to a standing ovation and saved her tears for her final acceptance speech in wish she was visibly humbled. She also became the first female to say the word “snot” while wiping tears from her face and calling her great work the result of a normal “rubbish relationship”. Could we possibly love her any more?
Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean took to the stage to sing a duet of “Don’t You Wanna Stay”, and another great duet of the night worth mentioning was Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood’s rendition of “It Had to Be You”. Speaking of duets, Bennett went on to win Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Duets II.
I’ve always been a fan of Tony Bennett and for that matter many musicians that are of my parents and grandparents generation. Perhaps, that’s why I didn’t mind the slew of older performers at this year’s awards including: Paul McCartney performing his new love ballad “My Valentine” (as well as closing out the show); Glen Campbell- the original Rhinestone Cowboy- performing his music alongside Taylor Swift, The Band Perry, and Blake Shelton who introduced him; and The Beach Boys, whose remaining members reunited for the first time on stage after an opening number from Maroon 5 and Foster the People.
Other performances deserving a mention include an understated yet flawless Taylor Swift, who sang “Mean” to a standing ‘O’ and Katie Perry who unveiled her new song ‘F. U. Russell’ (just kidding), “Part of Me”. The song included lyrics like, “You can keep the diamond ring. In fact, you can keep everything, except for me”. A send-off to the unfortunate and public end of her recent marriage but a killer new song and pyrotechnic performance. Not to mention, she looked fabulous while rocking bright blue hair and you have to give the girl props for keeping mum about her divorce and then picking one of the most televised programs of the year to speak her mind through music. The Foo Fighters also rocked the stage as Dave Grohl sang “Walk” which went on to win Best Rock Song.
As for upsets, I was surprised to see Bon Iver win for both Best New Artist (I was rooting for The Band Perry) and Best Alternative Music Album (beating my choice Foster the People). That’s not to say I don’t like Bon Iver, I just wasn’t placing my best on them. In the country category, I wasn’t sure Lady Antebellum could take Taylor Swift for Best Country Album but their Own the Night did just that. Still, Swift took home Best Country Song for “Mean”.
While I hate to be mean, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that not all the performances of the evening were a hit. Perhaps the worst performance of the night was Nicki Minaj. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a huge fan of her distinct voice to begin with but I was especially horrified by her performance. She theatrically sang “Roman’s Revenge” and “Roman’s Holiday” accompanied by an exorcist-themed video clip and church confessional scene, complete with smashing stained glass windows and dancing that looked like a seizure. I prayed to God it would just end quickly.
Luckily, it was not the big performance to cap off the night. The show was saved by a closing song that featured Paul McCartney singing a blend of songs from Abbey Road (including “Golden Slumbers”, “Carry the Weight” and “The End”) alongside Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, and Joe Walsh (of The Eagles). The four frontmen jammed out and it was a fitting end to an amazing show.
But the performance that everyone will be talking about for weeks was the mid-show rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (originally a Dolly Parton song) sung by a stunning Jennifer Hudson. She sang beautifully and managed to keep her composure through what had to have been an emotionally difficult performance. There was not a dry eye in the house and I was certainly in tears at home. Whitney Houston was a performer of my generation. I grew up to her music through heart ache and good times. In fact, I remember playing this song specifically after my first break-up (like a sad scene from Bridget Jones’s Diary)! And I watched her fall in love with Kevin Costner over and over again in The Bodyguard. In fact, I wore the video out until it would no longer play in my VCR…the days before digital! She was the voice of my youth and she was taken before her time.
For me, this year’s Grammy’s truly delivered and LL Cool J set the tone from the beginning. It was a night to remember, to celebrate, and to cherish. For those no longer with us, Jennifer Hudson said it best, “We will always love you”.
For a full list of the winners, please visit The Grammy’s.