My random access memories from the 2014 Grammy Awards:
Silence is golden for Daft Punk, the reclusive, helmeted French electronic pop duo that swept its nominations, including Album of the Year over Taylor Swift and hip-hop spoilers Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. It helps when you have Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, singer/top producer Pharrell Williams and soft-rock relic Paul Williams to say your thank yous, with Paul noting he got sober only to get a call from robots. Nice live romp through Record of the Year “Get Lucky” with an added assist from Stevie Wonder — and the Daft Punk ‘bots in the control booth.
Macklemore and Lewis not only heisted Best New Artist and skunked the likes of Jay Z, Drake, Eminem and Kanye in their nominated rap categories, but delivered the night’s most stirring performance. In contrast to hip-hop’s past homophobia, “Same Love” saw a line of diverse couples married by Queen Latifah, though the performance didn’t need Madonna leaning on a cane in a cowboy suit to warble “Open Your Heart.” On a side note, it was also interesting how music began to cut off one of Macklemore’s acceptances just as he noted that they made their album without a record label. Not the kind of thing the music industry likes to hear.
Lorde was the night’s third main winner, taking two awards, including Song of the Year for her glorious “Royals,” which she starkly performed in white blouse and dark pants with minimalist keyboard/drums backing. And her podium moments broke her solemn gothiness by showing her age with shy, giddy awkwardness.
Was that a surreal slow-mo effect when Best Rock Performance winner (over Bowie, Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age, etc.!?) Imagine Dragons teamed with rapper Kendrick Lamar, or was it watching front-row Taylor Swift being the first to rise and dance? Yet that most ridiculous pairing turned into one of the powerful when Lamar surged into a lather and red splotches exploded onto their white suits. No wonder the Dragons’ label rushed out a “Radioactive” remix with Lamar.
Speaking of dancing, it was funny watching the Imagine Dragon guys digging on Merle Haggard singing about marijuana with fellow country outlaws Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (with the token Blake Sheldon) in “Okie from Muskogee.” Or watching Yoko Ono groove during a song by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. Or watching Sir Paul and Steven Tyler goofily move to “Get Lucky.” Extra crowd shots certainly worked better than playing YouTube covers during some nomination rundowns rather than the deserving artists’ own videos.
Speaking of Swift, she also redeemed herself a bit with piano ballad “All Too Well” (despite her head-banging hair antics), leaving the grandiose production shtick to Katy Perry, who flashed her “Maleficent” dark side on “Dark Horse.” Her music clearly paled next to the witchy production but at least she didn’t sing “Roar.”
If pop singers somehow get a pass for lip-syncing when they’re doing something as strenuous as dancing, I suppose it’s totally ok for Pink when she’s flipping, twirling and doing contortions like a trapeze artist and wannabe wrestler.
Besides Lorde, it was great to see worthy young talent like Kasey Musgraves (who even scooped Best Country Album away from Swift, Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean!) and Traditional R&B Performance winner Gary Clark Jr. Guitar firebrand Clark was mainly in his element trading hot licks with Keith Urban, who seemed to surprise Clark with a playful punch to the arm after their showdown.
I guess when Sir Paul and two-thirds of Nirvana can knock off a tune in a couple hours of studio jamming, it’s apparently good enough to beat not only Gary Clark Jr. and Muse but the Rolling Stones and Black Sabbath as well for Best Rock Song. “Cut Me Some Slack” – will we ever really remember it?
In a revisionist world, Ringo Starr could be the most endearing ex-Beatle, at least for that “Photograph” song, played with guys like Peter Frampton and Don Was, even if the guys from Black Sabbath couldn’t maintain straight faces/diction in introducing him. Likewise, poor Cyndi Lauper couldn’t read a teleprompter.
Congrats to Medford-bred drummer and Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington winning Best Jazz Instrumental Album, a first in that category for a woman.
Forget the speech cut-offs. The worse offense of the night came during the night’s closing hard-rock mashup when Queens of the Stone Age was crushing a handoff from Nine Inch Nails (oddly with Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham), only to be left in mid-song for long-shot credits and ads for sponsors and the network.
Maybe Jay Z, who performed with his steamy wife Beyonce, had the night in perspective when he raised his Best Rap/Sung Collaboration trophy and said to their baby girl Blue Ivy, “Daddy’s got a gold sippy cup for you.”
Here’s a full rundown of winners/nominees: http://www.grammy.com/nominees