'Music's Biggest Night' Not About the Awards
February 9, 2015

Every year I think this way. I might be a little old for the Grammy Awards. I mean I hardly ever know the musical guest on Saturday Night Live anymore, and I thought Sia was something that was said when the show is over. But then AC/DC opened the show, and rocked the Staples Center with two songs including Highway to Hell, so I figured I should stick around for the next three and a half hours.

I mean I'm not completely out of it when it comes to today's music. I'm still having a hard time figuring out why Pharrell Williams performed and was nominated for his song Happy when he won all kinds of awards for it last year, but at least I'm pop culture savvy enough to know that Usher isn't the guy you see when you can't find your seat, or that Ariana Grande isn't something you order at Starbucks.

If you like awards shows for the awards, this is not the show for you. I heard somewhere that there were something like 93 different categories, but only nine were given out during the primetime telecast. They gave out five early, went over an hour giving out just one, and then doled out the Big Three (Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year) toward the end. The rest of the night was filled with musical performances that ranged from Tony Bennett to Miranda Lambert to Kanye West.

More on the performers and performances in a minute, but of the nine gramophone statuettes given out, four of them went to a guy named Sam Smith. To me, that name makes me think of NBA basketball. There's the former San Antonio Spurs broadcaster, but also the well-known sportswriter and columnist (different guy) who wrote The Jordan Rules. This Sam Smith, though, is a British singer-songwriter who co-wrote and performed Stay With Me—a song whose chorus sounds very much like Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down from 25 years ago. Stay With Me (Darkchild version)—and who knew you needed to be that specific—earned Smith Best New Artist, Best Pop Vocal Album, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year (I still don't know the difference, and I don't think the recording industry does either). Beck took Album of the Year and Best Rock Album, Miranda Lambert won Best Country Album, Pharrell and his hat took Best Pop Solo Performance, and Beyonce and Jay-Z won Best R-and-B Performance.

The Grammy people figure that people want songs instead of speeches and theatrics instead of thank yous, so they loaded the show with 23 performances. In one of the early duets, I know people half my age were wondering who the old guy was with Jessie J, while I was wondering about the attractive singer with Tom Jones. You had Miranda Lambert, Kanye West, Madonna, Katy Perry, and Brandy Clark, just to name a few. Adam Levine performed with Gwen Stefani, a guy named Hozier teamed up with Annie Lennox, and Smith did his hit song with Mary J. Blige. Bennett did Dancing Cheek to Cheek with Lady Gaga, and Usher introduced Stevie Wonder, who even surprised with a few bars on his harmonica. Rhianna, Paul McCartney and Kanye all collaborated on one song, with Rhianna doing most of the vocals. McCartney was basically just a background singer and guitar player, but it was all good.

My favorite moment of the night was the performance by Jeff Lynne. Not because his name is similar to mine, but because he brought back ELO. Not only was it my favorite, but it looked like it was McCartney's, too. During Medieval Woman, the camera caught Sir Paul standing and singing while everyone near him and behind him were seated. He seemed embarrassed and sat down, but I don't think that was necessary. Just prior to Lynne, Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud with Herbie Hancock and John Mayer was quite entertaining, and a little earlier, Kanye West's solo performance of Only One was quite moving, even though I don't really like the guy.

West, who for Grammy watchers is most known for crashing Taylor Swift's speech in 2009, acted like he was going to do it again this year to Beck, but was just messing around. One of the worst moments came when Miley Cyrus introduced “our bitch” Madonna, but we know she meant that in a loving way.

I'm not a producer, but I would have closed the show on a more positive note. We got the 2015 version of the 'don't download songs' lecture (which is now 'we must find a way for artists to make more money'), followed by the death montage, then to honor the Civil Rights movement, Beyonce sang Take My Hand Precious Lord, then John Legend and Common ended the evening with a cross between a spiritual and rap called Glory. It was excellent and moving, but I don't think I would have sent the people home on such a downer.I guess I'll watch again next year. I may be another year older, but so will everybody else.

Grammy P.S.:I'm apparently not the only one who thinks Sam Smith's Stay With Me (Darkchild version or otherwise) sounds like Tom Petty. Petty was awarded royalties in an out of court settlement. Petty actually co-wrote Won't Back Down with Lynne in 1989...Prince is getting a lot of publicity for comparing albums to black lives, saying both matter...If you didn't watch the CBS telecast, you have something in common with millions. The ratings for the show won the night, but were the lowest in six years. Also, Taylor Swift didn't win anything.

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