I’m not big on award shows. They are long and tedious, and I can catch all the highlights, including the all-important red carpet fashion shows, on the internet later. So I have no explanation for why I sat through most of this past Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast. Perhaps I felt like I needed to do penance for some past misdeed.
Actually, there was one item on the schedule that interested me: the show was to be closed with a performance by Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age playing together, with the added bonus of Dave Grohl on the drums. For a Foo freak rock devotee like me, this sounded like heaven on earth. But that doesn’t explain why I sat through the whole show. I guess it was like a train wreck. I simply couldn’t avert my eyes.
It started out okay. Beyonce came on stage in her slinky underwear and sang a song with her husband, Jay-Z. Everyone loved it, and why not? A beautiful woman in her unmentionables singing and dancing provocatively? What’s not to like? My only suggestion is that next time she not wear a thong. Every time she moved, I could see her reach back to free the wedgie, but then stop herself. You just can’t readjust a wedgie on live television, not even if you’re Beyonce.
Then, things got weird. Two guys wearing tuxedos and shiny motorcycle helmets kept winning awards. But they never took the helmets off. This was a duo called Daft Punk. The helmets are part of their act. They intentionally look like robots, and their spokespeople refer to them as the Robots, for example, “The Robots would like to thank their families and the Academy.” They have spokespeople, because they don’t speak.
Imagine if C3PO and a mime had twins, who then grew up to make music and collect Grammys. That’s Daft Punk. I read somewhere that they are French. I guess it’s like the old days on ‘SNL’ when the Coneheads would explain their strange behavior by saying “we’re from France.” I can’t say I get it, but hey, congrats on all those Grammys, Robots. May the force be with you!
And the weird just kept coming. The Robots were accompanied by a singer named Pharrell, who wore a red Adidas warm-up jacket, and a misshapen hat he appeared to have stolen from Smokey the Bear. The hat was such a hit that by the end of the evening, it had its own Twitter account.
Katy Perry showed up and sang a song while doing an interpretive dance number which may or may not have been a tribute to Joan of Arc. There were creepy gothic trees and dancing goat people, and a rapper in a tuxedo (I think he was Jay-Z’s stand-in for the opening number and just got lost backstage). At the end, Katy was symbolically burned at the stake.
During one of the show’s more exciting moments, a woman dropped out of the ceiling on a pair of acrobatic ropes and twirled around majestically. I thought maybe someone from Cirque du Soleil had wandered on set by mistake (like Jay Z’s stand-in), but it turned out to be pop artist Pink. Once she finished the ropes portion of the act and was back on the ground, she staged a mock-fight with a Chippendale’s dancer.
One of the low points of the evening involved the once fabulous band Chicago, who someone brought out of mothballs (YAY!), mixing it up with the gratuitously obnoxious Robin Thicke (BOO!) Note to Grammy producers: not all ideas are good ones. Like anything involving Robin Thicke.
Another awkward pairing? Country singer Miranda Lambert and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, performing an amateurish version of “When Will I Be Loved”, in tribute to the late Phil Everly. I got the distinct impression they took the stage without rehearsing the number beforehand. I’m not even sure that they had ever met one another before they started singing. It was painful to watch, even worse than watching Beyonce fighting her wedgie-grabbing urges.
And did I mention the 33 couples, some straight and some gay, who got married during the show? I’m not kidding. Queen Latifah officiated (she was sworn in as a temporary Commissioner for the State of California in order to make it all legal) and Madonna showed up at the end, wearing a hat that she had apparently stolen from Wild Bill Hickok. What can I say? It’s Madonna. She defies explanation.
Finally, after nearly four hours, the awards were all distributed and it was time for the finale. Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and various NIN and QOTSA members came onstage, with Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham in tow, because you can never have too many guitars. They started with Trent singing “Copy of A”, and then rolled on to Josh belting out “My God is the Sun.” It was excellent! And then the unthinkable happened.
The Powers That Be over at Grammy, Inc. decided that the show had run long enough, so midway through the performance, they ran an extremely important Delta Airlines commercial, and then pulled the plug. While Josh was still singing.
I was stunned. And outraged. And I was not alone. Rock music fans all over the globe took to social media outlets to express their displeasure. Trent Reznor his own self posted an angry tweet:
“Music’s biggest night…to be disrespected. A heartfelt FUCK YOU guys.”
And who can blame him? Pulling the plug during a performance, finale or not, was extremely disrespectful to the artists involved, and to the viewers, like me, who had waited all evening and sat through all the other insanity to see that performance. Of course the show was running long! That’s what happens on award shows. But when it’s been running for three hours and 45 minutes, is one more minute really going to matter?
There was speculation that Trent’s comments might come back to haunt him. As in “Bad Trent, bad, bad! No more Grammy nominations for you!” Like that should matter to him, or to his fans. I’ve never once bought an album because it won or lost a Grammy. I don’t care about that.
And even though many folks would disagree with me, my impression of this Grammy telecast was that music, overall, got short shrift. Music took a backseat to what amounted to Kabuki theater with some singing thrown in. Just a bunch of people showing off to some musical accompaniment. Why is all this necessary? Isn’t the music enough? Pink has a great voice. Why dilute that with an aerial show? The French Robots can create music – maybe not my particular genre of preference, but it’s some catchy, upbeat stuff. They can do that without the robot schtick.
My point is this: I just want to hear the music. You don’t have to dress it up with costumes, or laser shows, or dancing animals. Just play me something good.
And lest you think I’m just a negative Nancy, I’ll leave you with the most positive news from this year’s Grammys: Kim, Kanye, and the Bieb were all conspicuously absent.
See, it wasn’t all bad!