by Julian Spivey
The 59th annual Grammy Awards took place on Sunday, Feb. 12 and frankly seemed to shock many with Adele taking home the three biggest honors of the night – Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year – over Beyoncé.
It maybe shouldn’t have been such a surprise considering the Grammy’s darling that Adele is, but Beyoncé’s Lemonade was hailed as such a major achievement in the history of music last year that it didn’t feel like anyone could ruin her night.
Here is a little recap of the 59th annual Grammy Awards:
Beyoncé performed “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles” on the Grammys as some sort of meditation on motherhood and people absolutely ate it up as they do with anything Beyoncé does, but I must tell you that I thought it was one of the worst performances of the night. Maybe I should have saved this for later? Oh well, if you’re still reading … I just prefer for my music award shows to be a little bit more about the music and this almost 10-minute performance came off as something more like performance art. I know that Lemonade was hailed as a “visual album” and this performance feeds into that, but it just didn’t do it for me. It really does bug me, as well, how everybody holds Beyoncé up as a savior of music. She just a pop singer. She may be a damn good one, but stop acting like she’s the second coming of Christ.
I’m a hardcore Sturgill Simpson fan, so I knew going into the show that his performance was likely going to be my favorite of the night and it turned out to be true with him performing “All Around You,” my second favorite song off of A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Even though I knew going in A Sailor’s Guide to Earth would be a long-shot to win Album of the Year I was still disappointed when Adele’s 25 was called as the winner. I really did think, though, that if an album could upset Beyoncé’s Lemonade it might be A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. I was thrilled that A Sailor’s Guide to Earth took home the Grammy for Best Country Album, but was livid that the award wasn’t telecast on the primetime broadcast, but given out prior to the ceremony. Simpson deserved the opportunity to receive this honor in front of millions watching at home and not broadcasting the biggest award in the country music genre was highly disrespectful to the genre and its fans.
The Grammy tributes on Sunday night ranged from perfect to adequate, but it was really what wasn’t done that irritated me. Bruno Mars and Morris Day and The Time paying tribute to Prince was excellent. Mars performed Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” dressed as the late, great artist from “Purple Rain” and it was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the entire night. Adele paid tribute to George Michael with a version of his song “Fastlove,” that started off with the artist stopping the song maybe 30 seconds to a minute into the performance, apologizing for not getting it right (though I’m not sure any of us really knew it) and began again. It was reminiscent of Adele’s rough Grammys performance from a few years ago, and I can’t help but wonder if she might have the Grammy yips or nerves going through her head because of it. What has me frankly pissed off at the Grammys this year is they didn’t do a tribute segment to Merle Haggard, who has influenced countless more artists in his genre than George Michael ever did. I feel like this omission was incredibly disrespectful to not only the legendary Haggard, but the entire genre of country music. It was made even more irritating by a multiple artist tribute medley to the Bee Gees because of the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Fever,” which CBS is airing a special for later this year – essentially this Grammys tribute was just a freaking commercial for that future event. The In Memoriam segment of the show was lovely with John Legend and Cynthia Erivo performing The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” my personal favorite of theirs. Though, it may have been best for the performance to not have been broken up with the In Memoriam video.
I understand that television networks want to stay on schedule, but when it comes to live award shows they really need to give it a rest. CBS and the producers of the Grammys were incredibly rude to multiple award winners on Sunday night, most notably “Hello” co-writer Greg Kurstin, who didn’t even get to make his acceptance speech after Adele made hers before being cut off. The “hurry up” music also played a few too many times during acceptance speeches, most notably twice for Chance the Rapper.
James Corden was really a no-brainer to host the Grammys, aired annually on CBS, as he hosts the network’s “Late, Late Show” and his music loving Carpool Karaoke sketch has become hugely popular. Corden’s Grammys opener was a mixed bag – the bit about the stage elevator not working and then falling down the stairs showed that the comedian is quite talented when it comes to physical comedy, but then his opening rap was kind of lame and unnecessary. Ultimate, as lovable as Corden is the Grammys don’t really need a host. Technically LL Cool J had been the show’s host of late, but he usually just said something quickly and let the show move along.
The Grammys love themselves some pop music and too often the procession of pop act after pop act (and I’m including “country” artists like Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerina in this discussion) can become too much. That’s why I loved three performances a little more than others on Sunday night – Sturgill Simpson’s Americana country-rock-gospel, William Bell and Gary Clark Jr.’s old school blues and A Tribe Called Quest’s politically charged hip hop. These performances were arguably the realest of the night and showed what real music is all about. The Grammys almost always become too much about flashy pop music and that’s fine for putting on a grand show, but it was the performances of Simpson, Bell, Clark and A Tribe Called Quest that truly remind us why we all fell in love with music in the first place – the actual music, the sounds, the words.
Ranking the 18 performances: