I said I wasn’t going to watch the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards this year but I just couldn’t help myself. One of my favorite live musicians of all time, Mr. Jeff Beck, was up for a couple of awards so I tuned in to see if he won. It was held on Febuary 13, 2011 and I do have to say I DVR’d the whole show because I just couldn’t fathom sitting on my couch for three and a half hours watching lame acceptance speeches directed at people I neither know nor care about. As usual, I’m looking primarily at the live performances that were featured on the 2011 Grammy Awards show.
The show began with a tribute to the great Aretha Franklin. She has contributed so much to soul, R&B and Rock-N-Roll music. Aretha was truly deserving of the lifetime achievement award. The tribute performance featured Christina Aguilera, Martina McBride, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams and Florence Welch. Christina really nailed the tribute sounding a lot like Aretha and going for some serious yells and high notes although her hair looked kind of like a bleached wild coon. Martina Mcbride was the odd woman out on this one and gave her standard “meh” country performance not bothering to sound like Aretha. Jennifer Hudson nailed “Respect” and she is one strong singer. Florence Welch did okay but she had some slight pitch problems. Yolanda Adams was also very soulful. All in all it was a lot of yellin’ but overall pretty good. Aretha appeared in a pre-recorded video to thank the Academy as well as make a promise to sing to us all next year. We can only hope to see her onstage again very soon.
After an hour of waiting we got our first award. Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group. The winner was Train with “Hey Soul Sister (Live)”which I felt was deserving. They made a good little jab at Justin Beiber when they won.
Next up was a performance by Lady Gaga (lord help us all). She came out in an egg or some kind of pod while mumbling a monologue about her hatred of men in general. She was wearing a hat made out of pancakes and I believe she was trying to one-up her old raw meat hat. She had a nicely toned stomach though and her trainers and work-out ethic are paying off. I believe the song she sang was called “It’s Okay To Be Gay” and it is of course. But I think she may have been aiming for controversy with her performance yet she only achieved political correctness.
Miranda Lambert I must say I skipped because I’m not a big country fan and didn’t want to waste an entire 3 hours.
Next up was a performance by Muse. They played quite well performing their song “Uprising” which is pretty relevant with everything happening in Egypt. The coolest thing about their performance was the sweet video display that surrounded the band. At one point stage performers brought out live fire and started up a flaming video display.
Following Muse we had B.o.B., Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae performing “Nothing On You” from the B.o.B. album The Adventures Of Bobby Ray. I have to admit that I’m a big fan of this song and of Bobby Ray’s rapping in general. The performance of “Nothing On You” was rich and powerful and Bobby Ray was sporting a very stylish monocle. I think the monocle may come back into vogue amongst rappers because of this appearance. Next up Bruno Mars performed his song “Grenade” in full black-and-white television hearkening back to the late fifties era of rock-n-roll. It kind of had a “been-there, done-that” feel to it though and black-and-white video in high definition was pretty distracting. Janelle Monae’s performance was tight and rockin’ and if Bruno Mars was really playing that drum part, he’s an excellent drummer.
Then we had Justin Beiber and Usher reminiscing about the long ago days of four years ago. Justin started out wailing along with a crappily played acoustic guitar whilst singing lyrics that didn’t really say a thing. When the ninja drummers came on my interest was piqued but then they didn’t attack Beiber so it was a bit of a letdown. This led to Justin Beiber performing a song to promo his new movie and it was standard fare. Although I have to admit that Jaden Smith really helped Justin step things up a bit singing and dancing with Justin. All of the sudden Usher appeared onstage and stole the show with his sweet dance moves. I really couldn’t tell how much of his singing was live though. Justin Beiber and Usher’s dancing duet was actually pretty sweet although the pairing just seems odd to me. Usher better be careful because he doesn’t want to get “Michael Jackson’d” over the whole “man with a boy” thing.
The next award was for Best Rock Album. This was Grammy Miss #1 with Muse winning. I really wanted Jeff Beck to win for Emotion and Commotion and I would have given that one to him. Instead, Muse won for their album The Resistance beating out better albums by Jeff Beck – Emotion and Commotion, Tom Petty -Mojo and Neil Young – Le Noise. It’s proof again of the Grammies trying to stay relevant in the digital age by ignoring better work by veterans in the industry.
Best Pop Vocal Album: Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster won. She deserves it because Pop is mostly good marketing and she’s the best marketer. Personally, I think it should have gone to Susan Boyle but her marketing isn’t quite there. I liked Lady Gaga’s “Fake Ass” clothes though. Boy did she look wierd with the horns on her face! Thanking Whitney Houston? Weird as well.
Mumford & Sons did a really sweet performance of The Cave. Eveyone loves trucker hats, tuxedos and banjos. You could really hear the banjo and the bass but the keyboards and horns were kind of lost in the mix.
The Avett Brothers performance was interesting but not nearly as good as Mumford & Sons. In fact, I listened to half of it and skipped the rest.
Bob Dylan gave his usual rock solid Bob Dylan performance. You can call him “Old Mr. Dependable” because he’s always on his game. We waited the whole song for Bob to play the harmonica and he played 5 notes on it. But they were genius, just like Bob!
It was cool that Julie Andrews and The Ramones both won Lifetime Acheivement Awards. Too bad they couldn’t perform a song together.
Lady Antebellum performing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” was actually pretty darn sweet but mainly because I love that song. Lady Antebellum’s song about growing up slow, free as a weed by a church lost me though. I coudn’t relate.
Best Country Album: Lady Antebellum – Need You Now. I actually really like that song and feel the Grammies got this one right.
The performance o “F*** You” by Cee-Lo Green was very well done and he’s keeping the spirit of Elton John alive with the Peacock suit. I have to tell you though I honestly thought Cee-Lo Green was a girl listening to his voice on the radio. I was shocked to find out Cee-Lo was a man. The puppets rocked with Cee-Lo but Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t particularly powerful. Although she would do okay at Karaoke night.
Katy Perry performance notes: Her singing is barely passable but she looks okay even though her hips look titanic in that outfit. At least she had the guts to do her performance live instead of lip synced.
Norah Jones, Keith Urban, John Mayer performed the Dolly Parton song “Jolene”. It had some nice harmonies and good guitar plucking. I have to say that Dolly Parton is an amazing songwriter and her song “Jolene” is just beautiful.
Song Of The Year: Need You Now by Lady Antebellum. I have to admit, it’s a great song and it deserved the win. It’s a fine piece of songwriting.
Rihanna, Dr. Dre, Eminem and Adam Levine performance notes: Rihanna was fighting to stay on pitch quite a bit. Their performance was tough to follow with all the audio dropouts due to vulgarities. Eminem did his usual growling white boy bit then Dr. Dre came out and schooled him in the nuances of smooth flowing rap.
Best New Artist: Eseranza Spalding. I had heard of all the others, but not her. Guess I’ll have to check out the album. I personally think Mumford & Sons should have won. I’m just glad Justin Beiber didn’t win.
Mick Jagger Performance Notes: Mick did a Solomon Burke tribute since we lost Solomon this year. What can I say about Mick, the old guy is still in great shape and he can still perform. Well done Mick.
Barbara Streisand performance notes: Musicares person of the year. She was lovely as usual, just simply lovely. Make sure you buy yourself some overpriced tickets and go to her show!
Best Rap Album: Eminem for his album Recovery. Personally I prefer B.o.B. – The Adventures Of Bobby Ray but Eminem is the industry darling.
Rihanna and Drake performance notes: I did like the big bonfire onstage but I was getting totally worn out from the length of the Grammies. Still, I ended up watching a lot of the performance just because Rihanna was so dang good looking in it.
Record Of The Year: Lady Antebellum – Need You Now. Grammy miss #2 Lady Antebellum “Need You Now” winning Record Of The Year. It already won for Song Of The Year and it deserved it (excellent writing). But I feel like Nothin’ On You by B.o.B., Empire State Of Mind by Jay-Z, Love The Way You Lie by Eminem and Forget You by Cee Lo Green all sound more lush, less compressed and in general all rock harder than that Record.
Arcade Fire performance notes: They rocked real hard and it was a very energetic performance. I was worn out from how damn long the Grammy awards were by now and lost interest quickly so I skipped most of this performance. I was also afraid of having a seizure from all the strobe lights.
Album Of The Year: Arcade Fire for The Suburbs. Haven’t heard it but I guess they deserved it over the others. This is supposed to be the biggest award of the night but the show was so long I just wanted to get it over with and turn off the TV.
Arcade Fire 2nd performance notes: I was so sick of watching by now that I almost turned it off. But I didn’t and the song was definitely better than their first one. I’ll have to listen to some more of their music. And isn’t that what the Grammy’s are all about? Selling more records?
I don’t think I’m going to watch the Grammies next year.
Oh, and I did find out that Jeff Beck did win two Grammys this year! He won Grammys for Best Rock Instrumental Performance for “Hammerhead” and Best Pop Instrumental Performance for “Nessun Dorma” both from his Emotion & Commotion album (buy it guitar lovers!)