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Highlights (and Not-So-High-Lights) from the 2013 Grammy Awards

Well, Music’s Biggest Night has come and gone; those who won are riding high, those who lost are saying “Wait till next year,” and those who sat by and made predictions are comparing notes against the results.

Whether you watched the awards show with intense interest (as I did) or just for entertainment purposes, you probably found plenty to be happy about. As I had suggested earlier, the Grammys were spread a little more across the board this year (as opposed to the Adele monopoly last year), with more than one surprise along the way. And while there were a few performance duds (see below), taken together, the performances made for a stronger show than we’ve seen in quite some time.

You can click here to see all the winners (spoiler: fun. won a lot, but not all); I’d prefer to recap some of the highlights (and a few not-so-high-lights) from last night’s show. Here goes…

 

BIGGEST SHOW OPENING THAT TURNED OUT TO BE TOO MUCH: Taylor Swift.
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” At this point, folks, Swift just seems to be asking to be caricatured. Not only was the Alice-In-Wonderland/comic circus motif a bit over the top (how many more people are going to land on that stage?), but with the not-so-subtle British accent in the bridge, it’s the second time in two years that she has purposefully used her Grammy performance to stick it to someone.

 

LIVE PERFORMANCE THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN OVERHYPE, BUT ENDED UP BEING PRETTY DARN GOOD: Justin Timberlake.
With Beyoncé and Ellen’s huge buildup, this was probably the most trumpeted comeback in recent Grammy history—but the succeeding performance actually lived up to the hype. Timberlake seemed perfectly at ease on stage, and the production value of his performance with outstanding, not to mention classy.

 

MUSICAL STAR THAT MIGHT TAKE HERSELF TOO SERIOUSLY: Beyoncé.
Speaking of the J.T. introduction, did anyone besides me notice how uncomfortable Beyoncé looked when Ellen went off script and started staring adoringly at her? Recently admitting that her perfectionism had led to her decision to lip sync the National Anthem at the Presidential Inauguration, one can’t help but wonder if she’s a little too preoccupied with how she’s perceived these days. It was a gag, Bey. Ellen does that crap all the time. Relax.

 

THE SIX-GRAMMYS-LAST-YEAR-WAS-NOT-ENOUGH-MOMENT: Adele.
Will this girl’s momentum ever end? Not only did she sell the most records in America for the second year in a row (while taking the year off to have a baby, no less), but her one live performance of “Set Fire To the Rain” gets her another Grammy this year. [Shakes head in amazement…]

 

BEST PERFORMANCES OF THE NIGHT: Anything where Elton John was performing.
First there was the duet with Ed Sheeran; then there was the all-star tribute to Levon Helm, along with Mumford & Sons, T-Bone Burnett, Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, and Zac Brown. Both performances were magical, especially the latter. Wow—just wow.

 

WORST PERFORMANCE OF THE NIGHT: Frank Ocean.
Gotta give this guy a little grace—he went from unknown to R&B superstar overnight, and this was his first national live performance—but his song was too sleepy for an end-of-show gig, and his vocals were so pitchy it probably made Randy Jackson squirm in his seat, dawg.

 

BEST USE/ABUSE OF AN ELECTRIC GUITAR: Jack White.
Turning in the crunchiest rock performance of the night, White proved why he’s one of the best guitarists alive. Play the s**t out of the thing, then break it when you’re finished. That’s how it’s done.

 

BEST INTRODUCTION TO JACK WHITE: The Lumineers.
I love stories like theirs—a completely indie band going from unknown to playing the Grammys in a matter of months, let alone nominated against the likes of fun. and Frank Ocean for Best New Artist. Their stripped-down performance of “Ho Hey” was pure joy, and got the whole crowd singing.

 

PERFORMANCE THAT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD IDEA BUT DIDN’T EXECUTE WELL: The Black Keys.
Throwing the duo onstage with Dr. John and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band for their performance of “Lonely Boy” probably looked really good on paper, but it just came off too busy, and Auerbach and Carney looked just plain uncomfortable at times. Plus, Dr. John (or should we say, Trapper John?) peering at them from underneath all those feathers and fur looked just creepy.

 

FINALE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN A BUST, BUT WASN’T: LL Cool J.
In case you hadn’t heard, the Grammy host is planning something of a comeback this year, so he closed out the show with a performance featuring Chuck D, DJ Z-Trip, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Travis Barker of blink-182. Typically this kind of thing risks self-indulgence, but the performance was actually quite good all around—a fitting end to a great night.

 

SURPRISE WINS (3-WAY TIE): Gotye and Kimbra, Kelly Clarkson, Mumford & Sons.
As predicted, there were a few surprises, most notably Kelly Clarkson beating out fun. for Best Pop Vocal Album; Gotye (and Kimbra) beating out fun., Frank Ocean AND The Black Keys for Record of the Year; and Mumford & Sons taking Album of the Year away from the aforementioned. In short, all three of these surprise wins involved robbing fun. of three Grammys, effectively keeping them from an Adele-esque sweep.

All told, this year’s Grammy Awards show, while not without its flubs, was one of the best in recent memory. Even accounting for the surprise wins mentioned above, I personally felt the awards given were largely deserved. Thanks to all the artists who gave us great music this past year!


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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

David Tillman is an independent composer/arranger whose primary work involves writing jingles for commercials for radio and television, with several film and television placements to his credit as well. David has a fascination for all things related to the music business and the music industry in general, an obsession which his wife finds to be mildly unhealthy at times. His personal tastes in music are in electronica and industrial rock, and include The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Nine Inch Nails (he loves that Trent Reznor is writing soundtracks!). When not in his office or in his man-cave, David enjoys skiing, hiking, the occasional game of golf, and sometimes just lounging by the pool. David lives with his wife and three children in Los Angeles, CA.

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