Graham: Grammy night’s big winners, losers
Thumbs up for Adele, Beyoncé, political performances, Chance the Rapper, Metalligaga; thumbs down for Adele, political speeches, Prince tribute, James Corden, Kanye West
The Grammys said “Hello” to Adele in a major way Sunday, and the Album of the Year trophy evaded Beyoncé once again.
It was an evening of big triumphs and big blunders, sometimes in the same moment. There were political statements aplenty, yet the music took center stage and wasn’t overshadowed by the issues of the day.
Here are the winners and losers of the 59th annual Grammy Awards:
Winner: Adele. The UK songstress was the evening’s big winner, sweeping the top categories, taking home Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “Hello” and Album of the Year for “25.” It was her second win in the Album of the Year category, following her 2012 win for “21.” She’s the first artist to win Album of the Year for back-to-back albums since Stevie Wonder for “Innerversions” and “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” in 1974 and 1975. Was “25” truly the year’s best album? Not by a long shot, but it was a commercial monster, smashing the thought-to-be-untoppable first-week sales record set by *NSYNC back in 2000, and in an industry desperately short on hits, “25” was too big a juggernaut to overlook.
Loser: Adele. She opened the show with a sterling performance of “Hello,” a triumph over her performance on the show last year, which was marred by technical difficulties outside her control. But she flubbed her second performance of the evening, a bloodless, slowed down reworking of George Michael’s “Fastlove,” pausing mid-song, cussing (the censors caught it before it aired) and starting over, a move most “American Idol” contestants wouldn’t even dare pull. Whatever happened to that old show business adage, “the show must go on?” Later in the evening, she took a page out of Macklemore’s playbook when she all but gave her Album of the Year trophy to Beyoncé, but she stopped short of actually calling her to the stage and handing her the award.
Winner: Beyoncé. Her Album of the Year loss — her third in the category (following her self-titled set and “I Am… Sasha Fierce”) — only makes her stronger going forward. She’s now Leonardo DiCaprio, over whom the people eventually banded together and willed to an Oscar win after years of close calls. Beyoncé owned the evening’s most innovative performance, a back-to-back reading of “Love Drought” and “Sandscastles” that celebrated womanhood through the centuries and found her taking the form of an ancient celestial goddess. It’s the gifs from that performance that will dominate your news feed today. To put it plainly, Beyoncé won the popular vote.
Winner: Blue Ivy Carter. Beyoncé and Jay Z’s daughter was in the house — she was even seemingly afforded her own plus-one to bring a friend — and nearly stole the show from her uber-famous parents just by showing up.
Winner: Political performances. Disappointed that Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl performance was a little too subtle on political outrage? A Tribe Called Quest knocked down a literal wall during their performance of “We the People….” while a parade of immigrant-types marched toward the stage, and guest rapper Busta Rhymes addressed “President Agent Orange.” It was heated and urgent, ending with Q-Tip and guests repeating “resist!” It was enough to make Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” performance — poignant in its own right, with Perry, sporting an armband that read “Persist,” performing the song about turning a blind eye to the world’s problems in front of a white picket fence that eventually gave way to a hellstorm of fire and ended with her and special guest Skip Marley standing in front of a projected image of the U.S. Constitution — look as subtle as a silent protest.
Loser: Political speeches. Where were they? Paris Jackson urged a pipeline protest, Laverne Cox shouted out a Gavin Grimm, a transgender student whose case is headed to the Supreme Court, and Jennifer Lopez talked about the importance of artists in times of unrest. But none of the winners made any grand political statements; it was mostly business as usual. (We’re guessing things will be a little different at the Oscars.)
Winner: David Bowie. The late, great Space Oddity won five awards, including Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance and Best Alternative Album, a small consolation for the fact that he never won any Grammys for his music while he was alive. (He had just one Grammy to his name, for a 1985 music video.) Better late than never.
Loser: Prince tribute. The Time did “Jungle Love” and Bruno Mars did a credible “Let’s Go Crazy” — dressed in full “Purple Rain” regalia to boot — but the deck was stacked against them, and it just couldn’t measure up to the Purple One himself. Turns out there’s only one Prince; a video tribute would have sufficed.
Winner: Chance the Rapper. The Chicago sensation won three Grammys, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Album, and brought the house down with a lively, soul-baring, blessed-up rendition of “All We Got.” “Glory be to God, I claim this victory in the name of the Lord!” he exclaimed upon his Best New Artist win. He later thanked DJ Drama while praising his independent hustle of the mixtape artist, so he covered himself with fans, parents, the streets and the man above. Wins all around.
Loser: James Corden. He had a few good bits — making fun of the cheap folding chairs nominees were seated on was delicious — but his monologue was devastatingly slight and the “Carpool Karaoke” bit was a forced attempt to create a viral moment a la Ellen DeGeneres’ famous selfie at 2014 Oscars. Corden seems like a friendly guy who wants to be liked by everybody, but he was edgeless at a time that requires bite.
Winner: Genre-bending country performances. Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood engaged in a dancefloor explosion with their performance of “The Fighter”; Maren Morris invited Alicia Keys on stage for a soul throwdown on “Once”; Little Big Town sang Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.” At this year’s Grammys, the boundaries of country music felt as wide open as ever.
Winner: Metalligaga. Last week’s Super Bowl MVP, Lady Gaga, returned to your television for the second-straight Sunday and threw her devil horns in the air by headbanging with Metallica on their recent “Moth Into Flame.” The performance was hurt by a technical blunder — James Hetfield’s microphone was out — but unlike Adele, they trudged forward and tried to make it work. They more or less overcame, with Hetfield and Gaga sharing a microphone, and Gaga hurling herself into the audience for a wild stage dive. The Grammys often take big risks with artist mash-ups, but the Gaga/ Metallica performance was especially inspired, and it’s a tandem that warrants further exploration.
Winner: Twenty One Pilots. When the members of the Columbus, Ohio, pop-rock-rap duo won for Best Pop Duo/ Group Performance, they stood up from their chairs and dropped their pants on their way to the podium. A bit of viral-bait goofiness? Sure, but there was an unexpectedly sweet message underneath. When the pair were just struggling musicians and the Grammys were a far-off dream, they would watch the show in their underwear and vowed to hit the stage in their undies if they ever made it that far. Their message: “Anyone from anywhere can do anything,” frontman Tyler Joseph explained, “and this is that.”
Loser: Kanye West. Nominated for eight awards, the rapper was blanked, and Corden teased an appearance that never happened. Due to the extreme nervousness his would-be introduction caused, it was probably for the better.