My expectations of the Grammy’s get lower every year, especially after the executives continue to hype up the great acts, extravagant performances, and multiple surprises. The show, which hyped up its infamous wardrobe memo to the stars (which people like J-Lo and Kelly Rowland tended to ignore) and promise of spontaneity, was more about creating the illusion that it is the best thing since sliced bread. When, in actuality it made one thing clear: tribute performances are what make the show and always reminds us that truly great, and always relevant legends are what continue to push music forward.
The fitting tributes this year went to reggae icon Bob Marley, jazz legend Dave Brubeck, and pop music singers Carole King and Patti Page. Pop sensation Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Sting, and Marley’s sons Damien and Ziggy, both reggae stars in their own right, had the crowd in Rastafarian ecstasy as they burned through Marley’s 1980 hit “Could You Be Loved,” from the Bob Marley and Wailers album Uprising. Even Sting briefly went through one of his classic tunes “Walking on the Moon” from his days with his band The Police.
And then there was the truly befitting homage to Brubeck, which featured Bassist Stanley Clarke, pianist Chick Corea and saxophonist Kenny Garrett going through a brief, and very brief stint of Brubeck’s hit tune “Take Five.” The Grammy’s also pretended that they truly had an interest in jazz music by including The Preservation Hall Jazz Band in rock sensation The Black Keys performance. But even that did not make up for the fact that none of the jazz nominees were acknowledged during the televised show.
And Kelly Clarkson’s powerhouse vocals were confirmed during her tribute to Carole King and Patti Page, in which she shut the house down with Patti Page’s ballad “Tennessee Waltz,” and the soulful tune “Natural Woman,” which was written by singer/songwriter Carole King.
And now for the current contenders. While many, including myself, thought last night would be Frank Ocean’s night to rack up as many Grammys as Michael Jackson did in 1984 for his classic Thriller album, that was certainly not the case. The Channel Orange artist only racked up two Grammy wins, one for Best Urban Contemporary album and Rap-sung collaboration, which he won for his appearance on Jay-Z and Kanye West tune “No Church in the Wild.”
And his somewhat odd performance of “Forrest Gump” did not make his presence more alluring, even though he thought it may have. Many people were probably hoping that Ocean and Chris Brown would have traded another round of blows, especially when Ocean beat out Brown for best Urban Contemporary Album. But, they kept it classy, thankfully.
The evening’s biggest performance, and somewhat musical comeback turned out to be from Justin Timberlake, whose sexy, mid tempo tune, “Suit and Tie” was very well performed and is certainly going to be one of the hottest songs this year, especially when his new album, The 20/20 Experience comes out in March. He kept it very Frank Sinatra meets Kanye West, both including a big band, and Jay-Z, who came out of the crowd, surprising not with his Cognac, to rap a few bars on “Suit and Tie.”
To conclude, the evening would have been a little better if, for one, Miguel would have sung more than a few bars of his hit song, (for which he won a Grammy for) “Adorn.” You could tell that they(execs) wanted to include the popularity of the tune, but didn’t want Miguel to full indulge in the song, and instead bring in a duet with Wiz Khalifa to make the song better than what it already is. And if there had been an ideal tribute to Whitney Houston, who once again, did not receive proper honors other than a tribute at Clive Davis’ Pre-Grammy bash the night before the show. They sure went all out for Michael Jackson the year after he passed away, so why not give the same honors to Houston. I went on a rant about Houston’s bare tribute during last year’s performance, so I won’t get into details about my disappoint with them on that issue.
Instead I will act like they tried to make up for it by bringing in music icon Prince to announce Record of the Year at the end of the show. But, not even that was the best surprise they could have done. There’s always next year…