6:58: Full disclosure: I was involved in a fender-bender on the still-icy roads on Friday, and I’m on pain meds for a strained back and whiplash-like symptoms. So if my live blog seems particularly loopy, it’s probably the drugs, though we can’t rule out the crazy state of popular music as the culprit.
7:00: The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards are starting with a tribute to ailing diva Aretha Franklin, so at least the opening clips are destined to sound great. LL Cool J is taking the stage in a cool dark purple suit to introduce the singers who will be paying R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the Queen of Soul: Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Hudson, Florence Welch and Christina Aguilera. Hopefully, the National Anthem isn’t on the bill, or Xtina is in big trouble. Actually, they are starting, naturally, with “A Natural Woman,” although Aguilera is immediately hitting a raw nerve with her crazy vocal acrobatics. Just sing. Please.
7:05: We’re five minutes in, and Xtina has caused her voice to do every gymnastics move in vocal histrionics history. That seems like it should be a record. But she didn’t obviously botch any lyrics, so I guess she has sort of redeemed herself after her forgetful Super Bowl rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Personally, I’m preferring the big-voiced but less flashy performances by Martina, Jennifer, Yolanda and Florence (of Florence and the Machine). They aren’t as heavy on the flourishes as Xtina’s vocal acrobatics, but they sound so much better and seem a more fitting tribute.
7:11: Overall, I’m impressed with this lineup of strong women singers, Christina’s expected oversinging notwithstanding. Very deserved standing ovation. If they formed a vocal supergroup, I’d buy their album. Now, we’re cutting to a live video feed of Aretha. She has clearly lost weight, but she looks pretty feisty in her sparkly white gown.
7:19: The five divas of the Grammys opening are going to present the first Grammy, for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals. Here are the nominees:
“Don’t Stop Believin’”
“The Only Exception”
“Hey, Soul Sister (Live)”
7:20: Winner: Train. Lead singer Patrick Monahan says he’s freaking out. Me, too. If that’s the way this night is going to go, I’m going to need stronger drugs. Train? Really? I cannot stand that song. But I do like Monahan thanking Justin Bieber for not being a duo or group.
7:23: Again, gonna need stronger drugs. Ricky Martin shows up in skin-tight silver pants to introduce Lady Gaga, who emerges from an alien-looking cockpit to sing her new single “Born This Way.” At least her two-piece pale yellow dress isn’t made of meat or chicken or Moon Pies or any other food item. I’m not usually one to make accusations about one musician of ripping off another one, but “Born This Way” sounds an awful lot like Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” Obviously Lady Gaga – like Madonna – prides herself on reinvention: Does it count as reinvention if you reinvent yourself into what some other star already has been? Just wondering.
7:33: Tishomingo resident Blake Shelton is emphasizing how much he loves the next performer: His fiancee and fellow Tishomingo resident Miranda Lambert. She is dedicating her sentimental hit “The House That Built Me” to all the Grammy performers who came before her. Miranda looks lovely in her short silvery dress and loose blond locks, and she really sounds lovely on this Grammy-nominated ballad. Personally, I prefer Miranda’s more fiery material, but I’m just thrilled to see all the well-deserved success she and Blake have experienced in the past year or so. It’s a beautiful, low-key Grammy moment, and her straight-ahead vocals are a great relief after all the wackiness of the first half-hour of tonight’s show. Big smile from Miranda and big round of applause from the crowd. Way to go, Ran!
7:38: Lenny Kravitz takes the stage to introduce Muse’s first Grammy performance. That’s a crazy back-to-back lineup: Miranda Lambert and then Muse. Talk about something for everybody. Anyway, watching Muse rock through “Uprising,” accompanied by a dynamic light show, I’m thinking the British trio should have played the Super Bowl halftime show rather than Black Eyed Peas, who just bored me last Sunday.
7:49: We’re not allowed to have a music-related TV event without Ryan Seacrest, so here he is to introduce Bruno Mars, B.o.B. and Janelle Monae’s group performance. I’m looking forward to this performance because I think Janelle Monae is such an amazing, unique talent. Bruno and B.o.B. are OK, but I would listen to Janelle Monae sing the recipes in a 1950s cookbook because I know she would develop some sort of grand R&B/rock opera out of old recipes for oven-fried chicken and lemon aspic. So far, she’s getting short shrift in this performance, but I’m trying to be patient.
7:53: So, I’m liking Bruno Mars’ old-school soul performance, and the black-and-white effect is really interesting and fun. But I still am waiting to hear Janelle unleash.
7:55: Woo! Go Janelle. She’s rocking her usual pompadour and tuxedo and belting “Cold War” from her album “The ArchAndroid,” which made my top 10 albums of 2010 list. Janelle stage dives, and her pompadour stays perfectly in place. And now she and the guys are getting a standing ovation, and I must agree with the crowd’s enthusiastic assessment.
7:58: Dierks Bentley and Zac Brown are taking the stage to present the best female country vocal performance, and Oklahoma has two contenders in this category:
*”The House That Built Me”
“I’d Love To Be Your Last”
7:59: Winner: Miranda Lambert! Yay! She’s all smiles as she accepts her “first Grammy performance ever, first Grammy ever. Thank you Tom and Allen for writing this song and thank you so much for loving the lyrics to this song because it means the world to me and I know that everyone can relate to it,” she said, thanking songwriters Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin. I’m so happy for Miranda!
8:05: Eva Longoria has apparently seen “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” because she’s giving us the background on Justin and Usher, complete with a 2007 clip of the Biebs singing for Usher. He’s only 16, does he really warrant such flashbacks? I can see flashback clips for Aretha but not Bieber. Now, Usher and the Bieber are recounting that history with revisions for us one more time. Finally, Bieber starts singing and playing acoustic guitar. I don’t have Bieber fever, but I’d rather hear a performance than jabber about the Bieb’s remarkable musical beginnings. Now, a group of drumming ninjas and firebreathers are taking the stage as Bieber’s performance goes electric. At least, I think that’s what’s happening; I’m on drugs, remember?
8:09: If this performance needed more over-hyped precociousness, it just got it, as Jaden Smith leaped out of the floor to start singing and pseudo-rapping with Biebs. Quick, cut to proud papa and mama Will Smith and Jaden Pinkett-Smith in the crowd! And speaking of father figures, Usher, the mogul who brought you the Biebs, is taking over now. I’m sure all the lights and dancers and sound effects are just going to seem like a oxycodone flashback to me later. Right now, it’s just a sensory assault from the Grammys stage.
8:15: Pauley Perrette of “NCIS” and Paramore are here to present the best rock album Grammy. Here are the options, and I’m betting there’s a bunch of old timers that cancel each other out here:
“Emotion & Commotion”
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
8:16: Winner: Muse. They’re thanking all the usual suspects, including the fans, in their very British way.
8:20: Selena Gomez and Donnie Wahlberg are going to present the best pop album award, and there’s quite a range here:
“My World 2.0″
“I Dreamed A Dream”
“The Fame Monster”
8:22: Winner: Lady Gaga, who has traded her almost normal looking two-piece yellow frock for an S&M suit of armor. My TV just lost sound, so I’m assuming she is testing the censors with her speech. She’s thanking all the usual suspects, and she’s rambling about her dream to be whatever she wanted to be. Now, she’s giving special thinks to Whitney Houston, saying she imagined Whitney singing it as she wrote it because she wasn’t secure enough to imagine herself as a superstar. She’s not secure enough to imagine herself singing a song but she’s secure enough to wear that?
8:25: Live by video from the home office, David Letterman is presenting a special Grammy top 10 list and introducing a special performance by Mumford & Sons, Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan. As a huge acoustic fan, this is one that I’m really looking forward to hearing, and so far, Mumford & Sons are not disappointing but where’s Bob and the Avetts?
8:27: Ooh, the Avetts are dressed up and performing their beautiful “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.” Love this song and I’m always happy to watch the Avetts play. But when you advertise that stars are going to perform together, I’m thinking they’re actually going to collaborate, not just take turns in an orderly fashion playing their own music. I’m feeling a bit ripped off.
8:30: Ah, here’s Bob Dylan, and all the bands are getting together to perform Dylan’s classic “Maggie’s Farm.” Dylan is sounding a little rough these days, but his mere presence gets a standing o from the crowd.
8:40: Lea Michele of “Glee” and Clay Matthews of Super Bowl winners the Green Bay Packers are introducing Lady Antebellum singing “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” then moving into their hit “American Honey” and their unavoidable smash “Need You Now.” I love listening to this country trio working its great harmonies.
8:44: Miley Cyrus and three of the four Kings of Leon are sharing the stage. Weird. Anyway, they’re presenting best country album, and I’m so rooting for Miranda:
“Up On The Ridge”
“You Get What You Give”
Zac Brown Band
“The Guitar Song”
“Need You Now”
8:45: Winner: Lady A. Aww, I was hoping Miranda would get it, but she took it like a champ. She gave a gracious nod and a big smile; she and Lady A are good friends, so I’m sure she’s happy for them. Lady A graciously got their producer Paul Worley up on stage and let him do most of the talking. Nice.
8:46: Jamie Foxx is playing psyche out with the censors as he jokes around about introducing Cee Lo Green, Gwyneth Paltrow and some of the Muppets performing “Forget You,” the toned-down version of Green’s profane hit. Cee Lo Green is getting into the spirit of performing with some Jim Henson’s puppets, sitting at the piano with a spangled cap, bulbous sunglasses and a costume covered in red, blue and yellow feathers. It’s the type of outfit Elton John would have turned down in the ’70s as too flamboyant.
In contrast, Gwyneth, who performed “Forget You” on an episode of “Glee,” is drssed to impress in a slim black body suit, with her multicolored skyscraper heels her only concession to the multi-hued madness on stage. She’s dancing on the piano, and Cee Lo is getting to his feet, too. If Cee Lo Green’s music career slides downhill after “F— You,” he can always get a job on “Sesame Street” as Big Bird’s adopted brother with that outfit.
8:57: Yay, Neil Patrick Harris is taking the stage to naughtily introduce Katy Perry’s performance. Perry recently guest-starred as the latest conquest for NPH’s Barney on the sitcom “How I Met Your Mother.” As usual, Perry is dressed in a cleavage-bearing gown covered in sparkles, and she’s sitting on an old-fashioned swing as she croons “Not Like the Movies.” Apparently, she attended one of the shows on Carrie Underwood’s “Play On Tour,” though Carrie at least swung on her old-fashioned swing. Now, Katy is dancing with a group of Valentine’s Day-theme dancers to “Teenage Dream,” and now they’re showing a shot of Nicole Kidman singing along in the crowd.
I must say, I don’t get the people who hate Katy Perry anymore than I get those who adore her. Her music is so generic and forgettable I have trouble working up any ire or enthusiasm for it. She’s a perfect example of modern-day pop: All flash, little substance. The only reason I even care about her is she guest-starred on HIMYM, which happens to be one of my fave shows.
9:02: John Mayer, Norah Jones and Keith Urban are gathered at center stage playing a smoking rendition of Lifetime Achievement Award winner Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” No backup dancers, no light shows, no huge production, and this is easily one of the best performances of the whole night. It’s all substance and talent, without the flash. What a great tribute to the very worthy Dolly Parton. Bravo.
9:04: John, Keith and Norah are now going to present the song of the year award. Here are the noms:
“Beg Steal Or Borrow”
Ray LaMontagne, songwriter
Brody Brown, Cee Lo Green,
Ari Levine, Philip Lawrence &
Bruno Mars, songwriters
“The House That Built Me”
Tom Douglas & Allen
“Love The Way You Lie”
Alexander Grant, Skylar
Grey & Marshall Mathers,
“Need You Now”
Dave Haywood, Josh Kear,
Charles Kelley & Hillary
9:06: Winner: Lady A and Josh Kear for ubiquitous country-pop smash “Need You Now.” I’m surprised that this won the multi-genre song title. Amazing. Hillary is in tears as she thanks everyone and gushes about how the song has turned their world upside down. I suspect Lady A will be even bigger after winning two golden gramophones just during the televised part of the Grammys.
9:12: Seth Rogen is actually wearing a suit for his first visit to the Grammys, and he’s joking about getting high backstage with Miley Cyrus. He’s introducing Rihanna, Dr. Dre and Eminem’s performance. Rihanna’s black and yellow gown is big enough to destroy the Staples Center if angered, but she’s got Adam Levine from Maroon5 singing and playing piano along with her on “Love the Way You Lie,” which hopefully will soothe the savage tulle-beast. Now, the censors are holding down the button for the arrival of fast-rapping Eminem, who has already won two Grammys out of the leading 10 for which he was nominated. Skylar Grey and Dr. Dre are joining them for this bombastic performance, but I’m afraid Eminem’s angry rapper routine is going to cause Rihanna’s dress to go on a rampage. Really, the ladies come across as the real talents in this performance, which gets yet another standing o.
9:20: Jewel, looking lovely in a pale yellow gown, and John Legend, in his slick dark blue suit, are going to present the best new artist Grammy. Will Biebs win it? Personally, I’m hoping for a Florence and the Machine or Mumford & Sons upset.
Florence & The Machine
Mumford & Sons
9:22: Winner: Esperanza Spalding. Wow. And that wow goes for her win, for her afro and for her tattered yellow gown. She promises to do her best to live up to the honor by making great music.
9:28: Matthew Morrison of “Glee” fame is introducing Neil Portnow, chairman of the Recording Academy, who will be giving the official spiel while Esperanza and high school students from the Grammy Band and Grammy Jazz Ensemble play. It’s an effective way of jazzing up the annual speech about the charitable efforts of the Recording Academy.
9:32: Bring out your dead! Matthew Morrison is now introducing the “in memoriam” montage featuring Lena Horne, Ronnie James Dio, Teena Marie, Charlie Louvin, Eddie Fisher, Jimmy Dean, Alex Chilton, and many more.
9:35: The montage gives way to the not-quite-dead Mick Jagger, who is paying tribute to the late Solomon Burke “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll Soul,” with his first Grammy performance. The crowd is on its feet and grooving along as the Rolling Stone struts and sings “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” with Raphael Saadiq on electric guitar. This performance is a lot of fun, and Mick is putting many of these youngsters to shame with his talent and energy. That’s a whole lot better than just the usual montage.
9:47: Kris Kristofferson is grumblingly introducing a performance by MusiCares Person of the Year and “one of the most talented people in the universe,” Barbra Steisand. Babs is crooning her Grammy- and Oscar-winning chestnut “Evergreen.” As with Sir Mick, we’re seeing a veteran performer simply school all these upstarts. I’m not even a big Babs fan, but give this woman a mic and an orchestra and she absolutely warrants the standing O she’s getting.
9:51: Nicki Minaj, sporting a sky-high two-toned afro and a leopard-print dress, and Black Eyed Peas will.i.am are going to present the award for best rap album, and Eminem looks like he might destroy the arena if he doesn’t win …
“The Adventures Of Bobby Ray”
“Thank Me Later”
“The Blueprint 3″
“How I Got Over”
9:52: Potential crisis averted. Winner: Eminem. He says “This is crazy,” and he’s graciously thanking the usual suspects, with a special shout-out to Rihanna, Dr. Dre and his hometown of Detroit.
9:59: Puff Daddy has gotten braces, and he’s apparently stoned, as he oh-so-slowly introduces Rihanna and Drake performing “What’s My Name.” Rihanna has gone from an extremely big dress to a skimpy Wonder Woman-style costume as she breathily sings along with the leather-jacket-clad Drake. They don’t need to the bonfire in the background; Rihanna is heating this place up all on her own. So far, every guy she has performed with tonight has been reduced to her background vocalist.
10:02: Marc Anthony and JLo are acting like the married couple they are, and they’re being pretty awkward and weird. Next time, save the ad libbing for home and just read the prompter, you two. Here are the record of the year contenders:
“Nothin’ On You”
B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars
“Love The Way You Lie”
Eminem Featuring Rihanna
Cee Lo Green
“Empire State Of Mind”
Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
“Need You Now”
10:04: Winner: Lady A again. It’s a huge night for country music and for this Southern trio. “We’re so stunned, we started walking the wrong direction,” Hillary admits. She’s noting what a big year it’s been since they performed “Need You Now” on the Grammys stage last year. It’s short, sweet and sincere. That’s what I like in a Grammys acceptance speech.
10:11: Jason Segel takes the stage to introduce Arcade Fire’s first Grammy performance, but before sharing what he’s learned from attending the Grammys: If you make music that sells enough records, you can wear whatever you want. Amen to that! Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” was my favorite album of 2010, so naturally, I’m rooting for them to win the award at the Grammys. But their performance of “Month of May” with all its flashing white lights and trick bikers is a bit of an assault on my tired eyeballs. And is that Edmond’s own Mat Hoffman on one of those BMX bikes? Why, yes, I believe it is.
10:22: Babs and Kris are back to present album of the year. Will Lady A continue to dominate? Will Arcade Fire win it? Here are the options:
“Need You Now”
“The Fame Monster”
10:23: Winner: Arcade Fire! Wow, that was so unexpected and so awesome! Barbra and Kris are wishing everyone a goodnight, and Arcade Fire are going to play us out with another song from “The Suburbs,” “Ready to Start,” which suits me down to the ground.
Well, it was a night of a few genuine surprises, a big win for Miranda Lambert and many, many bombastic performances, which were largely outdone by some of the more low-key moments. Arcade Fire scored a huge win on behalf of alternative/indie rock, and Lady A made country music’s night again and again. As the last theatrical chords of “Ready to Start” fade away, the 53rd Grammys are in the record books and I’m off to take more pain meds. Goodnight!!