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8pm Eastern Time tonight, CBS                  

CBS standards and practices is desperately trying to avoid a repeat of this (Photo Source: Wikipedia)
CBS standards and practices is desperately trying to avoid a repeat of this (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

7:30 pm Eastern: Good Evening! Welcome to what will be the first of many Manhattan Digest awards ceremony liveblogs! LL Cool J hosts the ceremony, which starts at 8 pm Eastern time on CBS. This should be an interesting evening tonight, with the Album of the Year award showing a surprisingly rock heavy slate with Mumford and Sons’ Babel, Fun.’s Some Nights, The Black Keys’ El Camino, and Jack White’s Blunderbuss, with Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange being the sole R&B outlier. Personally, I think that Babel and Channel Orange are the clear favorites, with Channel Orange being my pick to win the whole thing.

That being said, I’m here mostly to look at the show in terms of its’ presentation than to heavily critique the award choices themselves. The Grammy’s are known mostly for being the safest show on the February awards season, often only garnering attention for a killer performance (such as Elton John and Eminem’s killer performance of  “Stan” in 2001), or some truly horrendous fashion calls (see Jennifer Lopez’s infamous green dress from the 2000 show). The latter is under intense scrutiny this year, as earlier this week CBS standards and practices sent out a letter vilifying the use of thongs or costumes that allow for exposed “breasts and buttocks”, singling out that earth-shattering corrupter of morals: the thong. Needless to say, my gut instinct is telling me that someone is going to find a way to defy this (odds on favorite here? Rihanna).

I would love for tonight to be a dialogue as we all react to the show together (and get different opinions at the same time), so feel free to use the comments section below and get involved in the conversation! Stay tuned to Manhattan Digest for more updates as the ceremony unfolds!

 

Taylor Swift at the Grammy Red Carpet (Source Grammys.com)
Taylor Swift at the Grammy Red Carpet (Source Grammys.com)

7:45 p.m.: Some early updates from the red carpet. Generally speaking it looks like the artists are complying with the S+P guidelines, with only a handful of particularly deep plunging necklines (including Miranda Lambert and Ashanti). Similarly the men seem pretty buttoned up, with a surprisingly large number of skinny ties. I think Taylor Swift’s dress was pretty impressive from a fashion standpoint. Conversely, Adele’s floral print design leaves a lot to be desired.

For me though, the highlight of the red carpet was Jennifer Lopez’s angry shrieks of protest after Ryan Seacrest noted that her dress was skirting the lines of what CBS was allowing screaming “I’m just showing a little leg and a little shoulder!”.

 

7:57 p.m.: Three minutes to the curtain and a large number of the awards have been given off camera already. Notable award winners included Gotye (who won two awards including Best Alternative Music Album, and Best Duo/Group Pop Performance – the latter with Kimbra for “Somebody that I Used to Know”), Skrillex (who also wont two awards for Best Dance Album and Best Dance Recording both for Bangarang), Rihanna (for her video for “We Found Love”), and Taylor Swift (for Best Song Written for Visual Media ).

Additionally it was announced on the red carpet that Ms. Swift will be the opening performance tonight, so expect to see her on your TV screens sometime in the next few minutes.

8:15 PM: And on cue we open with a weird man on a bike with a torch to introduce Taylor Swift who opens the show with “We are Never (Getting Back Together)” in a very sideshow circus vibe that involved a boyfriend strapped to a carnival wheel, trapeze artists, fire spinners and a large amount of pyrotechnics. The performance itself was pretty mediocre in spite of the spectacle, but it seemed like a fine way to amp up the crowd for tonight’s show.

Afterwords, we see our first appearance of show host, LL Cool J. He devotes his somewhat meandering opening monologue discussing music as a vehicle for bringing people together before pitching it to Eddie Sheeran and Elton John to perform Sheeran’s song “A Team”. I love Elton John as much as anyone, but it seemed like he was off for most of the song and it adversely affected the vocal harmonies. I did enjoy the off in the crowd staging aspect that they used, as it seemed to highlight the “lighter song” vibe that one gets when listening to “A-team”.

Fun. Performing Carry On (Source Grammys.com)
Fun. Performing Carry On (Source Grammys.com)

8:27 PM: LL  Cool J asks us to use #Grammys when talking about tonight’s show before kicking it to J-Lo and Pitbull (with a split screen to the infamous green dress from 2000) with Pitbull fawning over J Lo before announcing the nominees for best solo pop performance:

The nominees are:
“Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson), “Set Fire to the Rain” (Adele), “Wide Awake” (Katy Perry), “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jespen) and “Where Have You Been?” (Rihanna)

AND THE WINNER: Set Fire to the Rain by Adele.

Adele gives a very brief speech (in which she called back to last year’s six wins) before Neil Patrick Harris enters to introduce Fun. (whom have six nominations this evening). Fun. then took the opportunity to play “Carry On.”, which started a little slow but picked up once the instruments kicked in. Once it built, we got a performance with a very strong cinematic vibe, including the obligatory downpour towards the end. One thing did bother me about the performance however, and that is why frontman Nate Ruess wore those Capris?

8:48 PM: Bonnie Raitt and John Mayer appear to introduce Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley. The duo play a couple of country tracks in “Over You” and “Home”. Their performance was perfectly fine and fairly low key compared to the immediately preceding performance before cutting to LL Cool J on American Bandstand in an awkward transition. LL then takes the opportunity to pay tribute to Dick Clark.

LL Cool J then makes an another abrupt transition, introducing Miguel and Wiz Khalifa, whom perform “Adorn” . The performance was sizzling, with Miguel showing off his pipes and performing the standard issue R and B theatrics. From there, our performer then announced the nominees for…wait for it…best country solo performance (because that made sense to me too right?)

The nominees for best country solo performance:
“Home” (Dierks Bentley), “Springsteen” (Eric Church), “Cost of Living” (Ronnie Dunn), “Wanted (Hunter Hayes), “Over (Blake Shelton), and “Blown Away” (Carrie Underwood)

AND THE WINNER IS: “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood.

8:58 PM: LL Plugs social media again before telling everyone in the Northeast to stay warm and kicking it to Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, whom are presenting song of the year.

The nominees are: “Adorn” (Miguel), “The A-Team” (Ed Sheeran), “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jespen), “We are Young” (Fun. Feat Janelle Monae), and “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson).

AND YOUR WINNER: “We Are Young” by (the now completely dry) Fun.

Nate Ruess gives a speech that has the first real crack of the night in “I don’t know what we’re thinking writing this chorus, now that we’re in HD and you can see our faces, we are clearly not young.”. They then thank Jay-Z (who mouths a “You’re Welcome” from the crowd) and Chick Corea before the orchestra kicks in to introduce Johnny Depp. I want them to win more awards now because they are clearly the only people so far who have not taken this awards show too seriously tonight.

Depp is there to introduce Mumford and Sons in 20 words or less. They play their hit “I will wait” in front of a large display of lights and had an excellent performance aside from some sound issues that seemed to keep the backing vocals from coming through, though the remainder of the sound was very impressive.

Justin Timberlake performs at the 2013 Grammy Awards (source: Grammys.com)
Justin Timberlake performs at the 2013 Grammy Awards (source: Grammys.com)

9:15 PM: We return to Ellen Degeneres and Beyonce (in a pantsuit tonight) whom do a shticky introuction for Justin Timberlake, whom is here to perform “Suit and Tie”. The screen goes black and white, which is probably not a right call because it makes Justin Timberlake look disturbingly like Rick Astley. Jay-Z then climbs on stage to perform his verse. The screen then goes color befor Justin does a new song with a full orchestra and band (Update: The song is titled “Pusher Love Girl”). All internet memes aside, the performance is excellent and realizing the irony in saying this about someone whose only a few years older than myself, he still clearly has it.

Following that performance, we next see presenters Kelly Rowland and Nas, whom announce the nominees for a new category: Best Urban Contemporary Album

Fortune (Chris Brown), Kaliedoscope Dream (Miguel), Channel Orange (Frank Ocean)

AND THE WINNER: Channel Orange by Frank Ocean

9:30 PM: 

During the commercial, we saw a hard release date for Justin Timberlake’s new album, which will drop on March 19th.

Dave Grohl and Pauley Perette (Abby from NCIS) whom are here to announce that Dan Auerbach won producer of the year earlier in the day, before presenting the award for best Rock Performance

“Hold On” (Alabama Shakes), “Lonely Boy” (The Black Keys), “Charlie Brown” (Coldplay), “I Will Wait”, (Mumford and Sons) and

“We take care of our own” (Bruce Springsteen).

AND THE WINNER: “Lonely Boy” by the Black Keys

Following that, Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys perform “Room on Fire” and “Daylight”. While Maroon 5’s performance of Daylight was fine, “Girl on Fire” felt a little flat at points. This was a bit troubling as if there are two vocal artists who not only can, but are expected to let their vocals soar, it’s Adam Levine and Alicia Keys.

Kaley Cuoco and Keith Urban next came out to introduce the award for “Best Pop Vocal Album”. The nominees were:

Stronger (Kelly Clarkson), Ceremonials (Florence and the Machine), Some Nights (Fun.). Overexposed (Maroon 5), and The Truth About Love (Pink).

AND THE WINNER: Stronger by Kelly Clarkson

Kelly comes up and wings an acceptance speech, where she mentions being “stuck to Miranda Lambert” and expressed interest in working with Miguel. It was truly spontaneous and very welcome in this very overstuffed and seemingly overscripted show.

9:55 PM:  After a performance from Rihanna that had shades of Adele’s performance of “Someone Like You” from last year, Carly Rae Jespen and Ne-Yo come out to present the award for best Rap/Sung collaboration

“Wild Ones” (Flo-Rida f. Sia), “Tonight” (John Legend f. Ludacris), “Cherry Wine ‘ (Nas f. Amy Winehouse), “Talk that Talk” (Rihanna f. Jay Z), and “No Church in the Wild” (Jay-Z/Kanye West feat. Frank Ocean and the Dream)

AND THE WINNER: No Church in the Wild by Jay-Z and Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and the Dream.

In a classy move, Jay-Z gave most of the speech to Frank Ocean and the Dream, whom both give quick shout outs. Jay-Z on the other hand, simply thanks “The swap meet, because that’s where he (The Dream) got that hat.”

10:02 PM: The Lifetime Achievement award was announced with The Temptations, Carole King, Ravi Shankar, Patty Page, Glenn Gould, Charlie Haden, and Lightning Hopkins amongst the recipients.

After the break, Kat Dennings comes out to introduce the Black Keys, Dr. John, and the New Orleans Preservation Hall Band. All parties involved come out rocking, performing the Black Keys’ hit “Lonely Boy”. While I am typically not a fan of brass instruments in Rock Music. Adding to the proceedings was Dr. John, whom was dressed about as outlandishly as one could possibly be on a grammy stage, in full Hoodoo gear. It was a great performance, I do with it would have highlighted Dr. John a little more.
This was then followed up by Kelly Clarkson performing a medley including “Tennessee Waltz”, “Natural Woman”, in order to honor Patti Page and Carole King. This then segued into the nominations for best country album.

The nominees are: Uncaged (Zac Brown Band), Hunter Hayes (Hunter Hayes), Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran (Jamey Johnson), For the Record (Miranda Lambert), The Time Jumpers (The Time Jumpers)

AND THE WINNER: The Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged.

Bruno Mars and Rihanna during the Bob Marley Tribute (Source Grammys.com)
Bruno Mars and Rihanna during the Bob Marley Tribute (Source Grammys.com)

10:13 PM:  We now get the Grammy’s tribute to Bob Marley with Bruno Mars, Sting, Damian and Ziggy Marley. The tribute started with Bruno Mars, who performed his hit single “Locked out of Heaven”. After the first chorus Sting came out in a fun moment as “Locked out of Heaven” is really Bruno Mars’ attempt at writing a police song. This then segued into The Police’s “Walking on the Moon”. This performance has been the best of the show so far, as Bruno hung out there with Sting and didn’t look out of place, though it looked like Sting initially hindered by the fact that “Locked out” was sped up.

Midway through the performance, Rihanna, Damian and Ziggy Marley came out and performed “Could You be Loved”. This actually created a largeness to the performance that made it feel more worthy of the Grammy stage, eclipsing even Rihanna’s prior appearance 15 minutes earlier.

10:30 PM: LL introduces The Lumineers, whom perform their hit single “Ho Hey”. The performance seemed perfectly servicable, and it seems like they have fixed the microphone problems from earlier. This then swept into Jack White’s performance of “Love Interruption”. After the completion of “Love Interruption.” Jack then exploded into “Freedom at 21”, giving the perfect loud kick after two quieter songs.

Katy Perry is now out to present the Best New Artist award. She marvels at the dedication it takes to get to that point before offering a little solace for those who didn’t win, saying: “I didn’t even get nominated for best new artist, but now I have my own eyelash line!”

The nominees are: Alabama Shakes, Fun., Hunter Hayes, The Lumineers, Frank Ocean

AND THE WINNER: Fun. (Fun has taken two Grammys tonight, I think they are now very much in the discussion for Album of the Year).

I think this one is a little bit of a shocker, I was pretty sure Frank Ocean was going to be a mortal lock for this one.

Hour three right now seems to have been a lot kinder to this show than the first two hours.

Carrie Underwood and her projection screen dress (Source: Grammys.com)
Carrie Underwood and her projection screen dress (Source: Grammys.com)

10:45 PM: And apparently I jinxed everyone (sorry!).

Hunter Hayes is out to sing (I wasn’t impressed, but I’m not a country guy) before introducing Carrie Underwood, who then sung two of her songs. Carrie’s vocals did not feel particularly impressive, but the lighting for this was particularly impressive as they used Carrie’s dress as a proxy for a projection screen, allowing for a neat visual that worked out superbly.

After this, Prince made a rare appearance to present Record of the Year, looking like a hybrid of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Puff Daddy.

The Nominees are:
“Lonely Boy” (The Black Keys), “Stronger” (Kelly Clarkson), “We are Young” (Fun.),“Somebody That I Used to Know” (Gotye f. Kimbra), “Thinking About You” (Frank Ocean), “We are never ever Getting Back Together” (Taylor Swift).

AND THE WINNER: “Somebody That I used to Know” by Gotye f. Kimbra.

11:04 PM: We come back to “Take Five” (no introduction, but it’s one of my favorite Jazz songs of all time, so uh, I know it…and now you do too.) for what I’m assuming is the tribute to Dave Brubeck as performed by Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, and Kenny Garrett.

Neal Portnow and Ryan Seacrest (who’s now the honorary chairman of the Grammy Foundation) are out to introduce Justin Timberlake. Mr. Timberlake comes out to shill for the Grammy Foundation and the new “music educator” award.

We now get the in Memorian Montage, which includes Dave Brubeck, Donna Summer, Andy Williams, Chuck Brown, Robin Gibb, Patti Page, Davy Jones , Dick Clark, Fontella Bass, Hal David, Marvin Hamlish, Richard Adler, Andy Griffith, Ravi Shankar, Adam Yauch (Adrock of the Beastie Boys), Levon Helm and others. Looking back at that last sentence, it seems like every genre of music took a heavy loss in 2012.

This then leads to a tribute to Levon Helm fronted by Elton John, Zac Brown, Mumford and Sons, T-Bone Burnett, Mavis Staples, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes as they played “The Weight”. This performance had a looser jam band performance due to the larger nature of this collaboration. Elton seemed a lot stronger in this performance than his earlier performance with Eddie Sheeran. This performance is easily in the upper echelon of performances tonight.

11:18 PM: We return to Juanes paying tribute to Elton John singing “Your Song” in English and Spanish in a very intimate acoustic vibe before kicking it to Frank Ocean, who’s performing his single “Forrest Gump”. They start with a cool visual effect where Frank is running on a video screen before completing his run up a hill to his keyboard in person. Frank wrenched a ton of emotion into this one and it created an excellent and haunting performance

We’re down to one last award, Album of the Year, and Adele is here to award it after making a quick crack about she got knocked up after winning Album of the Year last year.

The Nominees are:

El Camino (The Black Keys), Channel ORANGE (Frank Ocean), Blunderbuss (Jack White)Some Nights (Fun.),Babel (Mumford and Sons)

AND YOUR WINNER: Babel by Mumford and Sons.

A pretty deserving winner and one of my favorites from earlier. They managed to spread the love around somewhat with only Jack White not making the winner’s podium during the course of the show tonight.

11:42 PM: We’re down to the grand finale, a performance by LL Cool J, Chuck D, Tom Morello, Travis Barker, and DJ Z-Trip, whom performed “Whaddup”, which was a fun way to end the show if only because Chuck D’s voice IS rap to me, and LL was game. It was a pretty solid performance and I would kill to see the single, though it would not have killed CBS not to stick fee plugs in the middle of the song.

My Final Thoughts: This year’s Grammy ceremony felt a little overstuffed with tons of abrupt transitions and sequences and with a little bit of breathing room we could have cut some of the weaker performances (notably the lacking Maroon 5/Alicia Keys collaboration and Hunter Hayes’ introduction of an introduction). Additionally, at times the show had a somber, joyless feel at points during a night that should be the biggest party for the music industry of the year. That being said, what you expected to deliver did deliver (the Marley and Levon Helms’ tributes, as well your Album of the Year candidates’ performances), so check out those seven performances.

Also some enjoyable moments I didn’t get to point out amid the I Love Lucy Conveyor Belt pace of the show:

  • Taylor Swift was rocking out to EVERYTHING. I’m not sure why, but this is really amusing to me.
  • The full extent of Kelly Clarkson’s gushing about R+B artist Miguel
  • Once the show hit hour three and it slowed down a little bit, it seemed like the show was able to gel a little more as the orchestra wasn’t cutting off awards speeches at the 30 second mark as it did for Fun.’s first speech

Final Verdict: If you haven’t seen the whole show, it’s probably not worth watching all three hours. You owe it to yourself to YouTube up the Marley tribute though, and I would probably check out Fun.’s , Jack White’s, and the Black Keys’ performances as well. LL Cool J was passable as a host, but the role of host honestly felt superfluous with the rapid pace that the show took.