Grammys leave me feeling half empty

Most every year I can’t get to sleep after the Grammys telecast has signed off because the annual celebration of what makes music move us has reminded me of great things past and present and stirred hopes for the future, too.

Last night I watched the local news, thought about how I’d have to get up early enough to dig out my dear wife Karen’s car from the overnight snow so she could get out for her Monday morning commute to work — done! — and plotted a few moments for what I’d complain about here.

The 57th Grammy Awards were not my favorite edition.

Sam Smith with his 2015 Grammy Awards haul. (Getty Images)

Sam Smith with his 2015 Grammy Awards haul. (Getty Images)

Sam Smith won too many of the top awards, fresh off settling the court case for copying the main riff of Tom Petty’s previous hit “I Won’t Back Down.” I know, I know, lots of songs sound like lots of other songs, but Smith did agree to pay Petty royalties from “Stay with Me,” so winning two of his major awards, performing the song on the show, hearing that riff every time his nomination was announced and he won and he marched to the stage to accept … I halfway expected Petty to come up with him once. Or at least somebody to mention his name.

I always look forward to the mash-ups. But for the second time, the mix-and-match that featured Sir Paul McCartney left me scratching my head. The Grammys sent the Beatle out there with Kanye West and Rihanna to debut the song “FourFive Seconds.” And I liked the song, particularly Kanye and Rihanna’s passion and delivery. Paul, meanwhile, gave it all as the third wheel, wailing on his guitar on the front line, singing hard into the microphone. And I heard nothing of his parts. He seemed to be the Invisible Man of audio. At the end, everybody else done, McCartney strummed his guitar and again, nothing was heard. Was this his signal to the world? Who buried Paul? Worse than his heavy metal clamor last time with the Nirvana gang.

Speaking of Kim Kardashian’s husband, Kanye also reprised his infamous Grammy acceptance bomb when Beck won album of the year in a surprise. Beck’s face said he didn’t know what was up when West rushed the stage with him, then turned and left. Afterward, Kanye told E! that the Grammys should have given that award to Beyonce, and Beck should have handed it to her, too. Maybe, but, really?

Neal Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, used his annual address toward the end of the ceremony to push the Grammys’ brand new agenda: The Creators Alliance, whose mission is to ensure that artists are forever paid in the digital age. Portnow brought singer Jennifer Hudson and singer-songwriter Ryan Tedder of One Republic to the stage with him, and talked about addressing Congress, and how fans can join the campaign by tweeting, and how the nation needs a united front. Hudson and Tedder added their two cents. The cause is good, artists being paid. But Portnow buried the lead. They all avoided the magic words to this big, music-loving audience, though: Hey, people, getting music for free on the Internet is part of the problem, not the solution. We need to change the culture of the system.

OK, now for the half-full part. Of course there were things I liked about the 57th edition of the Grammys. There were some exciting musical moments, after all.

I liked two of the mash-ups.

Speaking of Beck, when he was joined by Chris Martin of Coldplay for a duet on the soothing “Heart Is a Drum” from that winning “Morning Phase” album, I thought that sounded like Simon & Garfunkel in their glory years. Yes, that good.

And when Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra was joined by Ed Sheeran for the great and happy classic “Mr. Blue Sky” after the band had played a truncated “Evil Woman,” it was wonderful to see the stars of ELO’s-then and Sheeran’s-now party together as the camera panned the rows. The world needed to be reminded how great Lynne’s songwriting has been through five decades.

I greatly respected, appreciated and enjoyed how Katy Perry and Beyonce stood up for just and important causes with their performances.

Perry followed a wise video address about domestic abuse by President Obama with her song “By the Grace of God,” and was joined by domestic abuse survivor Brooke Axtell, who performed a spoken world piece. Touching.

Beyonce with her 2015 Grammy Awards. (Getty Images)

Beyonce with her 2015 Grammy Awards. (Getty Images)

Beyonce helped close the show with a deserved tribute to the Martin Luther King biopic “Selma” with a touching gospel take of “Take My Hand Precious Lord,” leading into Legend and Common’s rendition of “Glory.” While Beyonce sang, white-robed backup singers held their hands high in the what’s become the “don’t shoot” gesture. Chilling.

Here’s the link to the source for the photo of Sam Smith.

Here’s the link to the sounce for the Beyonce photo.

Here’s the link for the Grammy’s site.

Here’s the link to the Fox News story about West storming the stage after Beck’s win.

Here’s the link to Billboard’s story about Neil Portnow’s speech.

Here’s the link to a Rolling Stone story about the Beck/Chris Martin song.

Here’s the link to a Hollywood Reporter story about the Sheeran/Lynne’s ELO performance.

Here’s the link to a TVline story about Katy Perry’s performance.

Here’s the link to Heavy’s story and videos of Beyonce’s and Legend/Common performance.

Thumb up or thumb down on this year’s Grammys? What was your favorite and least favorite Grammy moment, and why? What was your song and album of the year?

48 thoughts on “Grammys leave me feeling half empty

  1. Sadly, I was hugely busy this past week, and missed them altogether. :/ The odd thing is, I almost listen only to CDs exclusively, and only during the past month, I was driving a borrowed car for a job I as doing, and their CD player was broken. As such, I was forced to listen to the radio and was shocked to learn that my local radio stations that I used to love now suck. Not withstanding, I found only two acceptable stations, and those weren’t great. But what did come of the experience was that I learned who Sam Smith even was. I was kind of surprised that I actually liked him. And even funnier, “Stay with Me” sounded so familiar, and I wasn’t able to place it until you mentioned Tom Petty! LOL!


  2. I never watch the grammy’s – and did hear about some parts – but your posts is pretty awesome – so comprehensive and personal but quite overly opinionated in a way that takes away from objectivity – very well done…
    and I like things like this in your writing:
    “Maybe, but, really?”
    also, for some reason you have a tone similar to the doobster – not always – but sometimes I feel him in your writing… I dunno….


    • I don’t try to be objective when I’m writing a commentary on my blog about these events, Y, so thank you for that statement. I considert these to be my columns, in the old newspapar sense.

      Here’s a coincidence about myself and the Doobster that only perhaps has something to do with our respective tones. We both are University of Maryland Terrapins, though a decade apart in our graduation years. Something in the halls of academia there, the campus newspaper, the social aura, reading the Washington Post daily in our 20s? I dunno.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My fave moment by far Jeff Lynne and Ed Sheeran playing “Mr. Blue Sky”. Will Jeff ever age? My least favorite…Happy…or Madonna. I’ll stop there 😀

    While I dig Sam Smith (my post here ) I can’t believe that he swept, for all the reasons you mentioned, Mark.

    Oh, I didn’t like the staging…two stages? And I mostly stay away from award shows because of the politics that get intermingled. I love my music and I love my politics, just not together.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Low points were Madonna, Miranda and Beyoncé. High points were Sam and Mary J. and Hozier with the genius Annie Lennox. And Prince is awesome. Sir Paul dancing in the front row was awesome but he needs a bug in his ear that Rihanna and Kanye aren’t going to get him any new fans. It looks silly. Ed Sheeran was awesome. John Mayer is creepy.


  5. I’ve never watched the Grammys. I’m not big on award shows. If you live in LA you get sick of seeing all the banners for the millions of awards shows going on all the time in the industry with the participants all slapping each other on the back for a job they are more than well paid for to start with. I want to see the Garbage Collectors Awards (sorry I mean the Refuse Engineers, of course), the Hunkiest UPS Delivery Person Awards, the The Tree Trimmer Awards (for going furthest out on a limb without breaking it), the Realtor Awards would be perfect for our town: the highest price, the most square footage, the most garish architecture. So many I could think of. I admit I am giddy, had a not so good day and I had better stop here before I really embarrass myself and I am banished from your comment section forever!


  6. have never seen the Grammys before last night so didn’t have any standard of reference. Thought Swift’s dress was interesting, but drafty. Thought that Sam guy came out pretty well. I liked Haim, but they didn’t win. Those dancers in the beige body suits–eeek. Am just too out of the loop. Enjoy reading your review, though, as I think you have good musical taste. Sorry it didn’t send you over the moon this year. 😦 Also, sorry about the snow. Double 😦


    • I’m glad you watched it and caught that Taylor’s dress was drafty. Yes, the Sair dancers were out there. Interesting night of culture, my friend, misses and hits. And now we are at two feet of snow fallen and I have shoveled twice, with sore shoulders as the result along with a driveway with more snow on it again.


  7. Kanye is that sad combination of a man who is profoundly stupid yet conducts himself as though he were a man steeped in intelligence. His lack of self awareness is, on some level, impressive but mostly frustrating.


  8. Oh, don’t get me started! When Katy Perry is the bright spot, sheesh:). Ed Sheeran got robbed. Sam Smith is great but so is Ed. No reason not to spread the wealth of awards there. Ed had a banner year and did not get recognized for it. This year just felt flat. Old and young combined, yes–but in a much less artful way than past years. It seemed to be done to try to garner a mixed audience rather than b/c it’s great music . . .


  9. Paul is on a constant search for contemporary relevancy. Can’t blame him, really.

    I’ll see a film if it won a bunch of Oscars. And I’ll go to a play if it won a Tony. But I don’t give a damn about the Grammys and I never have. Why do I allow my taste to be influenced by two awards but not the third? What is it about music that is immune to suggestion?


    • Listening to music more singular than communal, even in the middle of a huge arena concert, Mark. I think movies and plays, reaction is more swayed by that of the collective group. Ah, I dunno why. Beause when we were in our formative music taste-making years, we listened to music on headphones in our bedrooms, and before that, on transistor radios under our pillows. Best guess.


  10. I did not get to watch the Grammys this year. The Evil Monkeys That Control My TV insisted that no one good would be on and opted for repeats of Family Guy. However, totally with you on the Sam Smith thing. How a song that owes it’s entire creative motivation to another song wins Song of the Year is a sad tribute to just how bad things have become musically. Also the fact that a joke band (Tenacious D) won a Grammy for a cover song in the metal category is a laugh (pun intended) not to mention the fact that also runners included another cover, Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell. Not only is it sad that two cover songs were nominated in this category, but also the Dio was a main song writer on both of these songs and died without ever receiving a Grammy.


  11. We’ve just discovered “Breaking Bad” so we were binge-watching that. And then Downton Abbey came on. So I totally blew it this year, Mark, and missed the whole show. Like you, I’m a huge Tom Petty fan and am so glad he’s getting a little justice for that musical rip-off.


  12. We watched most of it, the AC/DC opener. He still has his vocals, and I’m glad he smiled, which is something I was surprised to see Sam Smith do. Sam always seems above everyone else, full of disdain for others. Like Kristen Stewart or even the Kanye lyrics, “You should be honored by my lateness, that I would even show up for this place.” Speaking of Kanye, I couldn’t tell what his song was about. His mom? Nope. His daughter? Nope. He kept referring to “son,” but he doesn’t have one. And the visual was awful. Stand over the eternal flame for a minute, but then have the lights come up. And I never need to hear the Tom Petty ripoff again. So over it. You’re right; he should have accepted the award.

    And like you, I was straining to hear Paul’s vocals. I was glad Rhianna wasn’t making the show about her boobs, for once, and was covered up, but again, I couldn’t tell what she was saying, and I heard none of Paul’s notes. Crappy job on the sound guy’s end there. Nor could I tell the lyrics of Katy Perry, although I did like the message of the woman who had been abused. And I may be the only person who doesn’t bow before the Queen Bee, but I don’t find her classy and regal. She shakes her butt and shows her crotch, so I’m not going to give her a standing ovation each time she belts a note out. I did not watch her close the show.

    And I’ve already seen the terrible Gaga/Bennett combination on late night talk shows. She is crazy over-the-top. Poor Tony. Find another friend, like Frank did on his “duets” album. Pick someone sane. And Madonna’s song was wretched as well, although her 56-yr-old legs are fabulous. She was singing about love lifting her up, but she was shoving horned, faceless men? That does not jibe. I should stop now.


  13. i was so bad about it all, i watched the red carpet then headed off to read and sleep. missed all of the excitement but i think i would have loved the elo bit. did anyone mention any whitney houston/bobbi stuff?


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