Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughts on the Grammy Award performances

"We've had a death in our family."
Photo caption: Jennifer Hudson performs “I Will Always Love You” in memory of the late Whitney Houston during the Grammys.

[Editor's note] Music's biggest night had a big cloud hanging over it last night. The suddenly unexpected death of legendary singer Whitney Houston weighed heavy on the collective consciousness of everyone at or watching the 54th Grammy Awards.

Host LL Cool J and the Academy did good by addressing the loss immediately. Leading the audience in prayer LL said, "Although she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit, and to have the legacy of her music to cherish and share forever." Despite it being read off of a paper, it was genuine and sincerely needed.

For the most part, the rest of the show did what it's supposed to do: celebrate music in all its forms and across the decades. From Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band to Chris Brown, from Coldplay and Rihanna to Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood, this was a Grammy show for both the old and new music lover.

If old world style and new funk beats could mate and breed, they'd produce Bruno Mars. Clad in matching shiny gold jackets and a horn section, Bruno Mars and his band gave a performance of his song "Runaway Baby" not to be believed. It was jazzy and cheeky, it was energetic and entertaining, it was electric and exciting. I've never given this guy much of a chance, but this performance impressed me greatly. Watch it below:

I'd say equally as impressive was Katy Perry's performance of "Part of Me". Gone are the sweet days of candy-laced sugary cuteness. Katy Perry showed up to settle some scores. Namely, with her ex-husband Russell Brand. This was a powerfully assertive performance that proclaimed: "Throw your sticks and stones / Throw your bombs and your blows / But you're not gonna break my soul / This is the part of me that you're never gonna ever take away from me..."

I had never heard this song before last night but can already say I love (and own) it. I've long-argued that Katy Perry is the kind of artist who is perfectly OK with doing fluff music. What's more, she does fluff pop music so well. But the truth is, Katy Perry is more than just pop filler. She's a formidable force in music that is continually making music that matters. You can watch her Grammy performance here.

Arguably one of the more important moments of the show last night was the long-awaited reunion of the Beach Boys. In their first performance together in more than two decades, the band's three surviving co-founders, Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine, along with newer members Bruce Johnston and David Marks played their landmark hit "Good Vibrations".

The Beach Boys' appearance was introduced by performances of two other hits from the group's body of work, reproduced in their California surf-sound style by Maroon 5 who covered "Surfer Girl" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" by Foster the People.

The most impromptu performance of the night was undoubtedly also the most profound.

Jennifer Hudson delivered an emotional rendition of "I Will Always Love You" as a last-minute tribute to the late Whitney Houston. The former American Idol contestant made the most of a difficult task, blinking away tears as she sang a solemn, unadorned tribute on an otherwise flashy show.

It was a fitting tribute to a woman who's voice made us believe in God.

Despite the overarching sadness of the occasion, it was Adele who stole the show.

The British singer first took the stage to belt out "Rolling In the Deep," and finished to a standing ovation. Then she went on to claim 3 of the music industry's top awards: album, record, and song of the year. She also won best pop solo performance, pop vocal, AND best short video.

Her album, 21, is immaculate and it deserved everything it got. It's safe to say that last night's Grammy Awards was the formal coronation of Adele as the new queen of popular music.

And so, we trudge along. Inspired by the past we forge ahead with a new musical future-- a future that's brimming with talents to behold.

The full list of winners can be see here.

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