7:55 EST: It's almost Grammy time and there are so many questions to be answered: has Rihanna recovered enough from the flu to perform? Why did Lady Gaga arrive in a pod (shades of "Spinal Tap")? Will Madonna join LG to sing "Born This Way" or just serve her with papers for ripping off "Express Yourself." How many Grammys will Enimem, who leads all nominees with 10, take home? We can already surmise that Arcade Fire's "The Surburbs," a tremendous long shot for album of the year, is now a non-contender since it lost in the best alternative album category to the Black Keys' "Brothers." If you're keeping count from the 99 awards already handed out, both Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum have snared two each. Hands down the performance I'm most excited about is "F*** You" by Cee Lo featuring the Muppets (with the Aretha Franklin tribute a close second, then Eminem and Dr. Dre). I have a Diet Mountain Dew--the unofficial sponsor of The Beat Goes On blog---by my side, let's go!
8:00 p.m.: Here we go! The show is starting with the tribute to Aretha Franklin. We get to see if Christina Aguilera can redeem herself from last week's Super Bowl debacle. Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Aguilera, Yolanda Adams and Florence Welch are warbling through "You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)." Welch is great, but her voice is so different from the rest it's a little jarring. Oh, there goes Aguilera over singing again on "Ain't No Way." Glasses in my apartment just broke as she hit a high note. Why when Jennifer Hudson over sings it doesn't bother me, but when Aguilera does I want to poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick? And I LIKE Aguilera. Oh, Martina, you look like the whitest girl on the planet trying to dance as Yolanda Adams tears up "Spirit in the Dark." I'm so with you my awkward-dancing sister. I feel your pain. They're now singing "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves." I've never missed Annie Lennox more. As far as Grammy openers go, that was one of the less memorable. But wait, here's Aretha on tape looking incredibly thin. This is very odd. It's like she's attending her own funeral. Is this creepy to anyone else besides me?
8:20 p.m.: The first award is for pop duo or group. If the cast of "Glee" wins, I'm shutting off my TV. They aren't real, people!!! But are they any better than Train's weak-ass "Hey Soul Sister?" Oops...the live version of "Hey Soul Sister" just won. It is inconceivable to me that the same group that wrote "Calling All Angels" and "Drops Of Jupiter" wrote "Hey Soul Sister." Pat Monahan: what is with your hair? It looks like Cameron Diaz's in a certain scene from "There's Something About Mary."
8:23 p.m. Lady Gaga is performing "Born This Way," emerging from the cocoon in which she arrived to the Grammys. Ah... I get it... she's being born! It's not enough that the song is a total rip-off of "Express Yourself," she's even wearing a high ponytail like Madonna circa 1990 or so. She's joined by a number of dancers in nude-colored gowns. Now they're voguing. Now she's going all Phantom of the Opera on an organ for a very weird break. She's clutching her nipple-like hat (is that for protecting her fontanelle?) to her breast. Did she just have a wardrobe malfunction... no. To be fair, Lady Gaga would probably have to perform while she's being shot out of a birth canal now to impress me, but this performance seems kind of tame by LG standards.
8:33 p.m. I'm sorry. I'm still recovering from "Walk on the Wild Side" being used in an HP commercial that just aired. WTF, Lou? Here's Blake Shelton, who's introducing his fiance Miranda Lambert who's singing song-of-the-year nominee "The House That Build Me." As readers of this blog know, I so heart this song but there's something off with this performance. It feels too slowed down. Even though she explained at the start that the performance is for everyone who's stood on that stage before her, it feels a little odd to see photos of Sting behind her. She started weak--maybe out of nerves--but she's finishing strong.
8:38 p.m.: Can anyone explain to me what Lenny Kravitz was wearing? It looks like a lot of dead stuff. Kate Hudson's baby daddy, aka Matthew Bellamy, and his band Muse are running through "Uprising," which is the best performance of the night so far and a really, really cool set that is changing as they sing...Not so sure about the men in black leading their own rebellion that run out on stage periodically. Totally extraneous and distracting. I got the point with the crumbling bank and changing set without the misfits from "Les Miserables" waving flags, etc. Maybe it's supposed to be a salute to Egypt.
8:49 p.m.: Ryan Seacrest just introduced Bruno Mars, B.o.B and Janelle Monae. I have high hopes. Mars opens with B.O.B.'s "Nothing On You." I don't know why I feel guilty about this, but I tend to like the parts the guests sing on B.o.B's songs, whether it's Mars, Hayley Williams or Rivers Cuomo, than B.o.B's part. Now Mars has taken us back to the '50s for a super-soulful, horn-laden version of "Grenade" complete with James Brown-type knee drops. SO MUCH better than the original song. It's way too soon to tell what's going to happen with Mars, but he seems like the real deal.
8:56 p.m.: Monae is tearing up "Cold War"--I wish she were singing "Tightrope," but I'm just happy to see her on stage. Mars is on drums (there's apparently nothing he can't do). Monae even stage dived. They get the night's first standing ovation. Loved everything about both Mars' and Monae's performances.
8:58: p.m: I guess for Zac Brown, who's presenting with Dierks Bentley, wearing a black knit hat qualifies as formal wear. Why do the country acts always have to be the ones to thank the troops? Do they have the exclusive on supporting the troops? We're up to best country female vocal. What the hell is Gretchen Wilson doing in here with a song that didn't even get any radio play? I don't have to get all excised about it since she just lost to Miranda Lambert for "The House That Built Me," her first Grammy and the first for the Lambert/Shelton household. We're through the first hour. Number of awards handed out: 2. Number of memorable performances: 2.
9:04 p.m: And the award for the best commercial break goes to the set at the top of the 9 p.m. hour with the McDonald's papa and baby bear (was that on the Super Bowl and I missed it?) and the already iconic VW/Darth Vader spot.
9:05 p.m.: Eva Longoria is introducing Justin Bieber. Holy cow. They're playing a snippet from his 3D movie, "Never Say Never." That's like a totally free commercial. Now we're back to real life and it's a tender moment between Usher and the Bieb. I'm supposed to find this touching? I find it a little nauseating. But while we're into shameless plugging, here's the link to my review of the Bieber movie. Are these Ninja drummers coming in for Bieber's performance? The drums are bigger than him. Oh my. Bieber is in black leather. Who does he think he is? Elvis Presley circa the '68 comeback special? I don't mind Bieber, but this is a really flat performance and Jaden Smith adds nothing. Will and Jada Smith are grooving to it in the audience.They won't be smiling so much when their kids are in therapy wondering where their childhood went. Usher just took it up a notch with "OMG." Is Bieber hiding in someone's pocket? Oh, there he is. Usher's dancing rings around him... literally and figuratively.
9:14 p.m. "NCIS's" Pauley Perette and Paramore just presented best rock album to Muse. I had to look away because Perette's dress was so short I was afraid she was going to flash her lady business. Weak, bumbling acceptance speech.
9:21 p.m.: Was Donnie Wahlberg just busting on Justin Bieber when he paused on his last name? Don't make me defend the Bieb. Have a little respect no matter who the artist is. Lady Gaga wins for best pop vocal album. She's sporting what looks like half of Batman's outfit. She clearly said something profane since the sound just went out. She seems genuinely touched and is crying or it could just be the prongs she has coming out of her forehead and her shoulders hurt. She's thanking Whitney Houston because she imagined Houston singing "Born This Way" when she wrote it because she wasn't secure enough to believe she could sing it. Wow. That little 10-second tidbit was WAY more revealing than she was in her entire 20-minute "60 Minutes" profile.
9:25 p.m. Mumford & Sons are singing "The Cave," a song I liked so much better than "Little Lion Man," and showing that you can rock out while playing acoustic, which is a good thing or this acoustic segment would be pretty slow. Loving the horns too. Just switched to the Avett Bros., my fellow North Carolinians (YAY!!! Shout out to the Tarheel State!) performing "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise." I'd like to take this moment to plug the Avett Bros. If you get a chance to go see them live, do so. This performance isn't really indicative of how much fun they are, though they sound good. Now here's Bob Dylan signing "Maggie's Farm," backed by the Avetts and M&S. The white shoes and ascot are a nice tough Zimmy. This is a little surreal, in part because, although Dylan sounds even hoarser and gruffer than usual, it may be the first time I've been able to understand what he's singing. Was I the only one wondering if Soy Bomb would show up? Am I the only one old enough to remember Soy Bomb?
9:39 p.m.: Who would have though Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews would do a better job introducing Lady Antebellum than Lea Michele who bobbled quite a few of her words. Lady A starts with "If You Don't Know Me By Now," by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Hillary Scott, whom I saw perform last night at Dierks Bentley & Friends' awesome concert, and she looked perfectly normal, is now rocking bangs. They looked bad when Sandra Bullock wore them at the Golden Globes, when Leona Lewis wore them at the Justin Bieber premiere and they look bad here. Are they all sharing the same wig? We're into a medley of Lady A songs with "American Honey" and "Need You Now." That was a strange segue from "Honey" into "Need You Now." Dull performance, but I love Charles Kelley and Scott's harmonies together.
9:45 p.m.: Lady A wins best country album over Miranda Lambert and Jamey Johnson, both of whom I would have predicted would have won before Lady A. They already won two previous Grammys tonight. Are they going to shock everyone and win best song and record?
9:47 p.m. We're five seconds in and "Forget You" is my favorite performance of the night. Cee Lo is with the Muppets, but his feathers and plumes are brighter than any Muppet. He's putting Elton John to shame. The backing girl Muppets are classic. I love the space age set. Gwyneth Paltrow is a much better singer than she has a right to be, but I'd rather see her in Muppet form. She's also getting way too much of the song and is adding nothing. Cee Lo just stood up, he's a complete, Elmo-red Muppet explosion. I've heard much more spirited versions of the song, but in terms of the over-all visual experience, A+. I'd pay a lot of money to see a Cee Lo tour with the Muppets as his band...and without Gwyneth.
9:57 p.m.: Katy Perry is a girl-on-a-swing with new single "Not Like the Movies." It's a Grammy motif we swear we've seen before, but we don't remember whom. Now there's footage of her and Russell Brand's wedding projected on the scrim of her swing. This should work much better than it does. She's now segued into "Teenage Dream." She sounds much better here than she did on the slower song. She should be very thankful that Norah Jones, John Mayer and Keith Urban are singing a tasty, acoustic version of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" after her instead of before. Mayer is really obviously reading a teleprompter. That was a nice little tribute to Parton who received a Lifetime Achievement Awards this year.
10:04 p.m. LOL. The announcer is calling "F*** You" "the song otherwise known as 'Forget You,' during the Song of the year nominees. "Need You Now" just won. That is shocking and throws every one's predictions off kilter. Trust me, the only ones who expected that less than the band were the pundits. Did not see that coming because even if Nashville block voted, I figured they were splitting the vote between "Need You Now" and "The House That Built Me." This is an award that goes to the songwriters, whereas record of the year goes to the producer, engineer and artist.This award has gone to a country song only a handful of times: in 2007 to the Dixie Chicks and Dan Wilson for "Not Ready To Make Twice" (although we'll always believe that was more a vote of political solidarity for the Chicks than truly for the song) and before that, 1983 for "Always on My Mind."
10:13 p.m. Rihanna sounds pretty shaky on her intro to "Love the Way You Lie (Part 2)." Her appearance was in doubt since she's suffering from the flu. Eminem's rapping. I love his energy and intensity, or maybe he's just incredulous, like the rest of us, that he lost song of the year to Lady A (calm down, Lady A fans-- I am a big supporter of the band, but I'm still reeling from their victory in this category.) Skylar Grey just called for a Doctor on Em's "I Need a Doctor" (does her part remind anyone else of Evanescence's Amy Lee?) I have a feeling there's one in the house. Paging Dr. Dre... (did Em just get a "f*** past the censors?) I'm blown away by Em. He's giving me chills. I think he's electrifying.
10:21 p.m.: Best new artist: I'm giving up on predicting anything since my predictions have sucked this year. Uh...Esperanza Spalding just won. I'd really like a recount. For those who don't know her (and I'm assuming that's 99.9 percent of you), she's a jazz artist and she's great, so this isn't like Starland Vocal Band winning, as they did in 1977. She will probably be going strong long after some of the other artists in the category have faded into obscurity...wait, did I just talk myself into believing she should have won this award. Nah. Drake was robbed and the Bieb is really having a tough night. (a little side note: we went to Wikipedia to check what year Starland Vocal Band won artist of the year and they already have Spalding up as the winner, but have as her nationality "Bob Dole." I don't even have a comeback for that, I just wanted to share).
10:35 p.m.: Mick Jagger, in his first Grammy performance, is saluting Solomon Burke (the clip of Burke singing "Cry To Me" made me feel like crying. LOVE him) with "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." Keith Richards looks very different tonight. Healthier than we've seen him in years. LOL. We kid, Raphael Saddiq. Not my favorite performance of the night by a long shot, but it was all heart.
10:46 p.m.: Kris Kristofferson is introducing Barbra Streisand. His voice is totally shot. We hope that's only temporary. For Streisand fans (and who isn't?), you can read our account of seeing her Friday night at the MusiCares Person of the Year dinner here. I don't feel qualified to carry Streisand's shoelaces, much less comment on her "Evergreen" performance, but it's a little spotty. She sounds beautiful on some of it and a teeny bit off in others. But when she's on, there's absolutely no one who can compare. No.One.Ever. I want to bathe in her voice.
10:51 p.m.: Our favorite cartoon character, Nicki Minaj, is presenting best rap album with Will.i.am. The Grammy goes to Eminem, who's probably thankful that Lady A wasn't nominated in this category. We'll see if he gives a speech like he knows he may not return to the podium tonight. Yup.
10:59 p.m.: P Diddy seems very reading challenged with the intro for Rihanna's "What's My Name" featuring Drake. Drake rapping "The things we can do in 20 minutes, girl," made me long for The Dominos, who pledged us three times as long in "60 Minute Man." I guess attention deficit disorder has affected everything. It even seemed like a short performance. Rihanna looked hot though.
11:03 p.m.: We have no doubt Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez have chemistry in real life, but not up on stage presenting Record of the Year, which, if you've been following along, will not be surprised that it goes to Lady Antebellum for "Need You Now." Is this a good time to remind people that "Need You Now" is a song that Lady A thought sucked when they wrote it? (I like it, by the way). This is going to be remembered for the year that Lady A beat a much more deserving (in my mind, at least) Eminem just like the year that Norah Jones swept, beating Springsteen's "The Rising."
11:12 p.m.: God bless Arcade Fire. They are waking up everyone with a blistering "Month of May," complete with a BMX biker (we love that he's wearing a helmet). This is like a great jolt of adrenalin straight to the heart. They just topped Muse. So they're losing every Grammy they're up for, they came out and took no prisoners.
11:17 p.m.: For fun, I decided to check Kanye West's tweets during the commercial. Here's the latest: "Damn... I can't find the words to explain how I feel about the best new artist award... Don't wanna say the wrong thing." That may be the one and only time West and I agree on something. Other than I'm sure we both agree that he will be up for album of the year at the 2012 Grammy Awards.
11:22 p.m.: Babs and Kristofferson are presenting album of the year. I really want Eminem to win, if for nothing else, to see him hug Streisand. What? Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" wins. The band (I think it was Win Butler, I was looking away) just said, "What the hell?" echoing the sentiment of almost everyone in the audience. I realized there's no logic here, but how can they lose best alternative music album and win best album? For anyone else who's confused, the whole Grammy voting constituency can vote for album of the year, while a smaller portion vote for the genre awards. But, you know what, that doesn't really explain anything to me. Eminem should have won. Arcade is performing again to end the show. After the thrash of "Month Of May," they're now showing their bouncy side with a sprightly "Ready to Start." Here's my question: was whoever won going to play? It's head to imagine that the Grammys had reserved two slots for Arcade Fire regardless of whether they won album of the year. My head hurts.
My post-show thoughts: It will be a cold day in hell before we see Eminem at the Grammy Awards again. He was almost shut out. No artist should ever go in feeling like he/she is the presumptive winner, but he was certainly the hands-down favorite. Biggest winners? Lady Antebellum and Esperanza Spalding. Let's just say that Spalding's win was so shocking, you'll note that she was the only best new artist nominee who didn't really get a turn in the spotlight (I'm sorry, playing behind Recording Academy Neil Portnow does not count). We know Drake and Florence & The Machine didn't get their own spots, but they were featured much more prominently than Espe.
Traditionally, performers see a much bigger sales bump than the winners, but we're predicting a huge bounce for Spalding next week. Lady A probably won't see the same jump simply because that album has already sold a few million copies. A few other thoughts: Christina Aguilera did nothing to redeem herself from last week's gaffe, but didn't cause herself any more harm. Cee Lo's performance will get the most YouTube views, no thanks to Gwennie, and "Hey Soul Sister" will never, ever stop being in heavy rotation at a radio station near you.