The Grammys start in four minutes and I'm sitting on my couch in Los Angeles. It's very strange. It's the first time in probably 15 years that I haven't been in the press room for the Grammys. If the ratings are up from the abysmal ratings of last year, the Grammys have US Airways' Captain Sullenberger to thank, given that lead-in "60 Minutes" just devoted much of its program to the latest American hero. It will be one more thing to be grateful to him for!
U2 is opening the show with "Get on Your Boots" with a very "Achtung Baby"-like performance. Very high-tech with psychedelic colors and lyrics projected on a back screen. Now they're going into the feedback portion of the song. I can hear the remotes clicking. Bono whips off his glasses and he has on guy liner... Yikes. It's a good, high-energy kick off, even though I'm opposed to it since U2 isn't up for anything and it's clearly a ratings grab for the Grammys and a promo op for U2 and its forthcoming album. The song really is a blend of The Escape Club's "Wild, Wild West" and Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up."
All hail the return of the diva. Whitney Houston gets a standing ovation just for being upright... she's presenting the first award of the night, best R&B album, an award she undoubtedly plans to be up for next year, as well as general album of the year. Jennifer Hudson is up for this so it's our first chance to hear her speak if she wins. Oh my gosh, Houston's waiting to open the envelope, she's praising Clive Davis. Trust me, the only person loving this is Clive. Poor nominees. And why is Whitney now talking like Tina Turner?
Jennifer Hudson wins... This is what everyone's been waiting for and it's only six minutes in. She looks amazing, by the way. First mention of God, who's gotten her through and she thanks her family in heaven. She then goes into a regular speech. Very classy.
After an awkward and unfunny segment by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Justin Timberlake introduces Al Green, who's joined also by Keith Urban and Boyz II Men. Nice move by the Grammys since a large part of the viewing audience probably has no idea they're seeing a legend. Maybe they'll learn something, Green's voice isn't what it once was, but he's wiping the floor with Timberlake on "Let's Stay Together," and Justin is happy to let him do it.
Holy cow, Simon Baker is introducing Coldplay. They are frontloading this puppy. U2 and Coldplay in the first 20 minutes. Okay, it's just Chris Martin solo, playing "Lost" from the new album. They better be doing a medley. Jay Z just came out to rap on the song. Wait--he's putting Chris Martin in the same sentence as Malcolm X? Now Bobby Brown? The Grammys are all about collaborations, but this one, full of such promise, doesn't work [I know, Jay-Z's on the remix of the song. I still don't like it...] Now they're in full Coldplay mode on "Viva la Vida." The sounds seems off, but I so love this song, as I've shouted from the mountaintops for months now. Martin seems to be singing live, but there's obviously lots of backing tracks since I don't see a string player anywhere and it sounds like about 200 people are doing the backing vocals. Martin is clearly pumped and just did a Springsteenian-backbend. I've got to start yoga tomorrow. Another standing ovation. This is an easy crowd....
Carrie Underwood is belting through " I Don't Even Know His Name" in a very short, almost see-thru dress. One false move and she's going to flash her business to the world. I talked to her on the red carpet at Clive Davis's party last night and she was very psyched to represent country. This version of the song is about as country as Pat Benetar. Still, like her performance or not, she has really grown as a performer since her "American Idol" days. I don't always like her songs, but she has got a great voice.
We're finally getting to the second award: best country performance by a duo or group. The winner is "Stay" by Sugarland. Jennifer Nettles hugs her Sugarland partner Kristian Bush-- but we have a feeling he's toast as soon as she can go solo without seeming tacky. They've already pared down from a trio to a duo.
Duffy and Al Green are presenting song of the year, one of the four biggest awards of the night. They're prefacing it by singing some of the past winners a capella. Nice but not necessary. The Rev. Green is getting a lot of love this year. The winner is Coldplay and "Viva la Vida." Yay! There was no other nominee in the category that even comes close as a song. Very cute--they just apologized to Paul McCartney for ripping off the Sgt. Pepper threads.
Kid Rock is preaching through his son "Amen." Did they really just show his mugshot when he sang the line about how he believe in doing what is right? There's another American flag behind him--didn't U2 use one too? Now he's segued into "All Summer Long," but only the part that's based on "Sweet Home Alabama," not "Werewolves of London." He's now gone into "Rock N Roll Jesus." Where's the love for Warren Zevon?
Just saw a commercial for Chris Brown singing the praises of Doublemint gum. That's the only place we're going to see him since he pulled out of his performance tonight after Los Angeles Police announced they are investigating him for allegedly attacking a woman last night. His girlfriend Rihanna also pulled out of her performance. Wonder how NARAS filled those last-minute gaps?
Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus are singing Swift's album track "Fifteen." They're performing "Unplugged" style, with just Swift on acoustic guitar on a proscenium stage (the rest of the band is behind them). I'm just going to say it, I think Swift is a very talented songwriter, but her voice is flat, flat, flat. And Cyrus isn't faring much better. Oddly, the only time they sound okay is when they're singing together.
Best pop collaboration with vocals goes to Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. I think they're definitely taking album of the year now... But how weird that they're in the same category as Madonna and Justin Timberlake. Plant gave the whole acceptance speech. My hunch is Krauss, who is the top female Grammy winner ever, knows she'll be back up on stage.
Jennifer Hudson is singing a capella. She's changed already from her earlier outfit and looks amazing. She's singing a gospel number and is tearing it up with "You Pulled Me Through." She deserves that standing ovation. I wouldn't have gotten out of bed yet if I'd gone through what she went through last year. She was emotional, but not overwrought. She is a star. If there was any doubt after "Dreamgirls," tonight has sealed it.
The Jonas Bros. are performing "Burnin' Up," with Stevie Wonder. There is something so patently ridiculous about the pairing that I don't know what to say. I happen to like the Jonas Bros. and they're holding their own, but this one just isn't working for me. It just seems beneath Stevie because, well, performing with almost anyone seems beneath Stevie given his talent.
Blink 182 just made it official: they're reuniting. The rumors had started flying when it was announced they'd be presenting tonight since it was their first appearance together since the split a few years ago. They present best rock album to Coldplay, whose Chris Martin makes the cutest comment so far: "We're not the heaviest of rock bands; we're more like limestone, a little softer, but just as charming." I'm still thinking about Hudson's stirring performance and can't wait to Youtube it.
Craig Ferguson is on. I have such a crush on him. He's joking about being up for "best solo performance for a sex tape." He introduces Katy Perry, who's descending from the ceiling in a banana. She's surrounded by the Fruit of the Loom fruit-- not really, it just looks like it. When I talked to her last night at Clive Davis's party, she said her biggest fear would be that she's either fall out of the banana or get trapped in it like the members of Spinal Tap in their pods. There's , a performance like this every year-- a high energy production number a la Britney or Janet, but Katy can't really dance. I love that she's in flats. I'm so tired of seeing girls run around in six-inch hells like that's normal. This is all sizzle and no steak.
Kanye West and Estelle are singing "American Boy." I adore parts of this song and am eager to see what Estelle does next. Jeez, West once again claims the sourpuss of the evening award when he goes to announce the nominees for best new artist and says "it's neither one of us," his obvious dig at Estelle not being nominated in this category. Can he never, ever, ever be gracious? Clearly he can't. Really unbelievable. Adele just won. She's so cute with her acceptance speech. Clearly flustered, she tells fellow nominees the Jonas Bros. she loves them and gives the sweetest little grin.
Morgan Freeman is introducing the biggest ticket seller? Who? He's introducing Kenny Chesney--well, Chesney is a huge concert draw--the biggest in country music since Garth Brooks is on hiatus, but folks like Bon Jovi, Madonna and Springsteen may have something to say about Freeman's claim. Chesney is giving a lovely, low-key performance of "Better as a Memory." I've always found him overrated, but never minded because he is such a hard worker. The song was co-written by his publicist. A good song is a good song no matter where it comes from.
We're up to record of the year already? That means almost two more hours without a huge award since the last award of the evening will be album of the year. Poor M.I.A., a nominee for "Paper Planes," is about to give birth. She should win just for that. Grammy goes to Alison Krauss and Robert Plant for "Please Read the Letter." That means they're definitely winning album of the year. Why is Krauss not talking at all? I don't get it... Note to self: by now I should know to always go with the esoteric choice for album of the year, or just vote for the oldest person in the category.
Queen Latifah just gave an incredibly convoluted intro tying in Dean Martin and the Rat Pack with M.I.A., who may really drop that baby right now, and Kanye West, T.I., Jay Z and Lil Wayne, who are performing "Swagga Like Us." The performance is in black and white, and the fellas are all in tuxes as a tribute to the Rat Pack. M.IA. is doing the chorus of "Swagga Like Us" and bringing a great edge to the song. I really love that she is in tights and a clinging mini-dress. Wouldn't it be crazy if her water broke on national TV? Could the Grammys get that lucky? That collaboration was the best of the night.
Kate Beckinsale is introducing Paul McCartney. He's now performing "I Saw Her Standing There," with Dave Grohl on drums. It's nice to see him behind a drum kit since Taylor Hawkins has those honors in Foo Fighters. Grohl is banging it up like Animal from the Muppets. Why is there a stuffed animal on the amps? McCartney's schtick can be tough to take sometimes, but then he goes and does a straight ahead rock performance and he's still got it going on.
The LA Times is now reporting that the woman Chris Brown allegedly attacked was Rihanna. That's one of those reports you just don't want to believe is true.
Jack Black, who looks like he's auditioning for the Blues Brothers (like in the Pepsi commerical), is presenting with his father-in-law, Charlie Haden. We're up to best male pop vocal performance. John Mayer beats out folks like Paul McCartney. Mayer is like Sting--if he gets nominated, he's going to win.
I have no idea what Jay Mohr is ranting on about... "Farmer's Blvd?" What? Anyway, it's Sugarland with "Stay," already a big winner tonight. Jennifer Nettles can sing, no doubting that, but she's over-emoting. Now Adele is singing "Chasing Pavements." Listen to that voice. She sounds a teeny bit flat in certain spots, but it's dusky, smoky and world weary all at the same time and she's only 20. Now Nettles is singing "Chasing Pavements" and Adele is ignoring her. Having interviewed Adele, we're chalking that up to nerves, not being a snob.
It's pretty cool that Gwyneth Paltrow, otherwise known as Chris Martin's wife, is introducing Radiohead. They're pulling a move from Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk," and are performing with the USC Marching Band. Thomas Yorke is slinking around stage and is incredibly sexy--not something I usually associate with him. No interplay with the audience at all, but I loved it. It's Radiohead's first time playing the Grammys. They'll be back.
Justin Timberlake and T.I. are performing "Dead and Gone." Nice. Accompanied by strings and a "Stomp"-like percussion unit. Great performance. There doesn't seem to be anything Justin Timberlake can't do. I'm rethinking how harsh I was on him when he sang with Al Green.
NARAS president Neil Portnow is giving the annual address. It really doesn't matter what he says, no one wants to hear it. He is talking about the good things NARAS does, which are many. It's really a greatest hits of NARAS offerings. He just called for a secretary of the arts, an idea that gets bounced around a lot.
Smokey Robinson just introduced a tribute to the Four Tops along with the one surviving member, Jamie Foxx and Ne-Yo. It's the 50th anniversary of Motown. I keep meaning to do a list of Motown's greatest songs, but, really, all you have to do is listen to a Four Tops' best-of and there you go. That and the Temptations' greatest hits. Simply some of the best songs ever, ever, ever, ever written and performed. I wonder who we'll be listening to 50 years from now? Motown artists or Britney? I'm not hating on Britney, I really wonder.
Neil Diamond, who was honored Friday night as MusiCares' Person of the Year is now performing "Sweet Caroline." It's cheesy in all the right ways. There are all these really young chicks clapping in the front row who I bet have never, ever heard this song. You either appreciate Neil for the camp value or your don't and I do (unless it's "Forever in Blue Jeans" or "Heartlight," two of the worst songs ever written).
Straight from In Memoriam segment honoring those who died over the past year into a tribute to Bo Diddley, who died last summer, by, among others, BB King, Buddy Guy, John Mayer and Keith Urban. Man, from the list of those who died, it was a bad year to be a drummer or the composer of a classic TV theme (both the writers of the "Batman" and "Andy Griffith Show" died last year.)
Lil Wayne, Robin Thicke and Allen Toussaint are performing a tribute to New Orleans. Im torn between thinking it's really nice since New Orleans still needs all the help it can get and just wondering why now, three years later? They've brought out the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, launched into "Big Chief" and just turned it into a second line rave up. There's never a wrong time for that kind of great music or "Big Chief." That song is New Orleans.
Best Rap album goes to Lil Wayne. He brings up some kids and a bunch of folks. It's a family affair. Glad he won there since he's not taking home album of the year this year.
Alison Krauss and Robert Plant are performing "Rich Woman" from "Raising Sand." They have amazing chemistry. Just give them the album of the year statue now. Oh, now they're doing "Gone, Gone, Gone," which won a Grammy last year. Good Lord, the Grammys have gone medley crazy this year in an effort to set some kind of land-speed record for the most songs ever performed on a Grammy show. Give it a rest. Let folks do just one song and really sink some teeth into it. I'm still figuring out how they filled in for Rihanna and Chris Brown's yanked performances.
Green Day is presenting album of the year. I think we know where this one is headed. Just as a side note, I can't wait for the next Green Day album later this year. Love them...
And the winner is: "Raising Sand." Alison Plant finally speaks and she gives a shout out to VH-1's Bill Flanagan, who introduced the two when he tried to get them to do a "Crossroads" together for CMT. That certainly is a suggestion that bore fruit! Plant just said, "In the old days, we would have called this selling out, but it's a nice way to spend a Sunday." Proof that almost all rockers mellow with age.
Holy shit, they're playing Robert Plant off and aren't going to let T Bone Burnett speak. C'mon, people.
Stevie Wonder is now playing "All About the Love Again." I think this is the song he wrote for Obama... not sure, but was this really worth cutting Robert Plant off for? I also have a hunch this may be the answer to my question about how were they filling some of the Chris Brown/Rihanna pull outs.
It's a wrap for the 51st annual Grammy Awards. Overall, I'd give the show a B. It was a little too frenetic and for all the collaborations, there were no water cooler moments, like Elton John performing with Eminem. But there were also no horrible gaffes. Let's watch those "Raising Sand" album sales soar over the next week. Although Plant had pretty much already completely slammed the door on it, now we'll never, ever get that Led Zeppelin reunion tour!