I might as well confess it now: I am an awards show junkie. The Oscars are a high holy day in my house and have been ever since Rob Lowe danced with Snow White. In my wilder, younger days, I watched them all, from the People’s Choice to the Tonys. Now…well, I don’t watch People’s Choice anymore, but I’ve replaced it with the BAFTAs, so I guess I haven’t slowed down that much.
So, I feel I speak with a certain authority when I say that last night’s Grammys was a complete and unmitigated flop. The entire show was tone deaf from beginning to end. I heart Bruce Springsteen. I adore Bruce Springsteen. But when he kicked it off by yelling, “America, are you alive out there?” and you thought, “Well, yeah, except for Whitney Houston,” you had a sense of how the night was going to go. (Also when Bruce, a writer second to none when it comes to tributes, has no chance to pay tribute to Clarence Clemons.)
This was the year of Adele. Also the year music lost Etta James and Amy Winehouse. It was already too much big, tragic death—how many clips can they do, how many vocal tributes? Then Whitney Houston dies, and it’s official: this year is about the female voice. Specifically, the African American female voice and those inspired by that voice.
So, what do we get in the show? A lot of Paul McCartney. A lot of Dave Grohl. More Bruce. Tony Bennett. I like old white guys. I like them a lot. I love their literature, love their music, love their acting. I even like a few of them in politics.
But this was not their year. It was not about them. Why were they all over my screen. And singing standards? My Funny Valentine? It Had To Be You? What genius decided that Tony Bennett, honored this year for his duet with Amy Winehouse, should sing with Carrie Underwood? Who is about as far from Ms. Winehouse as you can get? Probably the same genius who decided that he should receive that award, along with Amy’s parents, before the telecast. Because you know, they might say something moving, and who wants to see that? Who wants to see Mr. Winehouse say, “Long live Whitney Houston, long live Etta James, long live Amy Winehouse. There’s a beautiful girl-group up in heaven.” Nah, let’s watch Chris Brown and pray they don’t cut to Rihanna.
Amy got nothing, as far as I could see. Etta James got Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt—which was terrific, even if you had a feeling it had been cut short.
Oh, by the way, did you know Diana Ross was given a lifetime achievement award? Might have been nice to highlight her, given, you know, Whitney, Etta, Amy, Adele…
But no, we got Glenn Campbell. And the Beach Boys. Admittedly, Glenn put on quite a show, and yes, I’ll say it, I like Rhinestone Cowboy. In fact, I wish he’d kept singing and we’d skipped Coldplay altogether. I guess if I loved the Beach Boys, I’d care about the reunion. But since I don’t, I didn’t.
But I guess we had to have Coldplay, because what other excuse could there be to have Gwyneth Paltrow introduce the star of the evening—Adele. This was an actual Moment that worked. I was on the edge of my seat. Oh, my God, actual singing! Actual emotion. Wait, is that a real person? At the Grammys? Oh, my God!
But then it was over. Leaving us to look forward to the next Big Moment: the Whitney Houston tribute. I was hoping for something off beat, a slow, sad I Want To Dance With Somebody. My friend assured me it would be I Will Always Love You. And he was right. I’m sure the moment worked for a lot of people. I will be really happy for Jennifer Hudson when she gets to use her considerable talents on a song not already made famous by someone else. (I saw Jennifer Holliday in Dreamgirls. I have a theory you can only be destroyed by one Effie per lifetime. She was mine.)
Taylor Swift as Daisy May, skip. Nicki Minaj in The Exorcist, skip. Katy Perry, kind of hilarious in blue, crimped hair. Although Kate Beckinsale had led me to expect so much more!
I wish Adele had said something a little…bigger…at the end of the night. But she can’t be expected to provide all the Real Moments of the evening.
And how do we end this whole crazy shindig? With every female nominee and performer coming out with candles while clips of amazing female vocalists play in the background? Nope. Instead we get Sir Paul, back again with Golden (Age) Slumber. Fittingly, he is joined by Dave Grohl—missed you, Dave, haven’t seen you for at least half an hour!—Bruce again, Joe Walsh, and maybe Tony was in there, too. And it’s all one big white boy rock guitar fest.
And there is nothing wrong with that.
Except this was not the year for it. And I don’t know how the Grammys didn’t know that.