And what a dull, tedious Grammys it was! “Music’s most tweeted night” — as it was described by LL Cool J, who was like a cab driver who tries to pull you into a very long, inappropriately intense conversation about how technology is changing us and maybe not for the better — was also music’s most somnolent night, with the critics mostly agreeing that it fell short of years past in terms of wow factor, even with some knockout performances and the occasional upset among the winners.
Still, there were standout moments that made us laugh and smile and say, “Hey! Maybe this show hasn’t permanently contaminated our love of music after all,” and then there were also a few that epitomized the evening’s lackluster trudge. Let’s take a look at the best and the worst.
1. Kelly Clarkson exists, and that is a beautiful thing.
Last night proved it, beyond a shadow of a doubt: There’s nothing Kelly Clarkson can do that isn’t utterly adorable. Her chill-inducing vocals during her performance were one thing, but after all that staid solemnity and forced cheer that dominated the evening’s proceedings, her genuine enthusiasm when she took the award for Best Pop Vocal for Stronger (even with the accidental shade she sent in Miguel‘s direction) was an absolute delight.
2. Frank Ocean beat Chris Brown, who didn’t stand — but then again, he sucks, so it’s not surprising.
Despite losing several of the major awards for which he was nominated, Ocean was spare and elegant when he accepted the award for Best Urban Contemporary Album (triumphing over Chris Brown). The fact that Brown refused to stand for Ocean, when everyone else in the crowd did, just reinforced what a terrible and graceless human Brown is. Meanwhile, Ocean has never looked bigger. Awesome.
3. Miguel & Wiz Khalifa adorned us too briefly.
Rocking mod black and white prints (that was a theme of the night, wasn’t it?), Miguel and Wiz Khalifa were given about two minutes on stage — which was just enough time to make it really steamy in that weird, sterile theatre. A+ for that falsetto.
4. Mumford & Sons gave the most energetic performance of the night.
Look, there is no part of us that wants to enthuse about Mumford & Sons’ rootsy bro-rock, but we also have to give credit where credit’s due: That was, like, a really good performance. Building in foot-stomping intensity to a fevered high, the band’s rendition of “I Will Wait” sounded thrillingly euphoric and surprisingly moving.
5. Justin Timberlake is back and that means something.
Sure, we still want more songs like “Mirrors” than we do the still-underwhelming “Suit & Tie,” and the sepia thing was weird and annoying. But ultimately, getting a newly Keratin’d JT up on stage doing what he does best — making some slick-ass baby-making music and looking real good while doing it — was a clear reminder of what the industry has been missing.
1. LL Cool J is very embarrassing.
Oh! Yes, this. Nobody has ever been as embarrassing and awkward as LL Cool J was last night, with his weird talk about hashtagging and that goofy hat. There probably isn’t even any point in dwelling on it. Let’s just acknowledge that he seemed entirely out-of-touch and move on.
2. The producers’ cuts were weird and awful.
Do we need to see Taylor Swift dancing in her seat that many times? Does it really matter how Chris Brown looks while Rihanna’s up on stage during her Bob Marley tribute? The various cuts to the audience felt overbearing, or like the producers were trying to serve some kind of agenda — by embarrassing certain people, or giving some extra shine to others. Either way, it grew tiresome fast.
3. Frank Ocean’s vocals were rough.
Frank Ocean deserves all the praise in the world for his songcraft and musicianship, and he was sorely robbed last night in several categories. Still, that performance of “Forrest Gump” last night left us wanting for some smoother, on-key vocals. Ocean may be one of the most universally adored and inarguably talented dudes in the industry who we’re loath to criticize, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still benefit from a vocal coach.
4. We need to talk about the tragic decline of Carly Rae Jepsen.
Whatever happened to Slayly Slae Slaysen? The erstwhile queen of sugary-perfect pop was roundly ignored at last night’s Grammys, even though she showed up looking like a darkly tortured sex bomb who’d been styled by an assistant merchandising manager at Hot Topic. Alas, the continual snubbing of her genuinely transcendent pop masterpiece Kiss means that she’s probably fated to one-hit-wonder status, even though she deserved — and still deserves — so much more.
5. Justin Bieber passive-aggressively attempted to livestream during the Grammys.
Here’s a moment for you! Since he didn’t get nominated for any Grammys, Justin Bieber held a livestream with his fans in the middle of the Grammys, presumably to throw his weight around a little bit. Unfortunately, he had technical difficulties, so he ended up just leaking one of his own songs. Hahahahaha. And there’s just nothing about that story that isn’t amazing.