Grammy Awards 2017: The Good, The Bad & The Beyonce

Mike Wass | February 13, 2017 6:20 am
Grammy Awards 2017: Watch The Performances
Watch Beyonce, Adele, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry & The Weeknd perform at the Grammys.

As entertaining as the Grammy Awards are, the live broadcast always feels like something of an ordeal. There are awkward presenters, an avalanche of hit-and-miss performances and a crappy host. That’s particularly true of last night’s (February 12) event, which, with a couple of exceptions, felt disarmingly out of touch with pop culture and the current state of the world. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, so let’s start the round-up with the highlights. The biggest being Beyonce’s extraordinary performance.

While Queen Bey only took home two awards (more about that later), her presence hung over music’s biggest night like a holy cloud. It started with her brilliant mash-up of Lemonade album tracks, “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles.” The very-pregnant diva delivered a stunning multi-media display, which effortlessly blended screens, projections and brilliant staging. I’ve never quite seen anything this personal (mother Tina Lawson and daughter Blue Ivy were part of the show) or universal (a bold celebration of motherhood). It looked and sounded like a work of art and immediately set the mark by which all other performers would be judged.

It wasn’t the only magical moments. Katy Perry’s live debut of “Chained To The Rhythm” was well-executed and brought a little grit to Staples Center. She was brave enough to sing live (unlike many of her pre-recorded colleagues) and edged even further away from her traditionally fluffy brand with a moody performance. Another stand-out performer was Bruno Mars. His breezy, ’90s-tastic rendition of “That’s What I Like” resulted in a massive sales boost on iTunes and he elevated The Time’s excellent Prince tribute to another level by belting out “Let’s Go Crazy” in purple drag.

A Tribe Called Quest and Anderson .Paak joined forces for the night’s most political moment with a powerful mash-up of “Award Tour,” “We The People” and “Movin’ Backwards,” while Chance The Rapper capped off a breakthrough evening with a rap/gospel extravaganza. I was also blown away by Alicia Keys and Maren Morris’ great version of “Once” (these ladies came to sing), thought Adele opened the show on an elegant note with a lovely rendition of “Hello” and thoroughly enjoyed Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood’s campy duet, “The Fighter.”

Other highlights include Celine Dion presenting Song Of The Year, Twenty One Pilots accepting an award in their underwear, Rihanna spending most of the night sipping booze from a diamond-studded flask and Jennifer Lopez saving James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke debacle with her sheer gorgeousness and enthusiasm. Speaking of the Brit, his performance as host was a definite lowlight. There wasn’t a single funny joke to be heard and he strangely tried to make the night about himself, be it reading mean tweets or pretending his parents were swinging with celebrities. Cringe.

As usual, there were too many performances and some of them were really not up to scratch. Lukas Graham and Kelsea Ballerini made odd bedfellows with their “7 years”/”Peter Pan” mash-up, the star-studded Bee Gees tribute fell flat and Adele messed up the George Michael tribute to the point where she had to start again. It wasn’t all her fault, however. The ballad arrangement of “Fast Love” was just awful. Lady Gaga and Metallica also suffered from technical issues (and Mother Monster’s theatrical bent).

My biggest issue with the 59th Grammys crystalized when it became clear that Adele was going to sweep the major categories. It was bad enough that a polite ballad like “Hello” trumped a politically-charged anthem like “Formation” for Song and Record Of The Year, but accusations of racial bias were unavoidable when 25 was named Album Of The Year at the expense of Lemonade — a state of affairs that prompted a well-intentioned, but clumsy outburst from the winner (below). You just have to glance at the history books to see there’s a problem here. Only three black women have ever won the award — the last being Lauryn Hill way back in 1999.

To paraphrase Frank Ocean, it boggles the mind that Taylor Swift can win the award for a generic pop album like 1989, while Beyonce was denied Self-Titled (an album that literally changed the way music is disseminated) and Lemonade — a visual masterpiece that started an important conversation about race for some and served as an instrument of healing for others. I’m not trying to diminish Adele’s talent. 21 well and truly deserved its AOTY Grammy, but the average person on the street would be hard pressed to name two songs off 25. In fact, with the exception of “Hello,” it just came and went.

How are these awards supposed to mean anything if the most important artist of the last decade, the person inspiring the eventual winners, isn’t recognized — even when she’s continually creating history?

What was your highlight? Let us know below, or by hitting us up on Facebook and Twitter!