The Grammy Nominations concert, broadcast live on CBS, was a technical mess. Cues were dropped, transitions were awkward and most painfully, co-hosts Taylor Swift and LL Cool J had absolutely zero chemistry. The only way their opening conversation about going out to see the sights of Nashville after the show (in which Swift pretended to teach LL that a honky-tonk was a kind of nightclub) would be more depressing is if it was actually scripted instead of ad-libbed. Same for when LL sang a snatch of Swift's hit "Mean" while she attempted to beatbox.
The 55th Annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast Sunday, February 10, on CBS.
The Live Performances
Some of the live performances made a certain thematic sense, like New York alt-rock trio fun. performing their breakthrough hit "We Are Young" with a live string section and a guest appearance by neo-soul cult heroine Janelle Monae. It was one of the year's biggest songs, and the group were the night's big winners, racking up nominations for Best Pop Album, Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
Otherwise, the acts performing mostly seemed to be whoever was willing to be in Nashville on a Wednesday night. Three songs by Maroon 5 was at least two too many, Ne-Yo's "Let Me Love You" was oddly perfunctory, and hometown boy Luke Bryan's "I Don't Want This Night to End" merely proved this native Texan's conviction that country music doesn't sound like country music anymore. It's just late '70s soft rock sung with an exaggerated twang.
The worst indignity was given to The Who, who at least didn't have to be there live: instead, they showed about three minutes' worth of "Won't Get Fooled Again," recorded at their concert in Nashville over the weekend. Normally, I'd say it was a travesty that one of the greatest rock songs of all time be trimmed like that, but honestly, Roger Daltrey's voice sounded shot and he really shouldn't be performing with his shirt completely unbuttoned these days. Dude, you're 68.
The Award Nominations
Only five of the 81 categories were announced live. The rest are available online at grammy.com. Overall, the theme seemed to be "We're trying to be really hip, you guys. Stop making fun of us." Unlike last year when it was clear that Adele was going to win even the awards she wasn't nominated for, no artist stood out as the obvious favorite.
Shockingly, all five of the acts nominated for Best New Artist are actually new artists: three of them (roots rockers Alabama Shakes, country hunk Hunter Hayes and folk-pop crooners The Lumineers) have only released one album so far, and both fun. and R&B powerhouse Frank Ocean's previous releases were strictly DIY. This makes a nice change from last year, when indie-folk favorite Bon Iver won Best New Artist for his third album.
The Album of the Year choices were actually fairly decent, as such things go: scrappy indie duo The Black Keys' El Camino, girls-dorm mainstays Mumford and Sons' Babel, and the albums by the aforementioned fun. and Frank Ocean, whose spellbinding soul offering Channel Orange is my favorite of the lot. The odd man out this year is Jack White's Blunderbuss, an overblown mess of a record from an artist who has done far better work in the past.
Similarly, it's hard to argue with most of the Record of the Year nominees. (Note: Record of the Year refers to the finished recording and goes to the record's producers. Song of the Year refers to the song itself, not the performance or production, and goes to the songwriters.) The Black Keys' "Lonely Boy" and Ocean's "Thinkin' 'Bout You" took the hipster slots, with the other four places going to some of the less annoying ubiquitous Top 40 hits of the last 12 months: Kelly Clarkson's Friedrich Nietzsche-quoting "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," future one-hit-wonder Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know," fun.'s "We Are Young" (which will probably win) and Swift's "We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together," which gave the singer a chance to perform her usual "Who? Lil' ol' me? You GUYS!" surprised face.
Yeah, you read that correctly: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," the song we've all gone from hating, to secretly liking, to being sick of, to unapologetically loving, wasn't nominated for Record of the Year, although it snagged a nomination in the less-prestigious Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance categories. But hey, it wouldn't be the Grammys if there weren't weird snubs.