I think it’s fair to say that the Grammys have morphed from an awards show into an enormous concert. Though the age of the Internet has rendered the awards portion relatively predictable, it has also heightened the emphasis on the performances, personalities, and fashion trends. The Grammy organizers and celebrities have played into this trend, often eschewing “good” in favor of “provocative” (Pharrell’s Smokey-the-Bear style hat and Daft Punk’s iconic robot suits were just some of the outfits of note). Many of the collaborations were chosen because of a shared song, yet many others were chosen to create a clash of styles.
The logical combinations of performers put on good shows for the most part. Beyoncé and Jay Z opened with the most anticipated performance of the night: a rendition of the single from Bey’s new self-titled album, “Drunk in Love.” Beyoncé was captivating and sexy as usual, while Jay Z seemed to recede a bit into her shadow. Still, the performance was great, and they did nothing to relinquish their title as the biggest power couple in the music industry.
Katy Perry and Juicy J performed their song “Dark Horse” together. Although the song is hardly my favorite, the choreography and stage design made the performance memorable. During the breakdown after the first verse, the entire stage did a Bernie-like move in unison, momentarily lightening the mood in an otherwise dark performance. Finally, Pink and Nate Ruess from fun. collaborated on their song “Just Give Me A Reason.” Though the two seemed to have a natural chemistry on stage and harmonized perfectly, Ruess’s puberty mustache threatened to undermine it all.
The stage combinations were a mixed bag. Pop star Robin Thicke and oldies band Chicago shared the stage in what was probably the most awkward performance of the entire show. Their respective songs were so disparate that they didn’t even attempt to combine the melodies, and ultimately their presence on stage together undermined their individual talents. Metallica and concert pianist Lang Lang performed Metallica’s song “One” together. While it was interesting to see such different styles coalesce, it seemed like the artists were sacrificing their art to make the union work.
Although most of these unusual combinations ended up minimizing the individual talents of performers, one of them worked incredibly well. Throughout the whole show, my friends and I were making fun of Kendrick Lamar for selling out by collaborating with Imagine Dragons, but when the two shared the stage, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it. The intensity of Kendrick’s verses on “m.A.A.d city” was complemented perfectly by the head-banging chorus of “Radioactive.”
As for the solo spotlights, Lorde’s performance of “Royals” was probably the most memorable. Sporting her usual ghostly look with dark lipstick, Lorde spastically danced as if she were possessed by demons. Between her deep, spooky, voice and her unusual dancing, she certainly delivered “a different kind of buzz.”
The most poignant moment of the night occurred during Macklemore’s inspirational song “Same Love.” After Macklemore preached the need for us to put aside our differences and embrace love in all of its forms, the camera panned to the aisles of the audience, where 34 couples were getting married, many of whom were same-sex. Queen Latifah then came onstage and delivered the rites, and Madonna, the paramount icon of love and sex, sang her song “Open Your Heart” as the newlyweds embraced. Although the display was a bit tacky, it marked a tremendous historical event as the music industry demonstrated its unequivocal support for marriage equality.
As for the awards, which seemed to be secondary to the performances, Macklemore, Lorde, and Daft Punk came out as big winners. Macklemore won Best New Artist, in addition to sweeping the hip-hop categories, winning a total of four Grammys. Lorde won two awards, including song of the year for “Royals.” However, it was Daft Punk who came out on top, winning a total of four Grammys, including Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year, while managing to stay completely in character even as they accepted them.
It’s 2014, and a white rapper and proponent of gay rights, a 16-year-old feminist from New Zealand, and some guys who like to dress up as robots own the Grammy awards. And here at Wesleyan, we like to critique these artists for being too conventional. It’s a great time to be a fan of music.