Grammys 2013 Recap: Frank Ocean Loses Album of the Year, But Wins Us Over With “Forrest Gump”

Justin Timberlake performs the Grammys
(All photos Getty)

There’s no sense complaining about this year’s Grammys, because the 2013 ceremony delivered everything you want in a mind-numbing awards brouhaha: unexpected winners (Adele in Pop Vocal Performance for a live recording — gasp!), a couple of stellar performances (specifically The Black Keys and Kelly Clarkson covering standards by Patti Page and our girl Carole King), a pint of top-shelf gayness (Elton John, NPH, and Frank Ocean in a performance that was both immediately emotional and oddly static) and a nice smattering of idiocy (Host LL Cool J is addicted to Twitter lingo! Hashtag Kangol!). The only thing I found distinctly lacking were the acceptance speeches, which were neither spontaneous nor scripted enough throughout Music’s Biggest And Most Pompous Night. Only Kelly Clarkson delivered on that front, as she shouted out to fellow performer Miguel, “I don’t know who the hell you are, but we have to sing together!” And then she accidentally said “Zach Braff” instead of “The Zac Brown Band” when she announced the winner of Best Country Album, so this was arguably the most adorkable night in Kelly’s career. You know she originated dork-cute-coolness. Take a quirky seat, Zooey. 

Kelly Clarkson

Taylor Swift opened the night with an Alice in Wonderland-tinged performance of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” complete with freaks on tricycles, dudes in bunny costumes, and sluggish choreography that I’m calling a tribute to the hookah-smoking caterpillar. It was as if Ms. Swift were proclaiming, “I just tried marijuana for the first time, guys!” Cute enough, but then she made the mistake of dipping into a British accent during one key line, which was a clear reference to her breakup with One Direction’s Harry Styles. Look, I like Taylor Swift and consider her songwriting akin to P!nk’s older, lightly insightful work, but these ex-boyfriend shout-outs are totally lame. And disingenuous! What if Alanis Morissette punctuated every performance of “You Oughta Know” with a few bars of the Full House theme? Sure it’d be funny, but it’d also be deeply immature, right? The stunt cheapens the song. And by the way, Alanis was younger than Taylor when Jagged Little Pill came out. The obvious maturity gap has always weirded me out, even if 23-year-old Taylor makes enjoyable singles.

Taylor Swift opens the Grammys

Then came a few less notable performances, namely Elton John and singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran’s duet of “The A Team,” fun.’s squawky performance of “Carry On,” and country stars Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley’s duet of “Over You” and “Home.” Country music in 2013 is a sad, sad affair. It’s become a competition to see who can express the least individuality. There was nothing one-of-a-kind about the performers we saw, and that’s apparently what the country audience wants: a strict adherence to backwoods imagery and phony, home-cooked values. Bring me back the phenomenonal Dixie Chicks, who remain the only meaningful country phenomenon of the past 15 years, unless you count the jingoistic streak that Toby Keith sicked on everyone in ’03. Carrie Underwood can sing very well (as she did last night on her Grammy-winning “Blown Away”), but her songs may as well be 30 years old. Emerge from your aerie, Miss Natalie Maines. Pronto. 

Justin Timberlake tried performing his unthinkably inspid new single “Suit and Tie.” Ugh. He is my anti-catnip. A GQ-sponsored farce of loverman poses and laughable “sensuality.” Worse, he read some teleprompter feed about the Grammy Foundation later in the evening, and he used his infuriating “Let me teach you about Black History Month” serious voice when doing it. No to him. No also to fun.’s “We are Young” snatching Song of the Year honors away from Carly Rae Jepsen, who — though not my favorite perpetrator of a cultural touchstone ever — certainly ruled 2012 with “Call Me Maybe.” It’s a little weird she went home with nothing and Gotye — whose song was freakishly enormous, I admit — went home with two trophies, including Best Alternative Album. Oh, God. You know what that means: He beat Bjork. He beat zero-time Grammy-winner Bjork, whose Biophilia only took home the Best Recording Packaging award, and Bjork doesn’t even get to claim that trophy as her own. Jesus, how is it that certain underwhelming “kooky” acts garner major Grammy love while Bjork, who basically rivals the Gershwins in terms of state-of-the-art musical invention (try me, I’m serious), can’t get a specially designed Alternative Nordic Sprite award? 

From what I understand, LL Cool J was terribly annoying as the host throughout the evening, but I tuned him out the minute he referred to Taylor Swift as “T-Swizzle.” Moving on.


Get this: The funniest line of the evening belongs to Katy Perry, who introduced the Best New Artist category with a hilariously self-deprecating quip: “This is my favorite category… I was never even nominated in this category, and now I have my own eyelash line. Take that, Bon Iver.” Well done, Cupcake Boss! Her sea-green dress and fluffed-out black hair made her look a little too much like Patti Stanger for my comfort, but the girl did a nice job. Too bad fun. won Best New Artist over Frank Ocean and The Lumineers though. Too bizarrely bad.

To compensate, here are some scattered awesome things: Mavis Staples bleating her face off during a tribute to The Band’s late durmmer Levon Helm, an all-things-considered fabulous reggae tribute to Bob Marley featuring the indisputably talented Bruno Mars and a still-foxy Sting, and Frank Ocean’s deliciously (if slightly off-key?) performance of “Forrest Gump,” in which he performed in front of a projection that made him look like he was sprinting (a la Tom Hanks). I don’t love the song, but I definitely loved that the romantic pronoun in it was a very clear “he.” It was the one moment all night in which the Grammy congregation seemed to shut up and listen. And Frank himself, of course, was downright beautiful. Bone structure for days and trench-deep brown eyes. I was wooed into believing he’d take the Album of the Year trophy, but announcer Adele — in the dottiest floral print you’ve ever seen — read Mumford & Sons as that winner. Fear not: Frank went home with Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “No Church in the Wild” with Jay-Z. I assure you his Album of the Year moment is not so far away. Within the next five years? I’d say so.

Here are some random concluding notes I took that I feel are relevant to your life:

-Last bit of depressing news, I swear: Jimmy Fallon defeated Margaret Cho and Kathy Griffin for Best Comedy Album. Now if I have a comedy album, I plan to name it “Jimmy Fallon Defeated Margaret Cho And Kathy Griffin For Best Comedy Album.” Grrrr.


-My favorite celebrity appearance of the night was Prince, who introduced Gotye. Yep, even under a hood and sunglasses, he still looks exactly like Bambi. 

Carrie Underwood’s hallucinogenic dress was the real tribute to Bob Marley. 

-There was a fun jazz tribute 

Jack White is still a great performer! And he looks like the coolest Sara Gilbert ever.


-I actually missed Rihanna’s performance, so I recreated it by jamming batteries into a Speak & Spell. Oh, just kidding. The girl is a captivating presence, and I have to say, she is the closest thing I have ever seen to a living Barbie. The eye size, nose width, and forehead-to-face ratios all check out. 

More photos Grammy night photos below. Go here for a full list of Grammy winners.

Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull


Bonnie Raitt and John Mayer


Frank Ocean


 Carly Rae Jepsen and Ne-Yo


Hunter Hayes


Adele, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel backstage


Adam Levine performs with Alicia Keys


Portia de Rossi, Ellen DeGeneres and Katy Perry




LL Cool J closes the show with “Whaddup” (and wondering why
the mic is off and they’re running an Orbitz commercial)


Elton John


Neil Patrick Harris covets John Mayer’s velvet jacket.


Dr John pursuing post-music career as deluxe cat scratch post


Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons


What were your fave moments? Did Frank Ocean’s boy love make you fall in boy love?