Well, we survived another year of Grammy Fever, and now that we’ve taken some Tylenol and doused our foreheads with damp washcloths, we can reflect on what we learned from this year’s ceremony.
Personally, I learned quite a bit. Here are the five most important lessons last night’s Grammy Awards taught me.
(1) Almost all the new pop stars seem approachable and fun
Over and over again, music’s young superstars made themselves seem likable and goofy last night. During every musical performance, you could see Taylor Swift singing along from the audience, dancing like she was having a great time. And then two divas over, Adele was snapping gum like a diner waitress. She was also charming when she accepted her award and when she presented Album of the Year, making jokes about getting knocked up and such. Throw in Kelly Clarkson’s endearingly dorky acceptance speech, Carrie Underwood’s good church girl thing, and Katy Perry’s self-deprecating joke about not winning Grammys but instead having her own line of eyelashes, and you get a roomful of ladies who seem like they live next door.
And the fellas did their part, too. Frank Ocean was shy and reserved when he accepted his awards, and Hunter Hayes was awfully cute as he talked about being honored by this and that. And the guys from Fun. all seemed incredibly nervous as they performed and as they accepted awards. They also made a point of noting they’d been broke twelve years and were just grateful not to have to live with their parents anymore.
A few years ago, this everyday energy would have been the exception, not the rule. Prince and Jay-Z were there last night to remind us that rock stars used to be freaks, damn it, with crazy outfits and dismissively cool attitudes. Without even Lady Gaga around to mix the humanity of her acceptance speeches with the flagrancy of her performances, there really wasn’t a batshit crazy musician to be found. The closest we got was Rihanna being her ice-cold self as she sat next to her date… the guy who once beat the shit out of her. But that’s not the kind of dubious behavior that makes a rock star seem awesome.
Overall, though, I don’t mind the swerve toward relatable pop icons. The mega-sharing age of social media practically demands that these people seem like people, and if they can maintain that posture while still making great music, then good for them. And as Gaga, Gotye, and Frank Ocean prove, you can also make your emotional accessibility into weird and exciting art.
(2) That said, Jay-Z is still cooler than all of us
When Hova got up to accept an award for best rap/sung collaboration, he let Frank Ocean and The-Dream do a lot of talking. Then he took the microphone just long enough to make fun of The-Dream’s hat. It was awesome and smooth because Jay-Z is awesome and smooth. And when “We Are Young” co-writer/producer Jeffrey Bhasker thanked Jay while accepting Song of the Year, Jay hollered back, “You’re welcome…”
And I’m sorry, but a man in a tuxedo, holding a giant glass of brandy, hollering his respect to the young kids who just thanked him, is the coolest man on the planet. We will never be able to approach him, so we’d better just go dance with Taylor Swift.
(3) Justin Timberlake’s comeback may not be so great
When Timberlake dropped “Suit and Tie” a few weeks ago, I gave it a great review, but now I wish I’d waited a day to think about it. After four or five listens, I haven’t felt compelled to hear that song again, and after hearing it tonight, I realized why: It’s decently sexy and funky, but compared to the latest Bruno Mars hit or the vintage rock that Elton John and Company performed near the end of the show, it’s generic. But even “Suit and Tie” was brilliant compared to the new song that Timberlake debuted tonight—a big band-ish number called “Pusher Love Girl.” The song is all style and no substance, a collection of decent riffs that never quite gels into anything. If Timberlake’s new album is just a bunch of posturing, then I’m not so interested.
(4) Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys and Maroon 5, and Brittany Howard (the woman from Alabama Shakes) are amaze-balls
I didn’t really learn this tonight, but for me, these three performances really stood out in an evening full of good music.
To be honest, there were also a lot of sub-par performances from people who are usually good, like Mumford and Sons, Fun., and Miranda Lambert. It seemed like they all had trouble hearing themselves, because they were all pushing their voices and falling off pitch like crazy people. By contrast, Kelly Clarkson, Miguel, and the folks mentioned above all sounded especially great.
I’ve especially got to give it up to Carrie Underwood for her incredible vocal control. And for the cool effect of having all that stuff projected on her dress.
(5) Adele is going to win an Oscar
Because… seriously. She is apparently incapable of losing awards right now, as evidenced by her victory tonight for “Set Fire to the Rain.” My predictions for the winners were pretty accurate, but I still somehow underestimated her unstoppable power. However, I’m cool with her dominance. “Skyfall” is a good song.
Mark Blankenship really loves Frank Ocean’s”Forrest Gump.” He tweets as @IAmBlankenship.