Tonight is the annual Grammy Awards, the awards show that goes out of its way to award the fewest awards possible during the telecast, and with the least transparent eligibility window in entertainment. As a seasoned music business professional [source needed] I will walk you through all the twists and turns with only the highest quality comments on who looks dumb, which performances are clearly geared towards the decrepit voting base, and which just don’t make a bit of damn sense. Join me!
11:31pm ET: This went on so long that Moveable Type kicked me out. Anyway, thanks for hanging out with me for my first live blog. I hope you had fun, despite that TERRIBLE closing number, and the fact that they handed out maybe six awards in three and a half hours. The Oscars only wish they could achieve pacing like that. Have a great night!
11:26pm ET: So this is supposed to be a new Pitbull song but it’s just a barely repackaged version of “Murder She Wrote” by Chaka Demus & Pliers and I AM DISAPPOINT, PITBULL.
11:24pm ET: Beyonce is here to present an award but not to blow all our faces off with “Formation” so I’m a bit sad. She’s presenting “Record of the Year”, which as I mentioned, awards the production team rather than the writers. “Uptown Funk” wins, reminds us of the bonkers eligibility window, but still makes me happy because I think it’s impossible to not be happy when you hear “Uptown Funk.”
11:23pm ET: Also, Jack Antonoff probably makes more money from his work with Taylor Swift than from his work with fun. and Bleachers combined.
11:20pm ET: Earth, Wind, and Fire are out to acknowledge their lifetime achievement award and present the award for Album of the Year. The Grammy goes to Taylor Swift for 1989 because obviously music’s princess needs to have her moment. Nice of her to hug Kendrick on the way up, though. I think she brought him on for a date or two on her tour last summer.
11:10pm ET: The rates for non-interactive streaming (via Pandora) are about $0.0017 cents per track for the performer and rights holder, slightly higher for subscription services. Interactive streaming services like Spotify tend to pay less, but they directly license with record label so those rates aren’t well known BUT are left up to record companies to divide up between themselves and artists. So if artists aren’t getting money, the people to blame are fairly obvious. Writer royalties are a completely different and altogether more depressing story.
11:06pm ET: The president of the Recording Academy is on stage now to offensively link the Paris terror attacks to low streaming royalties. Common is, somehow, in on this. There’s also some poor piano prodigy on stage to perform as this year’s youngest Grammy nominee. I’m happy for this kid but I’ve just got a foul taste in my mouth from that reference to people killed in a terror attack and royalty payments in the same breath, and I actively advocate for more transparent and generally higher royalty payments.
10:54pm ET: Dave Grohl is out to give a bit of a Lemmy tribute but not an official tribute performance. Instead here’s Alice Cooper’s new project, The Hollywood Vampires, which makes a lot of sense except for the inclusion of Johnny Depp.
10:49pm ET: Time for the Alabama Shakes performance, because apparently the Grammys are here to reward all of us who didn’t tune out immediately after the Hamilton number.
10:43pm ET: Well that was completely delightful for not being one of the headlining events of the night. We’re winding down, I hope, but there’s still a few performances to go! And me almost out of wine!
10:37pm ET: I think the most amazing thing about Bonnie Raitt is her pioneering the concept of a classy amount of white roots with red hair. I may have to start following her example sooner than I’d like to admit. She’s here to introduce a tribute to B.B King by Gary Clark Jr. and Chris Stapleton.
10:31pm ET: If Lady Gaga never releases another album and just becomes the go-to person to pay tribute to amazing artists, I think it will all have been worth it. That was lovely, and perfect.
10:25pm ET: Time for the Lady Gaga Bowie tribute. And I’m actually looking forward to this. She’s got a great voice and her recent tribute works have been ABOUT what she’s singing about not so much about her. She’s developing in a very interesting way as an artist.
10:17pm ET: Sam Smith is here to present Best New Artist which has a tendency to be a hilarious surprise. Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly, and Meghan Trainor are up for it and Meghan Trainor wins, which just seems unfair as she’s had hits out for far longer than any of the other contenders. But again, what the Grammys think of as “new” has no relationship to our reality. Also, “Dear Future Husband” is an abomination plain and simple.
10:11pm ET: Kaley Cuoco is here to present Jack U, which is Justin Bieber, Skrillex, and Diplo. Who are not actually as bad as that line up might make you suspect. Also, here’s your reminder that Justin Bieber is actually a pretty decent musician in addition to being a teenage dirtbag. Edit: For those of you wondering, Diplo is the blonde dude at the keyboard and Skrillex is the dude with the long unwashed hair with the guitar. Justin Bieber should be reasonably easy to identify.
9:59pm ET: Here’s Adele so I hope everyone has their hankies ready to go. And an audio problem right away, thanks guys. Super good work.
9:57pm ET: Best rock performance is being handed out and I’m betting the Foo Fighters get it even though Alabama Shakes should. And the award goes to ALABAMA SHAKES! Hey, the Academy managed to get a clue about this category! All hail Brittany Howard!
9:54 pm ET: We’re back with a ballad performance by Miguel because I guess the producers figured out that the show was getting excited and were worried about the collective heart-health of the majority of the voting members of the Academy. Time to slow things back down! Oh wait, that’s not even really a performance.
9:47pm ET: Yeah, Kendrick killed the stage. Seth McFarland is now presenting best musical theater album and if it’s not Hamilton we may see a riot. Of TV viewers. Not sure how that would work, but I’d be willing to help. BUT HAMILTON WINS IT AND ALL IS RIGHT IN THE WORLD!
9:40pm ET: And now Kendrick Lamar has to follow Hamilton and if anyone can manage it, I’m sure he can.
9:34pm ET: My only quibble with that is that I think “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” might have been a more energetic number to introduce people but GUYS WE SAW THE OPENING OF HAMILTON WITHOUT SPENDING MANY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS THAT WAS GREAT!
9:28pm ET: HAMILTON IS HAPPENING ARE YOU IN THE ROOM WHERE IT’S HAPPENING (ON TV)? ARE YOU NOT THROWING AWAY YOUR SHOT? ARE YOU HELPLESS? WILL YOU BE SATISFIED? TIME TO FIND OUT! [Edit] HERE’S THE VIDEO IF YOU COULDN’T SEE IT LIVE IT’S RIGHT HERE, WATCH IT NOW:
9:23pm ET: Anna Kendrick is here to talk about Irving Azoff’s President’s Merit Award but GUYS I HEAR WE’RE LESS THAN 10 MINUTES FROM HAMILTON ARE YOU READY TO WAIT FOR IT? Oh, and here’s Tori Kelly and James Bay. I know who 50% of those people are.
9:13pm ET: Time for the Glenn Frey tribute. Looks like we’ve got the surviving Eagles there for it, so at least we’re not forced to watch some upstart pop star try to have an emotional connection to songs written before they were conceived.
9:10pm ET: Time for song of the year, and this would be an award that goes to the writers of the song. “Record of the Year” often has overlapping nominations, but that award is for the production team. Stevie Wonder got an envelope with Braille and is, brilliantly, taunting the audience that they can’t read it, and using the moment to discuss accessibility for people with disabilities. And this year’s song of the year is “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran which was DEFINITELY released in 2014.
9:07pm ET: Stevie Wonder is here to remind us that camo has no place at awards shows but it’s mean-spirited to make fun of a blind dude’s fashion sense, and that Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire is no longer with us. Pentatonix is here to remind us that you can take the theater kids out of the theater, but you… well, you also can’t.
9:02pm ET: Ryan Seacrest is now here because I think he’s required to be at every awards show. Phillip Riggs of North Carolina has won the Music Educator of the Year award so good for him! And now a performance of “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town, a band I consistently mistake for a PS game that I swear was a thing a while ago.
8:54pm ET: Lionel Ritchie is now on stage, which is good, because I always find artist tributes to artists who are still alive and there watching a little odd when they don’t participate. Unless there’s some kind of medical reason it’s like “Watch a bunch of people who aren’t you sing your songs! And get your applause! Isn’t this great?!?”
8:52pm ET: Seriously, guys, why do we have two country artists (yes, we’re calling Trainor a country artist because come on) paying tribute to Lionel Ritchie? Yes, his music crosses all cultural and temporal barriers, but REALLY?
8:46pm ET: James Cordon is out to help introduce a Lionel Richie tribute. Featuring Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, Megan Trainor, John Legend, and some other dude I think. I have no idea why at least four of those five people are on the stage right now aside from record companies needed them to promote themselves.
8:38pm ET: Probably could’ve done with at least another five minutes of those two. Both of them are fantastic, but I’m sure there’s some shenanigans the Grammys want to show us. Oh, it’s Gary Sinise and some lady in yellow to present the Best Country Album. Edit: Traveler by Chris Stapleton wins it.
8:34pm ET: Selena Gomez is here to present a performance between Andra Day and Ellie Goulding. We’re over half an hour into the broadcast and we’ve had exactly one award presented during the broadcast. Anyway, “I’ll Rise Up” is sounding good but I’m more looking forward to whatever Ellie Goulding is there to do.
8:29pm ET: We’ve got another commercial break not ten minutes after the last commercial break, so there better be some truly amazing perfomances coming up.
8:27pm ET: The Weeknd is having some trouble with the sustained notes on “In The Night” here, which is your reminder that megastar performers also have the “But it sounded GREAT in the shower!” problem when it comes to live performances sometimes. What happens in the studio sometimes stays in the studio and is oftentimes only possible in the studio.
8:23pm ET: Very Sexy Baby Ariana Grande is here to present The Weeknd’s performance with a lot of breathiness and some singing of her own. The Weeknd is here to remind you that he’s one person, not a group, and his hair is still inexplicable.
8:17pm ET: OK, this collaboration is now running at 3+ minutes and that’s a bit ridiculous. Someone on the production team has a crush on Hunt, Underwood, or both of them. Can’t blame them, but damn, guys.
8:14pm ET: Now we have a couple of football players out to present because you know, CBS had the Super Bowl this year AND the Grammys! They’re introducing Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt performing together which is one of the few Grammy collaborations I’ve seen that actually makes a lot of sense. Sam Hunt is one of the enterprising young men trying to bring rapping to the country genre. We should all wish him ill.
8:10pm ET: Got a reference to a lifetime achievement award given to Run DMC, and now Ice Cube and his son present the best rap album of the year to To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar.
8:07pm ET: Bowie reference number one! Oh, thin white duke, you deserved better than to be invoked to add gravitas to this glorified concert.
8:06pm ET: “These people here, they sing for REAL” sometimes, LL. Sometimes. And I notice more of them do since live auto-tune came along.
8:03 pm ET: Gotta say, for a lady as long of torso as Swift, I’m not sure spangly jumpsuits are a great look for her. Still, solid performance and more energetic than a lot of her previous Grammy outings. Still bummed they didn’t open with Hamilton.
8:02pm ET: Taylor is performing “Out of the Woods” off her album 1989 which was written by her and Jack Antonoff of fun. This album came out October 12th, 2014 so this IS eligible to win awards tonight.
8:00pm ET: Someone left Bow Wow with about 90 seconds too much vamp time going into the official start of the show. So. Much. Floudering. Anyway, get ready for T-Swizzle.
7:55pm ET: Switched over to CBS and caught the tail end of the pre-show experiencing audio problems. Woooo!
7:45pm ET: I mentioned specifically that I’d talk about the Grammy eligibility period and it closed back on September 30th. That means any album released on or after October 1st won’t be eligible for an award until next February. And there will be some albums winning awards tonight that were released in the last quarter of 2014.
7:40pm ET: In case you thought I was joking about the Grammys being a self-hating awards show, here’s a full list of all the winners that have already been annouced prior to the official start time.
7:30pm ET: So I’m not covering any of the red carpet because I managed to flip a breaker in my apartment not an hour before the Grammys started and had to scramble to get power back to the half of my apartment with the 1. TV 2. Modem 3. Computer and 4. Kitchen. This is already going great, guys! Thumbs up!