The Grammy Awards aired last night on CBS, and if my Twitter feed was any suggestion, as many people talked about not watching the ceremony as actually watched it, delivering heaps of shame upon those who would deign to witness Lady Gaga arrive in a space-age egg. The Grammys really are different from some of the other awards ceremonies, in that the nominees include a wider array of demographics, as could be attested by the performers on hand, from Justin Bieber to Bob Dylan. The awards themselves have more power to validate critical preferences (giving awards to, say, John Legend and Arcade Fire) while also discrediting itself (awarding Train anything), which allows viewers to simultaneously laud and trash the ceremony, creating a weird vortex of celebration and hate.
But as the record industry hastens its extinction, the ceremony itself — the biggest stage of the year for the music industry — desperately attempts to flash its product, combining artists from different genres and creating, in some cases, some fairly remarkable performances. Mumford and Sons performed with Dylan and the The Avett Brothers; Christina Aguilera, Martina McBride, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams, and Florence Welch performed a tribute to Aretha Franklin; John Mayer, Norah Jones, and Keith Urban musically honored Dolly Parton; and Cee-Lo sang with Gwyneth Paltrow and the Muppets, which even the most ardent Paltrow hater would have to admit was kind of cool.
For those who sometimes remain obstinately ignorant, the Grammy ceremony offers an interesting cross-section of contemporary music, allowing some of us to see favored artists perform with people we’ve never heard of, and maybe even lend some credibility to unknown bands (I bought two new albums this morning thanks to the Grammys).
The whole thing is all very awful and great and embarrassing and fascinating, and while I’d never recommend watching the entire ceremony, it’s OK to put down your shotgun every once in a while and allow some new folks onto your lawn for an evening. Maybe you might just find something you like that wasn’t created before 1995.
Here were last night’s big winners.
Album of the year: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Record of the year: Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
Rap album: Recovery, Eminem
New artist: Esperanza Spalding
Song of the year: “Need You Now,” Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott
Country album: “Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum
Pop vocal album: The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga
Rock album: Muse
Female country vocal performance: The House That Built Me, Miranda Lambert
Pop duo or group performance: “Hey Soul Sister” (Live) Train
Female pop vocal performance: Bad Romance, Lady Gaga
Male pop vocal performance: “Just The Way You Are,” Bruno Mars
Rock song: “Angry World,: Neil Young
R&B album: Wake up! John Legend & The Roots
R&B song: “Shine,” John Legend & The Roots
Rap solo performance: “Not Afraid,” Eminem
Rap song: “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
Male country vocal performance: ‘Til Summer Comes Around, Keith Urban
Country performance by a duo or group: Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
Alternative music album: Brothers, The Black Keys
Spoken word album: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Presents Earth (The Audiobook), Jon Stewart