Every year when I watch the televised absurdity of the Grammy Awards, I think the same thing: I am so glad I don’t have to cover this crap live on deadline anymore. Of course, that’s far from the only thought that popped into my fevered noggin while sitting through the 62nd annual event on Sunday night. Here are a few more brainstorms that occurred to me, in somewhat random order:
1 Billie Eilish totally deserved it. And for the organizers of the increasingly beleaguered Grammys, handing her and brother Finneas O’Connell virtually every major award — Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, New Artist, Pop Vocal Album, Producer and even Best Engineered Non-Classical Album (did I miss any?) — was one of the increasingly few times the award show (rigged or not) actually got it right. Even better: By the end of the night, the siblings almost seemed embarrassed by all the attention and ended up just saying thanks one last time and sparing us all. Every other pop star should act so humble.
2 But … given that Eilish won all those awards for her eccentric and creepy album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and single Bad Guy, whose dumbass decision was it to have her perform the yawn-inducing piano ballad When The Party’s Over? It almost makes you suspect the inevitable campaign to soften her edges and mainstream her image has already begun. I’m not just being paranoid; remember how Lorde went from black-lipped outsider to member of TayTay’s squad? Let’s not do that again, OK? Start the online campaign now: #KeepBillieWeird!!
3 If the American FCC (or whoever is responsible) won’t allow the Grammys to be broadcast live without every curse word being annoyingly bleeped or blanked out in order to keep religious right-wing hypocrites and hate groups from pretending to be offended, can it at least be simulcast on a cable station so the rest of us don’t have to spend half the night trying to lip-read or wondering if our audio feed has gone out?
4 After listening to LL Cool J’s butt-kissing blather for years, I didn’t think they could find a worse host. Last year proved me dead wrong. This year, I didn’t think Alicia Keys could do a shittier, less competent job than she did in her 2019 debut. Wrong again. Next year, I am personally offering $1,000 to anyone in Staples Center who rushes the stage and snatches the microphone out of her bejeweled hands — if only to spare us from a few seconds of her insipid, presumably stoned nattering about good vibrations, positive energy and all the love in the room. Option 2: Maybe somebody in charge could just keep her away from the edibles before the show.
5 I haven’t read anything about this yet, but I suspect it’s only a matter of time until someone tries to raise a fuss about the fact that another skinny young white girl won all the major awards while a large-bodied woman of colour saw her victories largely confined to the R&B and urban categories. Just sayin’.
6 And another thing: What does it say about the role (and expectations) of women in the music industry that FKA Twigs’ contribution to that otherwise-forgettable Prince tribute consisted primarily of pole dancing? There are already conflicting stories about whether she actually wanted to sing (as she claims) or didn’t (as others say). Either way: You’d think the Grammys were run by an old boys’ club or something. Oh yeah, right …
7 All praise to Tyler, The Creator, whose fiery performance was hands-down the most exciting musical segment of the night. His acceptance speech after winning Best Rap Album for Igor — with his mom by his side — wasn’t bad either.
8 The other side of the coin: Holy shit, that Aerosmith performance was a train wreck from start to finish. I read that their set at the MusiCares gala the night before was on point; guess they didn’t have another one in them. Consider yourself lucky, Joey Kramer: You dodged that bullet.
9 Speaking of wrecks: Poor Ozzy. Just stay down, dude. We’re good.
10 While we’re on bad performances: Did we really need a round-robin rotation of disinterested rando vocalists like Ben Platt and Cyndi Lauper singing a meaningless song from Fame backed by a bunch of students and ballet dancers? The answer will not surprise you. It is no.
11 It was nice to see country survivor Tanya Tucker get some love for her comeback album While I’m Livin’ and the song Bring My Flowers Now. Ditto watching the always-magnificent Bonnie Raitt pay tribute to John Prine with some of Angel From Montgomery. Too bad they both got short-shrifted on the air.
12 Some other awards I enjoyed reading about: Elvis Costello & The Imposters’ winning Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Look Now; Tool taking Best Metal Performance for 7empest, and Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men winning Best Traditional Blues Album for Tall, Dark & Handsome. Seeing Cage The Elephant snag Best Rock Album for Social Cues? Not so much. More awards that didn’t quite add up: Sara Bareilles had the Best American Roots Performance of the year? Really? And for the love of all things holy, can we please stop giving prizes to A Star is Born? It’s over, monsters. Let it go already.
13 What was the point of televising the Best Comedy Album award when Dave Chapelle wasn’t even there to claim the prize? Though it was nice to see Jim Gaffigan call it beforehand in his appearance.
14 I never thought for one second that John Waters’ Mr. Know-It-All would beat out Michelle Obama’s Becoming (or even the Beastie Boys Book) in the Best Spoken Word category, but I do think it’s pretty awesome they were all up for the same award.
15 As usual, the In Memoriam segment was full of oversights and errors. They added a K to Cars leader Ric Ocasek’s first name, and forgot Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, English Beat vocalist Ranking Roger, singer-songwriter David Berman, pop iconoclast Scott Walker, Prodigy firestarter Keith Flint, Talk Talk leader Mark Hollis and Geto Boys’ member Bushwick Bill. I’m sure I forgot a few too, but here’s the thing: I don’t have a staff that can devote an entire year to keeping track of this stuff.
16 I am neither here nor there when it comes to Camila Cabello, but even to a hardcore cynic and misanthropic asshole like me, that song about her dad came off as pretty damn sweet. And far more moving than watching Demi Lovato caterwauling and whining about how nobody pays enough attention to her poor-little-rich-girl-pop-star problems. Hey, I TOLD you I was an asshole.
17 The Nas-meets-Nas X segment of the Old Town Road production number was a little on the nose, but otherwise decent. Thankfully, nobody thought to make it into a Jonas–Nas–Nas X number. And as for Old Town Road, can we please officially banish it to the same place we sent Gangnam Style? Further to the JoBros: Is it just me, or are they starting to look a little long in the tooth? Especially Nick — who performed their entire segment with a hunk of spinach stuck in his choppers like George Costanza at a job interview.
18 What was with the kid in the skeleton makeup? I read somewhere that it was Swizz Beatz and Keys’ son Genesis. Well, I guess whatever it is, it runs in the family.
19 As my wife pointed out: What was with all the absurdly long fake fingernails? Is not being able to use your phone, shake hands, play an instrument or go to the bathroom without an assistant to undress you and wipe your ass the new black? The one welcome exception: H.E.R., whose functional fingertips allowed her to deliver one of evening’s most blistering guitar solos.
20 We get it, Billy Porter. You’re a rebel and an icon. You and your increasingly idiotic outfits may fuck off now.