The Grammys Return, but Struggle to Hit the Right Notes

It’s not terribly shocking that the general public’s urge for food for televised awards reveals wherein moneyed and highly effective individuals squeeze into robes and cummerbunds and skinny sun shades and metal-plated Balenciaga platform Crocs, and heartily congratulate one another is waning. In basic, the rankings for these kinds of elaborate pageants have been bottoming out lately, which could be partially attributed to the tumult of the pandemic, but in addition feels indicative of some collective weariness—or simply an growing consciousness of the huge and devastating divide between the best way some individuals stay and the best way most individuals stay. Never earlier than has the phrase “In this economy?” felt extra germane. At final evening’s Grammy Awards telecast, even the present’s host, Trevor Noah, appeared keen to place a couple of miles of highway between the occasion and that cursed phrase, “awards show.” “Don’t even think of it as an awards show,” he supplied. “This is a concert where we’re giving out awards.”

This 12 months, the Grammys have been held on the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, a pandemic-related shift from their common house in Los Angeles. The new location made an already overdone extravaganza really feel a number of measures extra lurid (“No one wants to go to that gross ass town,” an nameless flack instructed Page Six earlier this week). There can’t be many music followers left who really imagine that the Grammys are a related marker of our cultural hungers or inform a narrative about the most effective artwork produced in a given 12 months, although relevance itself seems like an ungainly metric in an period wherein the very concept of a consolidated mainstream—that there’s a world “music” and we are able to collect to evaluate it qualitatively—is more and more absurd. Despite the self-branding as “Music’s Biggest Night,” the Grammys not often converse in a coherent or edifying option to current developments in music; at this level within the present’s historical past, there’s not even a major gross sales bump for the large winners. (The economist Will Page lately instructed the Times that Taylor Swift’s 2021 Album of the Year win, for “folklore,” netted her solely an extra fifty-thousand {dollars} in royalties.) Yet I’d wager that the Grammys will proceed to persevere—for lots of artists, even a number of the extra validated ones, it may well nonetheless really feel good to gather an award. The remainder of us, I suppose, are simply bored sufficient to stay complicit.

Before the present started, there have been darkish portents. Will Smith’s conduct on the Oscars instructed that sudden violence on stay tv is basically O.Okay. if you happen to’re well-known sufficient. Taylor Hawkins, the extensively beloved drummer for Foo Fighters—who had been scheduled to play, and received awards for Best Rock Performance (“Making a Fire”), Best Rock Song (“Waiting On a War”), and Best Rock Album (“Medicine at Midnight”)—died unexpectedly final month, whereas the band was on tour in Bogotá, Colombia. (In among the best and most genuinely forceful performances of the evening, Billie Eilish carried out her music “Happier Than Ever” whereas sporting a T-shirt with a big picture of Hawkins on the entrance.) Meanwhile, Kanye West was preëmptively disinvited to carry out, following a number of weeks of troubling conduct (together with calling Noah a racial slur, after Noah instructed that West ought to cease harassing his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian). West didn’t present up in any respect in Vegas. (Other notable absences included Tyler, the Creator, who received Best Rap Album; Drake, who pulled his music from competition; the Weeknd, who has made good on a vow to by no means mess with the Grammys once more; and Cardi B and Taylor Swift, who have been nominated in a single class every.)

There have been temporary nods to struggling elsewhere on earth. John Legend led a sombre tribute to the individuals of Ukraine, performing his music “Free” with cameos by three Ukrainian artists: the singer Mika Newton, the bandura participant Siuzanna Iglidan, and the poet Lyuba Yakimchuk. The phase was preceded by a brief, pre-filmed assertion from the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who emphasised the surreal distance between no matter was taking place in Las Vegas and what continues to occur in Ukraine: “Our children draw swooping rockets, not shooting stars,” he stated. “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos.” However properly intentioned a tribute of this sort may be—and certainly there may be an argument to be made for elevating consciousness of a warfare, notably when journalists are being persecuted and suppressed—it’s tough to not surprise why the Grammy organizers didn’t simply cancel the entire thing (and I imply the entire thing) and donate the manufacturing prices to teams which may assist forestall kids from being bombed.

As far as trying towards the longer term with hope, the night was focussed on the nineteen-year-old phenom Olivia Rodrigo, who was nominated seven occasions, together with in all 4 of the key classes: Best New Artist, and Album, Song, and Record of the Year. From afar, Rodrigo can appear as if she’s some kind of factory-made assemblage, engineered to gather {dollars} and Grammys—she combines the earnestness and ardor of Taylor Swift with the angst and drama of Billie Eilish, and performs with the arrogance of somebody who has been on tv since she was 13. But “drivers license,” her début single, is a young and elegantly produced music about surviving a breakup. It throbs with real pathos and heartache—all of the confusion and bitterness of shedding a love that you simply believed you’d maintain till you died (or not less than till commencement). “You said forever, now I drive alone past your street,” Rodrigo sings, her voice velvety, wealthy, and trembling. The music includes a hazy, sing-song-y bridge: “I still fuckin’ love you, babe,” Rodrigo admits, her voice full and forceful, rising crimson and flush, like a dawn. The observe broke Spotify’s file for essentially the most streams of a non-holiday music in a single day, and spent eight weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. There was chatter that Rodrigo may sweep the large classes, as Eilish did in 2020. Instead, she received three: Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance for “drivers license,” and Best Pop Vocal Album for “Sour,” her début LP.

Silk Sonic, the duo of Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars, who’re presently within the midst of a Las Vegas residency, opened the present with “777,” a rousing homage to debauchery. They wore sun shades and Nudie-style fits embossed with rhinestone pips. It was my favourite efficiency of the evening:

Pretty motherfucker with some cash to blow
I’m ’bout to purchase Las Vegas after this roll
I’m ’bout to purchase Las Vegas after this roll
Come on, seven, seven, seven
Let’s gooooooo!

Mars and .Paak introduced the formation of Silk Sonic in 2021, and it’s half pastiche—their songs are modelled after easy, medallion-laden nineteen-seventies R. & B. and soul—and half dumb joke. “Not to be dramatic, but I wanna die,” .Paak sings on “Smokin Out the Window,” a lament for an apparently inequitable divorce settlement. .Paak and Mars are so uncannily professional—so genuinely good—it’s usually exhausting to know when to snicker and when to pour a snifter of brandy, toss some scarves over the ground lamps, and sway alongside. The band received all 4 of the Grammys it was nominated for, together with Record of the Year, a class that honors a single observe and appears to have overtaken Album of the Year because the ceremony’s most coveted commendation, a shift that seemingly displays the playlist-heavy approach individuals devour music now. “We are really trying our hardest to remain humble at this point, but in the industry, we call that a clean sweep,” .Paak stated. “So all the other nominees, you all know we love y’all. We love y’all. Drinks is on Silk Sonic tonight. We getting drunk. I know a lot of y’all fans might be upset, so we’re gonna get out of here before the Internet get to talking.”

This 12 months, the Recording Academy elevated the variety of nominees for the highest 4 classes from eight to 10 the day earlier than they have been introduced, a transfer that Harvey Mason, Jr., the chief government of the Academy, stated was supposed “to make room for more music, more artists and more genres, and to embrace the spirit of inclusion.” But awards are by nature unique, which is what makes them fascinating and fascinating, and the outsized class merely felt overwhelming. Of the ten songs nominated for Record of the Year—“I Still Have Faith in You,” by ABBA; “I Get a Kick Out of You,” by Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett; “Freedom,” by Jon Batiste; “Peaches,” by Justin Bieber, that includes Daniel Caesar and Giveon; “Right on Time,” by Brandi Carlile; “Kiss Me More,” by Doja Cat, that includes SZA; “Happier Than Ever,” by Eilish; “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name),” by Lil Nas X; “Leave the Door Open,” by Silk Sonic; and “drivers license,” by Rodrigo—solely “drivers license” and “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” felt really of 2022, however regardless of.

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