p music’s biggest evening, the Grammys, is a strange mix of excitement and forehead-slapping aggravation. While music purists will scoff at a show that largely honors major label artists with big production budgets, the Grammys is more about the performances than the awards. Last night’s ceremony was no exception, with pairings so bizarre and unexpected they seemed like a Mad Lib. Here are some of the best and worst moments of the 2009 Grammys.
Allison Krauss and Robert Plant Take Home the Award for Album of the Year
There are few stranger bedfellows than a rootsy country songbird and a screaming rock musician with a Hobbit obsession, but somehow it worked. Raising Sand, with the help of producer T-Bone Burnett, was weird, ethereal, beautiful and unexpected. Add to that the fact that Led Zeppelin never won a Grammy. Though there were some great albums in this category (Coldplay’s Viva La Vida and Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III), it was nice to finally see Plant get his due.
Justin Timberlake and Al Green
Scheduled to perform were Rihanna and Chris Brown, but Brown’s recent arrest put the kibosh on that. For a last-minute replacement, though, JT tore it up with the Rev. Al Green. We’d rather hear some soulful “Let’s Stay Together” with the legendary clout of Green and the performing prowess of Timberlake over Rihanna’s umbrella-ella-ella any day of the week.
Coldplay and Jay-Z
Chris Martin stood up for Jay-Z when purists chafed at the thought of him being on the bill at the Glastonbury festival. Evidently, Hova hasn’t forgotten. Jay-Z’s forceful rhymes gave Coldplay’s melancholic brooding some refreshing swagger. When it comes to the Grammys’ historic pairing of hip-hop and mournful piano pop, this worked way better than Eminem and Elton John.
It was good enough that the Grammys sent TI, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Kanye out on the same stage for “Swagga Like Us,” but throwing in M.I.A. as well? That’s swagga overload. Moreover, M.I.A. gave an amazing performance in spite of being nine months pregnant. In fact, she was actually due on the day of the awards. That’s some insane commitment. We hope the kid isn’t born with permanent hearing damage.
— Paul McCartney doing a classic Beatles tune with Dave Grohl on drums? Yes please!
— It was gratifying to see The Four Tops receive the lifetime achievement award, considering it was their first Grammy.
— The USC marching band really kicked Radiohead’s performance up a notch, and Thom Yorke was incredibly—perhaps even disturbingly—animated.
There’s some room for debate on this one. Many people credited U2’s use of hip-hop and electronic beats on their new single, “Get On Your Boots,” as edgy and courageous. That may be, but their performance of the song seemed to fall flat with the audience. For a band that can ignite entire stadiums, they seemed a bit lethargic, and they failed to energize the atmosphere the way many of the other performances did. Let’s hope their new album, No Line on the Horizon, elicits a more enthusiastic response.
Coldplay’s Sgt. Pepper Uniforms
What exactly were the guys of Coldplay thinking? They even felt the need to apologize for their outfits during their acceptance speech. You may be Britain’s biggest band, but you are unequivocally not The Beatles. Worse yet, Paul McCartney was there to bear witness to their ridiculous wardrobe. We hope they got lost on their way to a costume party.
It’s the reunion no one has been waiting for with bated breath. The sophomoric pop-punkers—who seem a little old for the locker-room humor schtick at this point—announced their comeback tour to a collective “meh.” Rumor has it that they’ll be touring with Green Day this summer, hopefully in a time machine.
This is another one to be on the fence about. It was either the most ridiculous tonsorial misadventure in recent memory, or the coolest bit of retro irony we’ve ever seen. But, seeing as it was impossible to pay attention to Kanye’s otherwise amazing performances with that mullet weaving about, we have to deem it a dud. If he grows a full ‘stache to go with it, however, we’ll change our tune.