7:55 p.m.: We’ve already blogged about the 3-hour pre-telecast during which 70 of the awards were handed out. But now comes the big show. Taylor Swift is rumored to be opening. She already won one of the two trophies she’s up for tonight for “Safe & Sound.” The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach has already won three of the six awards for which he’s nominated. Does that suddenly make “El Camino” the favorite for album of the year? Instead of sitting on my couch, like I usually am, I’m backstage, so the blog will be a combo of watching along with you on TV and bringing you the absolute latest that the winners and presenters are telling us in the press room.
7:58: What you didn’t see was producer Ken Ehrlich recruiting Justin Timberlake, in a suit and tie, naturally, to get everyone to sit down as the start approaches.Ehrlich says the strings of lights festooning the stage were inspired by his seeing Mumford & Sons at The Hollywood Bowl this summer. They turned the Bowl into a tent revival with lights strung up throughout the venue.
8:00: Taylor Swift kicks off the show with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in a performance that includes acrobats, a stalking white rabbit, and a spinning wheel of death. It’s Cirque du Soleil meets Alice In Wonderland. In the spoken part, where the boyfriend calls to get back together, she switches the lyric to “I’m sorry, i’m busy opening the Grammys.” And no, the boy on the wheel of death does not look like One Direction’s Harry Styles. It’s colorful and flamboyant and a good visual. Plus, it plays well to the younger demo that the Grammys are trying to make sure tune it, but what will keep them tuned in now?
8:09: Host LL Cool J says he polishes his Grammy regularly. Is that code for something? Otherwise, his earnest opening speech falls rather flat.
8:11: Ed Sheeran, who’s nominated for song of the year for “The A Team” is performing the song with Elton John. John is becoming the go-to guy to duet with on the Grammys: a few years ago, he and Lady Gaga opened up the show with their back-to-back grand pianos. More than a decade ago, he and Eminem performed together. After Swift’s spectacle, it’s a nice contrast to have a relatively low-key performance, and given that Sheeran is not well known by the vast majority of the viewers without teenage daughters, John added some needed star power.
8:19: Jennifer Lopez comes out in a sexy one-shoulder, leg-baring outfit, but jokes, “as you can see, I got the memo.” Earlier this week, a CBS memo leaked asking on-air talent to not let their breasts and buttocks show. Lopez is pulling a bit of an Angelique Jolie, sticking her leg out impossibly far to get maximum exposure. Pop solo performance, the first award of the night, goes to Adele for “Set Fire To The Rain,” the live version. I just wanted to come and by part of the night, i loved it last year, obviously,” she says. Yes, she’s great, but as I said in my pre-telecast blog, live albums shouldn’t be included in the regular categories. They should have their own category. It’s a bit of a cheat for them to win, to me.
8:25 p.m.: Fun., who are up for six awards, including the big four: best new artist, song, record, and album of the year, are performing “Carry On.” It’s clearly live because Nat Ruess, who sounds great otherwise, hits such a clunker in the beginning that the person behind me in the press room lets out an “Ow!” In a trope that needs to be retired, it then begins to rain on the band. Couldn’t we have retired that with “Flashdance?” I worry about the guitarist, who’s wiping the water out of his eyes, getting electrocuted. The only person to give them a standing O is Janelle Monae, who, as you know, is featured on fun.’s “We Are Young.” Last artist to win all four big categories was Amy Winehouse.
8:31: Adele is back in the press room for two questions. Asked how she balances motherhood, she says “I’ve been up since 6 a.m. so I’m a bit tired.” As far as the next album, she says, “I’m not very far along at all, I’m having a lot of meetings. I’ve been out in LA since the Golden Globes and will be here through the Oscars.” She adds that she’ll also meet with producer Paul Epworth, who produced much of “21.” As she was being rushed offstage, someone asked how she felt about the Oscars, for which she’s nominated for best original song. She replied in true Adele fashion, “I’m shi**ing myself.”
8:35: Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley are duetting on her hit “Over You,” co-written with her husband Blake Shelton, and his hit, “Home,” for which he is up for best country solo performance. She’s got her trademark pink microphone and pink in-ear monitors, but she left her trademark voice at home. On the monitor in the press room, she sounds a bit off. Bentley sounds appropriately husky as always. The two are on tour together, so the pairing makes sense. Blake Shelton and Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman.
8:41: Miguel and Wiz Khalifa are performing their remix of Miguel’s “Adorn.” Miguel, who is up for five Grammys, is a star. He sounds amazing and is hitting amazing notes. If they’d let him sing the whole song instead of just going to introduce best country solo performance, it could have been the breakout performance of the night. The Grammy for best country solo performance goes to Carrie Underwood for “Blown Away.”
8:44: Bonnie Raitt, who won Best Americana album, says winning felt like “hyperspace. I was not expecting to win,” comparing it to 1989 when “Nick Of Time” won three awards, including album of the year. “There’s a tremendous bounty of new talent that’s broken through. For me to eke through it this year, I wasn’t expecting it.” The record that had the greatest impact on her life, “The Times They Are A Changin” by Bob Dylan. She tells us she’d buy us all a drink if she could.
8:51: Song of the Year, the first of the big four awards, goes to fun. for “We Are Young” featuring Janelle Monae. They’ve dried off from their performance. “Oh God, I don’t know what I was thinking writing the chorus for this song,” says Nate Ruess. “If this is in HD, everyone can see our faces and we are not very young.” He thanks his fans, who have kept them the best kept secret for the last 12 years. Looks like they can finally move out of their parents’ home.
8:55: Some hobo has wandered in front of the camera. Oh, wait… that’s Johnny Depp. Oh, please, Johnny. I love you, but the gypsy/Jack Sparrow look is wearing a bit thin. He’s introducing Mumford & Sons, who are performing “I Will Wait,” which should have been nominated for record and song of the year. I love them, but I’m a little biased because I was dancing and singing beside banjo player Winston Chambers to Springsteen at MusiCares on Friday night. Oh, did I just write that out loud? Not that he has any clue who the crazy woman going nuts singing “Thunder Road” beside him was.
9:05: Justin Timberlake is on and he may not be bringing sexy back, but he’s certainly bringing back a certain elegance. No dress code worries with him. Dressed in a suit and tie and backed by a a full orchestra and band dubbed “JT and the Tennessee Kids” he goes through “Suit & Tie” before seguing into the languid, soulful, retro “Little Pusher Lover Girl,” another new song from the upcoming “The 20/20 Experience.” It’s not a barnburner, but it’s classy and fun and it’s really good to have him back. He’s also getting about twice as much as time as any other artist. Expect to see more of him at the 2014 Grammys as a nominee. Wife Jessica Biel was digging it.
9:12: Kelly Rowland, on the other hand, ignored the memo since she’s showing quite a lot of boobage in a dress with strategic cutout. Frank Ocean wins the Grammys for best urban contemporary album, a new category. “They say to keep from being nervous, you should look at the audience like they’re naked, but I don’t that. I want to look at you as kids in tuxedos,” he says. “I want to say thank you to my mother for being the best.” It’s a short acceptance speech, but we have a hunch he’ll be back to accept more awards before the evening is over.
9:21: And so the Black Keys’ streak continues. They just won best rock performance. Presenter Kelly Rowland is backstage. When asked if he she thought about the dress code when she picked her revealing outfit, she says, “I thought about the dress code and thought about it again. I respect it. See, I wore clothes.” As far as a potential Destiny’s Child outing, “I can’t say anything about a possible tour,” she says. “If something like that comes up in conversation- it hasn’t-We’ll see what happens.” Regarding the Super Bowl, she says, “Oh my God, I can’t begin to tell you how cool that was.” Rowland loved Justin Timberlake’s performance. “That boy just has too much soul. I’m happy he’s back.”
9:25: I missed most of Maroon 5/Alicia Keys’ combo performance of “Daylight/Girl on Fire,” which go better together than I would have thought. Oh Kelly Cuoco, It’s not the Oscars or Emmys, but a white t-shirt? Really? She and Keith Urban are presenting the Grammy for pop vocal album, which goes to Kelly Clarkson. She is second only to Adele when it comes to giving great acceptance speeches that seem so spontaneous and funny. She thanks everyone else in her category including fun., who are seated next to Lena Dunham, and then says to Miguel, “Miguel, I don’t know who the hell you are, but we need to do something together. That was the sexiest performance I’ve ever seen.” Looks like that sexyback title has been officially passed.
9:35: Oh, LL Cool J, give it a rest with the pimping for the social media and the hashtags. The Grammys are trying to set some record, but I’m going to stop using #grammys in protest. Rihanna is singing “Stay” a beautiful ballad from “Unapologetic.” She has more clothes on than I’ve ever seen her and way more than Kelly Rowland and Alicia Keys. She’s joined by Mikky Ekko, who doesn’t get his own bow. That’ll come soon enough.
9:42: “No Church in the Wild” wins for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Frank Ocean speaks first, then The-Dream, but Jay-Z steals the night by saying “I would like to thank the swap meet for his hat,” pointing to whatever weirdness it is that The-Dream is wearing on his head. Kanye West, who is also on the track, does not appear to be there.
9:45: We’re going to post a separate item on Hitfix about it shortly, but Malik Yusef, who works with Kanye West just came backstage and described working with West as “brutal.” Even though they often record in Hawaii, it sounds like it may as well be in an underground bunker in Peoria for how much they get to enjoy the climate. And yes, West is working on a new album. Yusef declined to get too specific, but said “think about the history of R&B.” Did we mention he declined to get specific?
9:50: The Black Keys are performing “Lonely Boy” with Dr. John and the Preservation Jazz Hall Band. First off, Dr. John’s head dress is threatening to steal the show. I wish I could insert a photo right here. Fantastic. Best performance of the night. You don’t need dancers, you don’t need fancy outfits, you don’t need any of that when you have really great musicians and a really great song.
9:54: Kelly Clarkson has changed to an elegant black velvet dress and is singing “Tennessee Waltz” in a salute to Patti Page and “Natural Woman” in honor of Carole King. Why?, you may ask? They are among the artists receiving Special Merit Awards this year. Hey, she could have tackled something by the late Ravi Shankar, who also received one this year. Now I can’t get the image of her playing a sitar out of my head…
9:58: Best country album goes to Zach Braff! No, the actor does actually have a Grammy for the “Garden State” soundtrack, but Clarkson misspoke, it’s Zac Brown Band for “Uncaged.” Brown gets a little choked up as he thanks everyone who’s always believed in him. I had Miranda Lambert pegged to win that one, even though ZBB won Best New Artist a few years ago, so I shouldn’t have been so surprised.
10:05: Here comes a tribute to Bob Marley. I’m not really sure why this is happening this year. He would have turned 68, but I’m not aware of some other milestone. It starts with Bruno Mars singing a speeded up “Locked Out Of Heaven,” which was inspired by the Police, who were, to state the obvious, very influenced by Bob Marley. I have absolutely nothing but good things to say about Mars, who’s performance two years ago was one of the highlights of the show. I think we’re only beginning to see his talent. Sting has now joined him for “Locked.” if you never heard the Police influence before, you do now, though Sting singing the line “Your sex takes me to paradise” feels creepy to me. Everyone in the audience seems to be singing along, or doing that awkward thing where they known some words, but are having to guess at the rest. Yeah, we’ve all been there. “Heaven” segues into “Walking On the Moon.” Sting sound great, which is a relief. When he sang “Lonesome Day” at MusiCares on Friday night, his voice was really spotty. The song sounds great with horns.
10:11: Yes, the Marley tribute is still going on. When Rihanna comes out, the camera flashes to Chris Brown. That’s subtle. Rihanna and various Marley family members, including Ziggy, are singing Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved.” The audience is on their feet. I guess there’s no one who doesn’t love Bob Marley or if they don’t, they’re smart enough to keep their mouth shut. How long before Rihanna posts a selfie on Instagram of her smoking a big one in honor of Marley (like she needs a reason). She makes Cheech & Chong look like amateurs.
10:16: Here’s something else you won’t see on the broadcast: Director Ken Ehrlich is coaching the audience on “Ho Hey,” so they can sing along when the Lumineers play next. Honestly, if they haven’t all heard the ubiquitous song by now, it’s too late.
10:20: As you can see, the singing lessons didn’t work. Melissa Etheridge was the only one singing along. Oh, and, of course, Taylor Swift, who, clearly, knows how to take instruction, unlike the rest of jaded industry folks in the audience. The Lumineers, who are up for best new artist, which will be presented next, introduce Jack White, whose singing “Love Interruption.” He’s got his all female band with him. He and Beyonce could share bandmates. They’re all gathered around a grand piano. Now he walks over to his all boy band (he’s been touring with both) and starts to rock out on “Freedom At 21.” The second is the far superior, energetic performance. You know who i’d like to have Jack White work with? Prince. I can’t imagine their egos would let that happen, but that could be one of the best things ever.
10:25: Katie Perry, who really didn’t get the memo about showing off cleavage, presents best new artist. She says not to worry if you don’t win: “I was never nominated in this category and I have my own eyelash line. Take that, Bon Iver.” One Direction takes comfort in that, we’re sure. This is a tough race between Frank Ocean and fun. It goes to fun. Nate Ruess says “I have to pee so bad.”
10:34: Hunter Hayes is singing a snippet of “Wanted” before he introduces Carrie Underwood. He’s got talent, but that short performance didn’t make anyone feel like he got robbed for best new artist. The former “American Idol,” who looks like she’s about 16 feet tall from this camera angle in a long white dress with a huge skirt,, is singing “Blown Away” which won for best country song. Oh, it’s gone dark– and not in a bad, unexpected Super Bowl kind of way. Something big is about to happen. She switches to “Two Black Cadillacs and takes a few step back and designs start showing up on her dress. Wow. She’s her own projection screen…a combination Lite Brite and Etch-A-Sketch. We’ve gone from red roses to blue inkblots to a monarch butterfly and now the butterflies are flying off of her dress onto a big screen. That was fashion forward. Although I was so focused on the changing images on her dress that I couldn’t focus on performance.
10:41: Gotye wins Record of the Year for “Somebody That I Used To Know,” from Prince, who’s dressed like a Druid. This does not come as that much of a surprise, given the song’s two earlier wins this evening. “We’re at a loss for words to accept an award from the man standing behind me with a cane,” Gotye says. No, I don’t know why Prince has a cane either. “I just want to say thank you to everybody who puts good energy into the world making music. Kimbra thanks Gotye for thanking her to be on the song. They would clearly trade in the award in order to get an hour hanging with Prince. Who wouldn’t? The-Dream is backstage, the first artist who’s come back since Kelly Rowland, but I completely missed whatever he was saying since I was listening to Goyte. Man, he had on a lot of bling. By the way, “Somebody That I Used To Know” has been downloaded more than 7 million times in the U.S. alone. Kah-ching…
10:49: Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Kenny Garrett just played a lovely tribute to Dave Brubeck, playing “Take Five.” The Recording Academy head Neil Portnow brings on Ryan Seacrest, who joined the Grammy Foundation board because has some spare time between 3:45 a.m. and 4 a.m. They’ve been joined by Justin Timberlake to announce a new award, The Music Educator Award. I don’t think that one will be presented on air. Segue into the In Memoriam segment. As always, it seems like we lost so many people this year. Everyone from Kitty Wells and Donna Summer to Adam Yauch. The salute also includes label executives, attorneys, session players. They end with Levon Helm to go into the Levon Helm tribute, which has to be good.
10:58: Gotye and Kimbra just came backstage so I’m missing the Levon Helm tribute, but it looks really incredible with Elton John, Zac Brown, Mumford & Sons, T Bone Burnett, Mavis Staples and Brittany Howard. I have a feeling I’m missing something really cool. In the meantime, Gotye and Kimbra are still buzzing over getting the award from Prince. Gotye says Prince uttering “I love this song” under his breath was incredible to him. Kimbra says they really have no idea what they said in their acceptance speeches because THEY WERE STANDING ON STAGE WITH PRINCE. Kimbra sang on the new John Legend album, by the way. Gotye thinks he’s written better songs than “Somebody,” but he’s very exited about the life it’s hard, even though he knows he probably can’t ever replicate it. Songs in his head are “Locked Out Of Heaven,” even though he says in much nicer words that it’s derivative. Recognition is still coming slowly. Gotye says he got stopped by some people who asked him to take their picture and then as he walked away, the mom screamed after him, “Are you Guy-ote?”
11:05: “I just like to stand still and sing sometimes” says Carrie Underwood, explaining the decision to have her projection dress steal the show so she could get a break from dancing. As far as her favorite performance so far, she liked the Levon Helm tribute/performance of “The Weight” the best. She called it “Take A Load Off, Annie,” which is a little like calling “Baba O’Reily” “Teenage Wasteland,” but I know I sound like a music snob when I say that.
11:12: Frank Ocean is performing “Forrest Gump.” In a trick almost as cool as Underwood’s dress, he’s performing with projection behind him him, but as he stands at a keyboard, the front of the piano serves as a projection screen from the waist down that looks as if he’s running the whole time. Run, Frank, run!! The song is lovely and but i’m not sure if you’re aware of all the buzz about Frank Ocean but haven’t heard him, this performance will make you understand what all the excitement is about. In fact, I’m sure it won’t. His “Channel Orange” was my No. 1 album of 2012, by the way.
11:15: Adele is presenting album of the year. As she notes, winners usually go on to have huge tours or “get knocked up,” as she does. Mumford & Sons, after getting locked out of every other award, takes home the big one. “We figured we weren’t going to win anything because the Black Keys have won everything an deservedly so,” says Marcus Mumford. Did he say the F word, by the way. They look like they are three sheets to the wind. Did they start drinking when it seemed like he wasn’t going to win.
11:20: We have only one performance left: LL Cool J. So in the meantime, if you’re wondering how the Black Keys swept so many genre awards and then were locked out of any general award:-they were nominated for record and album of the year-that’s because all of the eligible voting membership can vote for the four main categories. Though there are some exceptions, in general, voting in the genre-specific awards is limited to members who make music in that field, so artists who are getting more mainstream recognition tend to win in the general categories.
11:25: Juanes is backstage, so we’re not hearing LL Cool J’s performance, but it looks loud even with the sound turned off. “Now I can sing in English easier than before, may do some tracks in English, maybe four, but now a full album,” he says. He’s recording his new album in Los Angeles with Steve Lilywhite, which will have English and Spanish songs. It’s been a big weekend for Juanes, who, in addition to winning a Grammy earlier tonight, feted Elton John on the telecast and Bruce Springsteen at MusiCares. He says he grew up listening to both of them, but as his English has improved, he has gained a greater understanding for the music.
11:30: The Grammys are over, but the fun in the press room continues. As you may have noticed, not that many winners come back during the actual show, especially if they are up for an award still to be presented, so now we get deluged. First up Zac Brown Band:Brown says he got choked up on stage because “I was in shock,” adding. “It doesn’t take a lot to get me in tears when I talk about my folks,” he says. “This weekend has been like a dream. It’s like I was hanging out with my entire CD collection,” Brown says of getting to sing with Mavis Staples at Bruce Springsteen’s MusiCares tribute Friday night and singing “The Weight” in the Levon Helm salute tonight. Another band member jokes that they’ve been up for around 60 awards in Nashville and don’t win because they aren’t really part of the community. “We’re here to prove that the New Artist curse” isn’t true,” Brown says.
11:42: As we wait to see if any more artists are coming backstage, a few thoughts on the awards. While it’s not totally fair to evaluate the performances from backstage since we’ve got lots of distractions, the ones that stand out are Miguel (again, if he’d gotten to do a full performance, he would have stolen the show), Justin TImberlake, the Black Keys, the Bob Marley Tribute and the Levon Helm salute (what little I caught). Frank Ocean failed to capitalize on a really good opportunity to introduce himself to folks. Other than Taylor Swift’s extravaganza, there were few spectaculars along the lines of Pink’s spellbinding performance a few years ago.
11:48: Mumford & Sons are backstage. I can almost smell the liquor from here. They’re all holding drinks in their hands. “I can tell you definitely, we were sitting in the pre-tel, we had six nominations, [we thought] ‘oh cool,’ then one after the other it was ‘The Black Keys, the Black Keys’,” says Marcus Mumford. “I think we resigned ourselves to last year was Adele’s year, this year was Black Keys’ year, which is awesome. But then when asked how it feels to win, they shouted out, “It’s fucking awesome.” The band remains based in London, “We’re always on tour, so it doesn’t matter where we live.” says Winston Chambers. Having fans like Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp is “amazing” he continues.” It’s fucking weird when your heroes have heard of you.”
11:54: The Recording Academy CEO/president Neil Portnow is now backstage. As you know, the Grammys are the last really big awards show not televised live on the west coast. Portnow says he thinks that plays to the Grammys’ advantage because social media from people watching in the east coast and central time zones help build excitement for folks tuning in on the west coast. I’m not sure I buy that.
12:05: Nate Ruess is the only one who 30, the rest are 29. Jack Antonoff says instead of spending their money on drugs, they spend it on having a yoga instructor with them on tour. Ruess says we were “thinking we’d never have this chance and then the last year everything went topsy turvy.” “We want to work with people like that. She’s so inspiring,” says Andrew Dost of working with Janelle Monae, who is featured on “We Are Young.” Winning came as a surprise,”Doing this for 12 years, you don’t think you’re going to win Grammys,” says Ruess as the power goes out. No kidding. The lights are still on, but we’ve lost any power to the microphones on stage and our computers. Maybe it’s time for the evening to end.
What did you think of this year’s show?