More than half of yesterday’s Grammys felt like a high school talent show with a really big budget. Forget the Vegas-y décor scheme that ate up the stage (how many Swarovski curtains can you possibly use?), it was the headliners that seemed most intent on mirroring Celine Dion’s Titanic work ethic. Much like New York Fashion Week, the Grammy presentations felt—above all else—pre-prepped for Instagram. Instead of some kind of cohesive thesis going on with each song, the show seemed strategically embedded with 10-15 second Snap-able and Gram-able moments. This was where vocalists and rappers tried as hard as they could to pull out all punches of all kinds. Nobody seemed to choose a singular moment to shine, and the bulk of the performers kept overdoing it, taking multiple moments to overreach.
The accosting number of hyper-dramatic hip pivots and hair-whips that Taylor Swift began the show with really set the tone. The “Out of The Woods” opener symbolized a change from old world mass music industry of yore. Swift seemed to be sashaying a new regime of tireless squad-ites—artists who were fed up with being distant, low-key, unexcited performers. By the end of her last note, that sense of old school pop—the subtle one-glove-at-a-time/cucumber cool method of entertaining felt buried deep into the Staples Center’s soil. Then, someone invited Broadway to crash the party! It was all very Glee.
In fact, that whole ZFG (Zero Fucks Given) approach was replaced with an AFG (All Fucks Given) one—an approach that is a far cry from the tactics of subtle stylings of louche-ish bands like Phoenix, singers such as Lana Del Rey and nominated/non-performing acts such as Florence and The Machine. There was a trade-off in all this. The coolness was hard to find. Anywhere. Although the frenetic energy was everywhere. Adele wrestled notes that she couldn’t handle and the decision for Kendrick Lamar to take on two stages—when he was already killing it on one—just seemed distracting and unnecessary. Lamar’s giant fire pit and assorted tribal dancers seemed perfect but then we got a neon day-glo surprise that wrinkled foreheads. Everything looked so profoundly literal and sounded so message-oriented. Justin Bieber’s heart was torn and reborn and then worn on both sleeves, like a shiny Chanel bracelet. As he leapt up and kicked the beats down, it felt refreshing and distracting, but so illogical.
Lady Gaga’s performance took the try-hard attitude to an all-new high with her David Bowie tribute. Duncan Jones—Bowie’s son—took to Twitter to critique the lady, calling her homage “overexcited, irrational, excessive and mentally confused.” In fairness, Gaga took her mission to slay so seriously that she didn’t give us much of herself in the medley (always a bad choice). While pop music, in its very nature, is a medium that can often express a larger-than-life palette, Bowie knew when to give it ‘til it hurt and when to take a step back. Although I’ll always prefer an artist who puts it all out there above one who gives you little to go by, there is something so underwhelming about watching someone who makes a conscious effort to be overwhelming.
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