When Whitney Houston passed yesterday, it shocked the music industry. Today is the day of the Grammys, The American Music Industry‘s awards ceremony. I didn’t even realize the Grammys were this weekend, until I heard the news of Whitney’s death. I’m usually not very interested in watching the show – many people feel it’s just the music industry celebrating itself, with a lot of commercialism and self-promotion. With Whitney Houston’s passing, we started hearing stories of people scrambling to make changes to the awards ceremony, and that there would be a tribute to her at the event. Tonight, for the very first time, I watched the Grammys.
Bruce Springsteen opened the show with a performance, and showed that at 62, he could still rock out. LL Cool J was the host, and began the evening by saying a prayer for Whitney Houston. A clip was played of her 1994 Grammy performance of “I Will Always Love You“, and was met by a standing ovation from the crowd. Along with plenty of solo performances, there were a lot of combined performances, which felt a bit strange to me (like R&B artist Rihanna and alternative rock band Coldplay basically each doing their own song, with a small interlude of a collaboration they’d worked on in between). Another somewhat odd pairing was veteran crooner Tony Bennett and American Idol star Carrie Underwood singing “It Had To Be You” before presenting the award for Best New Artist (folk band Bon Iver). Some low points in the night were the two performances and award presentation that featured Chris Brown, who in 2009 was found guilty of felony assault of his then-girlfriend, R&B artist Rihanna (mentioned above), is still on probation, and has a restraining order against him.
There were also two salutes: one to The Beach Boys by pop rock group Maroon 5 and indie pop band Foster the People, followed by a performance by the remaining members of The Beach Boys themselves; and country artists The Band Perry and Blake Shelton joined together in a tribute to country star Glen Campbell, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award, and performed as well. Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson also gave a stirring rendition of “I Will Always Love You” in tribute to Whitney Houston, after which she had to leave the stage before her spotlight dimmed, because she was so emotional.
British singer/songwriter Adele was the big winner of the night, sweeping awards in all six of her nominated categories, including Record and Album of the year. Paul McCartney closed the evening with the second half of the medley from “Abbey Road“, The Beatles‘ final recording, and was joined by Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Walsh for an electric guitar finale (yes, pun intended).
What I didn’t realize about the Grammys is that it doesn’t seem to be as much about the awards as other “awards shows” are. It’s more like a huge concert with acts from many popular artists and of different styles of music. During the show there were mentions of people winning in various categories, and there were 78 Grammys awarded this year, but only 9 awards were actually presented during the show, while there were more than 20 musical performances. I’m guessing that’s why most feel the Grammys are just a big self celebration, but for me, it was pretty interesting to see. I’m not 100% sure I’ll watch The Grammys again (it was a 3 1/2 hour show!), but I’m glad I did this year.