Live review: The 52nd annual Grammy Awards - Reverb

Live review: The 52nd annual Grammy Awards

Lady Gaga performs during the opening act of the Grammy Awards on Sunday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Lady Gaga won awards for dance recording and electronic dance album. (Kevin Winter, Getty Images)

Lady Gaga performs during the opening act of the Grammy Awards on Sunday at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Lady Gaga won awards for dance recording and electronic dance album. (Kevin Winter, Getty Images)

All the television commercials billed Sunday night’s 52nd annual Grammy Awards as “ladies night.” And for once, the advertising was right.

From big winners Beyonce, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas and Taylor Swift to memorable performances from Pink, Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, the Grammys were dominated by women in 2010. Cheers to the fairer sex — and to the Grammys, too, for presenting a show that was more watchable than the average music- industry telecast.

Whereas past years have relied heavily on forced, nonsensical collaborations, the Grammys kept those to a minimum Sunday, instead focusing on the music and the artists. The Grammys should act as a reminder of why this music helped define our lives. And this year’s show did just that.

The signature moments of Grammy night:

The classy: After losing Song of the Year to Beyonce, Taylor Swift danced in the aisle to the winning “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” as it played at the Staples Center.

The awkward: A clearly mismatched/unprepared Jennifer Lopez introduced Green Day and its progeny — the cast from its theatrical musical, “American Idiot” — to sing “21 Guns.”

The transcendent: The take on the rock ballad by the band and the cast was stunning. What perfect marketing for the rock musical, due on Broadway this year. Could “American Idiot” be the next “Mamma Mia”?

The intoxicating: Pink’s aerial performance was gorgeous. Eat your heart out, Cirque du Soleil.

The fun: Cheers to the Black Eyed Peas for singing “I Got a Feeling” live. It was imperfect, but it was electrifying in a way that blew away Jamie Foxx and T-Pain’s auto-tune-addled “Blame It” performance, which fell flat even with a nonsensical cameo by guitarist Slash.

The comedy: After winning the Best Comedy Album award for a holiday record, Stephen Colbert came back with: “This is a Christmas album, so obviously I should thank Jesus Christ — for having such a great birthday.”

The flat: Swift’s performance of “Today Was a Fairytale” was charming and warm, but Stevie Nicks outshone her when they followed that with a tag team on “Rhiannon.” Swift’s singing was flat on the smash Fleetwood Mac song. They tried to make up for it with a stripped-down take on Swift’s “You Belong With Me,” but the budding star’s off-key performance left a mark.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post. He is also the executive director of the Underground Music Showcase, Colorado’s premier indie music festival. Follow his whimsies at Twitter, his live music habit at Gigbot and his iTunes addictions at Last.fm.

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  • jeremysimon

    Hey Ric! While I agree with you generally about the 'minimization of forced nonsensical collaborations' compared with certain years (though is Taylor Swift really heir apparent to stagemate Stevie Nicks?)… I think the broadcast was more visually cluttered than ever. This has been a trend in TV for awhile… but with all the swirling crap on the wall monitors behind the performers, I felt like I was in Times Square. The color schemes and cinematography were sharp and beautiful, but the producers don't seem to think we will watch unless there are 6, or 60, different things going on in the frame at once. Random question, which we were debating while watching… What proportion of the vocals do you think were live, vs lip-synched? I don't know the 'state of the union' these days re: what degree of vocal augmentation/fakery is considered acceptable, when, say, rotating nakedly and upside-down in mid air.

  • http://www.denvereverb.com Ricardo Baca

    You have a point, Jeremy. I don't mind a lot of the projection clutter, but I do dislike the actual clutter. That Dave Matthews performance was a disaster, what with all the randoms on stage – especially because they weren't adding much to the performance itself.More is not better, not all the time.Taylor and Stevie – even with Taylor's awful, off-key singing – was better than past collabs. (JoBros and Stevie Wonder? Really?) As for real/fake vocals, it seemed like the majority of folks were actually singing last night. Not sure if Pink was live during that aerial madness. I couldn't tell. Could you?As I said, I love the imperfections that come out when big bands sing live on events like that. I love that there's a possibility for disaster, especially when they're dance-heavy acts like the Black Eyed Peas.

  • Carissa

    Couldn't agree more on Swift's duet with Nicks. Her voice wasn't compatible with the song and her inexperience disrupted the performance. Great seeing Stevie Nicks though. I wish the show were produced better, mixing up the show-stopping big performances with the more low-key ones. The show itself just died off. I would've been perfectly happy watching Gaga and Sir Elton all night. Big surprise.

  • Carissa

    Couldn't agree more on Swift's duet with Nicks. Her voice wasn't compatible with the song and her inexperience disrupted the performance. Great seeing Stevie Nicks though. I wish the show were produced better, mixing up the show-stopping big performances with the more low-key ones. The show itself just died off. I would've been perfectly happy watching Gaga and Sir Elton all night. Big surprise.