Stop The Presses!

Grammy Nominations Show… Or Black-Eyed Peas Variety Hour?

Stop The Presses!

It's official: For the rest of our lives, Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" is going to be the designated anthem of every single occasion. Or at least of any event that promises to be positive and is not scheduled to take place in the morning or afternoon. Like, for instance, CBS' hour-long Grammy nominations telecast, which featured Fergie and company performing their "Tonight's gonna be a good night" mantra near the beginning and once again at the end. The group also earned six nominations. It's the Black Eyed Peas' world, and we just get bounced around by the surround-sound boom-boom-pow in it.

How pop-tastic are the formerly fogey-ish Grammys now? The two leading categories, album of the year and record of the year, both offer a quintet of Top 40 faves—Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and the Peas—hogging four of the five slots. The nominations did make room for a token rock band in each of those top fields, with the Dave Matthews Band up for best album and Kings of Leon getting a nod for record of the year. But the nominations telecast itself dispensed with any obligatory performances by guitar groups. Which kind of put the lie to Katy Perry's scripted contention that "the year really rocked!" Nope: As the Grammys fully acknowledge, 2009 popped.

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The hour opened with host LL Cool J doing a production number that interpolated the names of potential nominees... as in, "I'm a king like Leon/Shine like neon" (along with a lyrical plug for "America's number one new show," which he happens to be the star of). It was an earnest attempt to do the rap equivalent of a Billy Crystal or Hugh Jackman Oscar opener. NCIS: Los Angeles fans might have been tempted to tell LL to stick to his day job, if not for the fact that music used to be his day job. But at least he's keeping his chops in practice. "This is not the end. This is only the beginning!" he announced at the end of his tune, a reassuring thing to hear six minutes into an hour-long show.

The first of the two renditions of "I Gotta Feeling" began with Will.I.Am jumping onto a dinner table at Club Nokia, before the entire group marched to the stage. Will America ever tire of seeing these three men and a babe working it, police lineup-style? Not if their coincidentally just-announced arena tour can help it.

Out on the patio of the L.A. Live complex, in front of a Rockefeller-wanna-be tree, Sugarland performed "Coming Home," the least specifically Christmasy song from their new Christmas CD. Jennifer Nettles stayed anchored to a piano, allowing her less opportunity than usual to follow the camera around and make googly eyes at it.

The one semi-unknown quantity of the night, performance-wise, was Nick Jonas and the Administration, a side project that finds the youngest and most creative Jonas working with a bunch of former Prince band members. Combining grungy rhythm guitar with a light R&B melody, "Who I Am" didn't veer wildly afield from what might be heard on a JoBros record. So we'll have to wait till the album comes out in February to see if there was any real reason this couldn't have been a Brothers project, besides the fact that it allows for a constant montage of giant Nick photos in the background with no pesky Joe or Kevin mug shots butting in. From the reaction shots, it appeared that Nick's side-project debut got a standing ovation from the all-female first three rows of the balcony and one Black-Eyed Pea.

Best performance of the short evening, hands (and gloves) down: Maxwell's tribute to Michael Jackson with a cover of "Lady in My Life." An homage to a major artist by another major artist whose style is appropriate to the genre and honoree at hand... and who's good, too. Ladies and gentlemen, this could be an awards show first!

That raises the question: Does this count as an "awards show"? The producers tried to trump up the suspense by preceding each set of nominations with video glimpses of artists who might be nominated for that award. It was like the nominations for the nominations. Nice to know, then, that someone involved with the production thought  the band Phoenix might get a nod for best pop performance by a group or duo... even if they didn't. Instead, that particular category looks like a tight race between MGMT's "Kids" and Hall and Oates' "Sara Smile"! (And an entire CBS-viewing nation collectively said: "What the...?")

We don't want to say that the audience was celebrity-light, but Barbara Bach hasn't had this much camera time since 1978. There was one nominee from each on-air category who showed up to be interviewed. LL Cool J came over to talk with Maxwell about his surprise nomination for song of the year, prompting the singer to thank God and basically give the speech he probably (unfortunately) won't get to at the real show in late January. Drake seemed genuinely humbled, pointing out after his nomination for best rap song that "I haven't even put out my first album yet. That was just a song I put out off a mix tape." Shhh, Drake, don't tell the elderly voters you haven't really done anything yet.

Smokey Robinson, meanwhile, really needs to stay away from comedy, since the sell-through date on his "Don't worry, Taylor, Kanye is not here" joke was several national holidays ago. Never mind that Taylor wasn't there, either. We'll see lots of her on the real Grammy night, since her eight nominations trailed only Beyonce's 10. With Swift and Beyonce up against one another in the key album, record, and song of the year categories, Jan. 31 promises to be a record night for moldy Kanye-interruption gags. The countdown begins now!         

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