Stop The Presses!

Justin, Katy, Bruno, B.o.B., Miranda Rock the Grammy Noms Telecast

Stop The Presses!

You've got to love the annual Grammy nominations concert/telecast, if only because, at one hour, it's the shortest and most digestible "awards" show of the year. Five categories announced, seven performances offered, 2,000 CBS shows plugged...and then off to an early bed, with no after-parties!

Surely more than a few viewers were up past their bedtime, as the 10 ET/PT show had, as its chief ratings draw, a live performance by Justin Bieber. (Maybe "live," anyway—it was past 3 a.m. in London, the location from which he'd earlier bantered awkwardly with host LL Cool J.) If Bieber was the prince of the hour, the designated kings were B.o.B. and Bruno Mars, each of whom was awarded a coveted two performing slots (one of them shared).

At the program's start, it was like deja vu—or decolletage vu—all over again. Katy Perry kicked off the proceedings, just one night after appearing on the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show and a scant nine days after the American Music Awards. (At this overexposed rate, don't be surprised if you see her singing and dancing her way into this weekend's Walking Dead finale.) She hit her notes this time, thanks to singing "California Gurls" instead of the more demanding "Firework"...and thanks to being here instead of at the universally sound-plagued AMAs, where Beverly Sills would have sounded a little pitchy. But just the sight of her seems so, you know, 2010.

Next up on the performance lineup, Bruno Mars was one of two acts to go acoustic, with string quartet, which had the unfortunate effect of making "Just the Way You Are" appear to be 10 minutes long. Mars fared better later on when he shucked the sunglasses-at-night look and folkie-soul vibe to team up with lovably loquacious B.o.B. on the far livelier "Nothin' On You," which is up for Record of the Year. 

Train performed outside the Nokia Theatre, where the temperature had dropped into the mid-50s, and Pat Monahan might have been wishing he'd remembered to wear the jacket that came with that vest. "Hey Soul Sister" did not turn out to be up for any of the categories that were announced on the show (though it was later revealed to be nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group). But Train's slot was a chance for CBS and the Grammys to give some love to a group that'll no doubt be left off the performance invite list for the Big Show February 13...again, if that was even necessary after this marginal an act had just gotten sufficient airtime on the AMAs.

Miranda Lambert gave the night's rawest performance, complete with the rare sighting of a steel guitar solo in prime time—and how did that get past the censors, anyway? Lambert likes to keep it unpredictable: On the CMA Awards recently, she disturbed some country purists by singing her punkiest number, "That's the Way the World Goes Round." On this Grammy nominations show, when a rock number like that would have had some mainstream crossover appeal, she instead chose "Only Prettier," the most defiantly twangy number off her Revolution album. In neither case did she go the obvious route and sing "The House That Built Me," the gorgeous ballad that's up for Song of the Year. Way to keep us guessing, Ran!

But what do you know: Justin Bieber, who's normally not a bastion of left-field choices, surprised us by doing "Favorite Girl" acoustically, accompanied only by a fellow guitarist—and sounding like he's strummed his own guitar once or twice before. He might even have surprised a few of the elder viewers who came in determined to grind their teeth through the inevitable announcement of his Best New Artist nomination. 

Grammy winner turned NCIS: Los Angeles stud LL Cool J hosted again, approaching whatever performer-nominees were on hand and showing off some interviewing skills that proved he'd attended the Chris Farley School of Celebrity Interviewing. "You're a superstar now. How does it feel?" he asked Bieber. (JB's answer: "It feels... good.") To Katy Perry: "Is it a teenage dream? Do you feel incredible? Do you feel amazing?" Leading the witness, your honor! 

The most dumbfounding moment of the night was the announcement of the Female Country Vocal nominations—the only category to make it into the hour that was either genre-specific or gender-specific. It was, of course, an attempt to make sure that LL Cool J had an excuse to approach Lambert for a chat. But the nominees in that category, other than Lambert (Jewel? Really?), seemed as if they'd been picked out of a hat, not voted on. And for a minute, those wacky female country nods reminded everyone of the old, Out-of-Touch opposed to their new image, the Eminem-by-Acclamation Grammys.

In any case, as ultimately uneventful as it was, this mini-pre-Grammy show at least beat last week's AMAs, by virtue of no lip-synching (or hand-synching—thank you, Justin, for really playing guitar instead of pretending to be a pianist) casts of thousands of dancers and acrobats on each song... the fact that the words "Arcade Fire" were uttered...and, ultimately, the brevity, which is award-winning in and of itself.

Who do you think came off a winner on the telecast? 

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