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).
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 Grammys...as 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)...no 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?
- Arts & Entertainment
- Justin Bieber