BY RELEVANT MUSIC / CULTURE February 14, 2011

Precisely how many sharks has the Grammy awards jumped? The music industry has morphed since the Internet turned us all into downloading fools, and so also has “music’s biggest night” adapted; now, the show features only a smattering of award presentations but a boosted focus on performances.

But let’s stop taking the Grammys so seriously. This is the award show equivalent of Jersey Shore, and we were in for some serious pop culture fist pumping last night for its 53rd annual outing.

In the beginning, God created an array of divas. Christina Aguilera, Florence Welch, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride and Yolanda Adams teamed up for a killer tribute medley to Aretha Franklin, which on first glance threatened to turn into The Christina Aguilera Show, but was redeemed with Welch’s “Freedom” and Jennifer Hudson nailing “Respect.” The closing wail-off, however, will surely live on in YouTube infamy.

Lady Gaga, after arriving on the red carpet encased in a giant egg, hatched from it onstage and performed “Born This Way,” her
version of Madonna’s “Express Yourself”

new single, wearing a dress that looked like a giant lasagna noodle. It was an unusually brief number, and surprisingly, both Gaga and her dancers were devoid of fake blood and other water cooler fodder. Save for the ginormous egg.

Muse made their Grammy debut in matching glittery jackets and nabbed the trophy for the frightfully miserable Best Rock Album category, and B.o.B styled it up in a monocle while Janelle Monae stage-dived like a pro.

In a crazy performance featuring ninja drummers and a bromance with Usher, Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith (whose combined ages total 28) made all twenty- and thirtysomething struggling musicians weep into their ramen noodles for their collective lack of record sales. Hopefully the Biebs gets down on his knees every day and thanks the Lord for those bangs. Not really related: He should also just release his next album as a series of effervescent tweets.

Bob Dylan then came out to mumble through “Maggie’s Farm” backed by Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers, although all the kiddies probably think he’s Bieber’s grandfather who got lost and wandered onstage. Dylan’s voice now sounds raspy and inscrutable, even for Dylan, and yet this set gets two enthusiastic thumbs up for containing actual talent, real instruments and a copious amount of suspenders.

Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum performed something that some people call “country music.”

Cee Lo Green paired up with Gwyneth Paltrow to sing “Forget You,” the censored version of the most unprintable radio hit of 2010 accompanied by … MUPPETS. Cee Lo wore a red, yellow and blue feathered unitard that made him look like a psychedelic turkey, as Gwyneth Paltrow rolled around on top of his piano in front of some vigorous puppet choreography. Next year, Dora the Explorer and Helena Bonham Carter will turn up to hip bump with the Black Eyed Peas and then ALL OUR MINDS WILL TRULY EXPLODE.

Hey, where was Kanye? Backstage using the megaphone-shaped Grammy trophies to pretend he’s a giant? Anyone?

Next, Katy Perry performed a montage of her hits, which we suspect are really all the same song, but she projected scenes from her wedding video in the background, which thawed our icy hearts.

John Mayer, Norah Jones and Keith Urban sang a rollicking cover of “Jolene” in a Dolly Parton tribute. Real music! Except then Mayer tried to hit on Norah Jones and then she wrote a breakup song and he tweeted something unprintable about her (this is a joke, but you know there’s at least a 37 percent chance this happened).

Eminem and Dr. Dre sang “I Need a Doctor,” which proves the two of them wish it was still 1998 when Kanye West was a teenager in Chicago, and Eminem won Best Rap Album. Jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding, who’s not even a new artist, also upset Justin Bieber for Best New Artist, which likely sent Twitter into a middle-school-fueled conniption fit.

Mick Jagger donned skinny jeans to do his manic rooster thing for a tribute to Solomon Burke, in the Grammys’ token attempt to convince us this is still a serious business music industry show. For what it’s worth, Jagger can still really work a stage, although Keith Richards’ massive new autobiography probably weighs more than Jagger.

Finally, Arcade Fire moped onto stage, causing hipsters to finally look up from their game of Angry Birds, and instead of churning out the usual tortured ballad, they totally go all Tony Hawk with BMX bikers and headache-inducing strobe lights backing “Month of May.” You know rock music is in a bad place when Arcade Fire has the most punk rock performance at the Grammys. But when the strobe lights ended … The Suburbs won Album of the Year, beating Eminem, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. And suddenly, NPR listeners were applauding with a fervor they usually reserve for Conan O’Brien.

So, that was this year’s Grammys. We laughed, we cried, we Cee Loed, but we’re still surprised James Franco didn’t somehow manage to win all the awards and then film a documentary about it before the show was over. But hey—Arcade Fire won, and maybe it lends some legitimacy to this whole Grammy thing after all.

RELEVANT

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