In recent years, the most “prestigious” musical awards show has been bereft of an identity and, as a result, can usually be found trying to stab at both nostalgia and cultural relevancy. Last night, this game of pin the tail on the donkey proved to be unsuccessful yet again.
Robin Thicke performed with Chicago, in maybe the most dated performance in Grammy history. Pink’s Cirque du Soleil performance was far more impressive than the song itself. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr’s hyper-anticipated reunion failed to live of the hype. Katy Perry took us all on a journey into a haunted forest complete with a giant red-eyed horse as everyone sat on the edge of their seat waiting for David Bowie to appear in full Goblin King garb from Labyrinth. As is characteristic of the Grammys as a whole, we were gravely disappointed in this regard.
Before anyone starts thinking the Grammys are now verifiable evidence of “the problem of evil,” let’s remember they still do get some things right. Daft Punk’s performance with Pharrell Williams, Nile Rogers and Stevie Wonder got the entire crowd dancing, as living testament to how catchy that song actually is. Despite her teenaged awkwardness as an orator, you couldn’t help but be happy for Lorde when she took home her awards for “Royals.”
Even if Jamie Foxx’s introduction was perhaps the most cringeworthy moment of the night (he came across sounding like Beyonce’s spurned suitor), Jay Z’s acceptance speech, almost entirely dedicated to his wife and daughter, was genuinely heartwarming. Even though they didn’t show it on TV, they did give Vampire Weekend the award for Best Alternative Album as proof truth and justice still have some stock in this world. And that last performance with Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham did a lot to redeem the show in general or, at least for a moment, make you forget LL Cool J is still getting invited back to host it.
Now, on to who should have won some of these Grammys:
Album of the Year
Who Won: Random Access Memories, Daft Punk
Who Should’ve Won: Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend
Random Access Memories, despite its commercial success and critical acceptance, doesn’t work as a cohesive, artistic statement quite like an album should. Solid choice for Best Dance Album, which it also won, but it just doesn’t cut it when it comes to being the album to represent 2013. Modern Vampires takes the cake on that criteria. Lyrically and musically, it was a giant leap forward for the band and one of the most powerful statements of the year. If you don’t believe me, ask Rolling Stone, Pitchfork and RELEVANT because, for once, we all agreed.
Best Rock Performance
Who Won: “Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons
Who Should’ve Won: Anyone besides Imagine Dragons
This one was just laughable. Imagine Dragons won in a category surrounded by nominees like Queens of the Stone Age, Alabama Shakes, Jack White, David Bowie and, wait for it, Led Zeppelin. We can’t decide whether the question is “how?” or “why?”
Best Rock Album
Who Won: Celebration Day, Led Zeppelin
Who Should’ve Won: Like Clockwork…, Queens of the Stone Age
It just seems a little odd Led Zeppelin’s live reunion album won in a category of studio recordings. As far as those go, nothing rocked harder this year than the guitar juggernaut that is Queens of the Stone Age. “My God is the Sun,” “If I Had a Tail,” and “Smooth Sailing” were new, vibrant and really fun to play on air guitar.
Best R&B Album
Who Won: Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys
Who Should’ve Won: The Electric Lady, Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae wasn’t even nominated in the R&B category in yet another one of the Grammys’ crimes against humanity. She got Prince to guest on her album this year. Prince, people! Not to mention, her work here was as soulful and classic as any of her influences.
Best Rap Album
Who Won: The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Who Should’ve Won: Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick Lamar
Even Macklemore agrees on this one. Kendrick’s Compton-inspired opus of sin and redemption far outweighs “I’m gonna pop some tags” any day of the week. It earns its explicit sticker, but Lamar seems genuinely interested in wrestling with the current state of hip hop and, what’s more, he’s the most electrifying voice on the scene right now.
Best Country Album
Who Won: Same Trailer, Different Park, Kacey Musgraves
Who Should’ve Won: Same Trailer, Different Park, Kacey Musgraves
We should end on a positive note. Kacey Musgraves had the kind of lyrical ingenuity and hip accessibility to make a genre like country palatable to people who would never be caught dead hearing a twangy voice willingly. Her album is a throwback to the days when there really was something special going on in the country music scene. So, on this one, good job Grammys!
Mack Hayden is a budding writer and college student. He blogs at Biola's Culture Context. And there's plenty of tweeting going on over at @unionmack.