Grammys recap: Taylor Swift triumphs on a night of too many tributes
Leave it to Taylor Swift to destroy all comers at the 2016 Grammys -- including a certain rival rapper who wasn't even there.
After winning Album of the Year on Monday for her massive, zeitgeist-defining album 1989, Swift stared directly into the camera and addressed no one in particular (though it was totally Kanye West) with icy daggers in her eyes.
"As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice," Swift said, "I want to say to all the young women out there: There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame. But if you just focus on the work, and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world."
Yeah, she went there, on the biggest stage of her life. Days after West crassly shouted out Swift in his new song Famous (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that b---- famous”), Swift scored the ultimate revenge, making history with her second Album of the Year win and reasserting her place atop pop’s throne.
Swift took home three Grammys on the night, including Best Pop Album and Best Music Video for Bad Blood -- a trophy she shared with rapper Kendrick Lamar, who won a leading five trophies, including Best Rap Album, for his widely acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly.
Perhaps more importantly, in a night overstuffed with slow, somber, sleepier-than-necessary tributes and medleys, Swift and Lamar gave the night two of its most memorable performances -- Swift with a glitter-bombing spin through Out of the Woods to open the show; and Lamar shuffling out in prison chains, trotting out a tribal dancers, lighting a pyramid of fire and ending his medley silhouetted by an image of Africa emblazoned with the word “Compton.”
Such performances were rare at this year's Grammys, which had to be among the most minor-key in history. At almost any point in the night, you could’ve tuned in to see an artist like the Weeknd, Ellie Goulding, Miguel, Little Big Town, Tori Kelly, James Bay or even Adele bring the house down -- and not in the good way -- with a way-too-solemn performance.
Blame it on producers’ insistence on spending every other segment honoring another musician who’d died -- David Bowie, Glenn Frey, B.B. King, Lemmy Kilmister, Earth, Wind and Fire’s Maurice White. And that was before we got to an In Memoriam montage featuring Percy Sledge, Scott Weiland, Allen Toussaint, Ornette Coleman, Natalie Cole, James Horner and many more. Even Lionel Richie got a tribute from Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, John Legend and others -- and last time we checked, he’s not even dead. (Right? Lionel, brother, is there something you’re not telling us?)
In the end, the night only needed one tribute: Lady Gaga’s stunningly choreographed and costumed Bowie medley. Genders were bent and minds were blown as once again, Gaga delivered yet another knockout blow on yet another massive international stage. The show could’ve stopped there and no one would’ve minded. Where's the petition to campaign for an entire tour of Gaga as Bowie?
A few other performances manage to shake viewers out of their depression. After winning his first career Grammy, Justin Bieber joined a band led by DJs-turned-instrumentalists Skrillex and Diplo for a plugged-in rock rendition of Where Are U Now. Sam Hunt broke hearts in the Heartland by going toe-to-toe with Carrie Underwood on Take Your Time and Heartbeat. The Hollywood Vampires, a rock supergroup led by Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp, howled and wailed through an original song and an Ace of Spades tribute to Kilmister. And the cast of the smash musical Hamilton brought Broadway’s sense of drama and theatricality to a setting where it was desperately needed.
Still, on music’s biggest, longest, most tribute-filled night, it felt like such moments were way too few and far between. It was almost enough to make you wish for fewer performances, and more actual awards.
Oh yeah: Awards! The Grammys had a few of those, too, although they felt almost incidental among all the "Grammy moments."
As expected, Record of the Year went to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ ubiquitous hit Uptown Funk.
“I see George Clinton over there, a man who has done more for the word ‘funk’ than we could ever hope to dream of in our entire life,” Ronson said. “So I want to thank James Brown, George Clinton, (Jimmy) Jam and (Terry) Lewis, Prince, the Meters, Earth, Wind and Fire.”
Song of the Year, a songwriters' award, went to professional hobbit Ed Sheeran and some other lady (we’ll never know who, since the Grammys cut her off before she got to speak) for Thinking Out Loud, a perfectly middle-of-the-road Grammys choice. Same with Meghan Trainor, the chart-topping, retro-styled singer behind Lips Are Movin’ and All About That Bass, who sobbed her way through accepting Best New Artist.
Beyond the Big Four categories, only a few presentations made Monday’s telecast, including Best Rap Album (Lamar), Best Country Album (Chris Stapleton’s Traveller) and Best Rock Performance (Alabama Shakes’ Don’t Wanna Fight). Click here for the rest of this year’s winners.
You just hope that after the ceremony, these cats all found someplace backstage to let loose, celebrate and feel good about life for a change, since there didn't appear to be much of that on TV.
If they’re lucky, they ended up somewhere near Taylor Swift. After her night of triumph and empowerment, no one’s gonna party harder than her.
-- Jay Cridlin