Boring or not, the 58th Grammy Awards had somewhat good intentions — and they definitely wanted you to know that. While the Oscars continued to face backlash for its continued lack of diversity, the Grammys made small inclusive strides to embrace what its industry has represents.
LL Cool J returned for his fifth year as host/dad, opening the ceremonies by suggesting memes (“Thank you, Taylor Swift, for that new Grammy moment!”) and using his long-forgotten musical background to segue into a discussion about hip-hop’s role in the music industry. There were some complaints about his return, but he’s a fine host. LL is throwing a party, and he just wants everyone to go home happy. Adele is praised, Run DMC honored, the audience reminded that the Grammy Awards are truly great because of them.
But still, it didn't help that Taylor Swift, sporting a black sparkly skintight bodysuit and a brand new bob, opened the 58th annual Grammy Awards with a performance of “Out of the Woods” that felt a little too safe.
“Hello and welcome to the 2016 Grammy Awards,” said Swift. “But right now, it’s 1989.”
Taylor wanted you to know that despite all that Kanye controversy, this is her show. And when she won the night’s biggest award — shutting out favored frontrunner Lamar, and making her the centerpiece of a thousand thinkpieces about women and race and pop music — she's still one of the most talked about artists of the year, and she knows she deserves it.
Lamar took Best Rap Album right off the bat, as well as winning four during the pre-broadcast ceremony, but is still called out by LL for teaming up with Imagine Dragons in the Grammys of yore. He staged a politically charged performance of "Blacker the Berry" and "Alright," but lost Album of the Year to Swift.
This was disappointing, but the show continued to entertain. Unlike other awards ceremonies that waste time with rambling hosts and trying-too-hard acts, the Grammys continue to be performance-heavy, we for one are not complaining.
Pairing the incredible Andra Day with her fellow sultry and soulful singer Ellie Goulding worked better than either probably had anticipated. Tori Kelly and James Bay are fantastic, but that’s more mutually understood. Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt continued to be the best looking people in country music. And even Bieber wasn't bad.
There were also tributes. The John Legend-Demi Lovato-Luke Bryan-Tyrese-Meghan Trainor tribute to Lionel Richie was wonderfully fun and so contagious, it was accompanied by the man himself. The Eagles reunion for the late Glenn Frey was heartfelt. Bonnie Raitt, Gary Clark Jr. and Chris Stapleton's tribute to BB King was badass. But The Pentatonix’s controversial tribute to Earth Wind & Fire’s Maurice White was only tolerable thanks to the wonderful Stevie Wonder. Wonder didnt skip a beat and used the moment to remind us that striving for “inclusion” includes the disabled.
Performance-wise, the exceptional outnumbered the horrible. Broadway’s “Hamilton” and the equally theatrical Bowie tribute by Lady Gaga, and Adele's tear-jerking (and near technical glitch-tainted) "All I Ask." These counterbalanced our worst nightmare featuring Pitbull and Robin Thicke with Sofia Vergara dressed as a sexy taxi cab and Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper and Joe Perry's flame-throwing dad rock band debut as The Hollywood Vampires.
Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" took Song of the Year; Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars deservedly took Record of the Year for "Uptown Funk." Meghan Trainor sobbed hysterically as she took Best New Artist, thanking L.A. Reid for taking her seriously as an artist. Taylor Swift made a shaky stab at Kanye West while accepting her award on behalf of "women."
The year's winners are as predictable as the nominees, but the Grammys still remain one of the most watchable award shows of the year.