I listen to an odd collection of things on my iPod. Lots of old and new country, various idioms of rock, comedy. Chuck Klosterman once wrote (I’m paraphrasing) that the worst people in the world say the like any music ‘except country’. I feel similar – you can’t say you like any music ‘except (blank)’. It’s like saying you love basketball but hate the NBA; you can’t do it. If you like music, you can find beauty and meaning in everything. Sure, some genres and styles tickle my ears more than others, but liking music means liking music.
However, when it’s storming out, when the sky opens and God hurls lightning and it looks like the world is ending, I listen exclusively to rap.
I’m not sure what it is that makes me pull out the Jay, the Dre and old-school Ludacris when God calls down the thunder. Maybe bass drops just sound better when backed by a driving rainstorm. But it feels dark and mysterious to match the skies, while at the same time there’s an element to the hooks that give you confidence to keep pressing forward when other people pull off or huddle under bridges to not get taken away by a tornado. It’s soundtracking your life to something that feels like it should be soundtracking something much more monumental; it gives the mundane importance. You’ve heard of mothers gaining superhuman strength when their children are trapped under a car or something? That’s me when ’99 Problems’ starts playing.
Music offers emotions an avenue from which to escape, especially for manly-men types who wouldn’t wince if you cut their leg off with a chainsaw but get misty-eyed whenever they hear ‘Only the Good Die Young’. For those classified as ‘just regular dudes’ (me!), the right music can inspire confidence where there is doubt or give the most ordinary situation – like driving – an opportunity to seem cool, even if you’re by yourself, which is literally the only time I feel cool.
And while I’m married and it no longer matters that I’m cool, so long as I’m still trying, the music you play when someone else is in the car is how you’ll be judged. I have no idea if women still feel this way, but I know being single and having nothing more current than Charlie Daniels in my CD player (it’s what we used to listen to music on – kids, ask an older cousin or someone between the ages of 22 and 30) was not going to get anyone to second base during the evening.
Music matters. In terms of art, it matters more than poetry, fiction, painting and theatre put together. I’d put it just behind baseball.
The Grammy’s are an institution that seeks to honor music while inadvertently setting it back a decade at a time. This year’s edition was… an exception? Maybe not, but it certainly wasn’t the embarrassment that Nicki Minaj having her alter ego exorcised made last year’s telecast. Since I enjoy belittling the entire process and making mockery of the crowning achievement of people’s lives, this is a lot of fun.
To the nominees…
7:00 p.m. – And we’re off! Taylor Swift opens us up with “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”, which immediately lowers the expectations for the entire evening.
7:02 – My snark meter is at like 11.2 right now. Clowns, a guy strapped to a pin wheel and Taylor Swift? The jokes in my brain are fighting one another to get out right now.
7:03 – Here’s the thing: this is not an awful song. It’s just awful coming from her. The whiny ‘A man did me wrong’ thing is just played to death from her. I know Twitter/Facebook has beaten this joke into the ground, but her next song should be, “Maybe I’m the Problem” or “A Hard Look in the Mirror” or something.
7:04 – From Mrs. Me: “What the hell does this have to do with Alice in Wonderland?” Excellent question.
7:05 – Our host LL Cool J makes his first appearance. Frankly, I’m fine with him hosting this every year for the foreseeable future.
7:07 – Our first Michael Jackson reference. I had the over on 7:15. Also, who was Rihanna’s Barbados musical influence? I would love to know.
7:09 – Kudos to LL for not trying out stand-up lines during his monologue. Know your limits, LL.
7:10 – What’s the protocol for LL’s name? Mr. Cool J? Can we just call him L? How does he introduce himself in casual conversation?
7:11 – More from Mrs. Me: “Elton John is just as gay as ever.” We are such an accepting household.
7:12 – Ed Sheeran. That’s who this other guy is. Only needed a two-minute Google search. I’m no longer the target audience for popular music.
7:14 – Commercial! 30-second Grammy ads are $850,000 as opposed to $3.8 million for the Super Bowl (thanks Darren Rovell!) Is the bang-for-buck that much higher with the Super Bowl? Someone look into this for me.
7:19 – Pitbull and J-Lo. J-Lo never fails to disappoint with her Grammy attire. I also had a lot of horrible jokes about Pitbull, including one featuring Michael Vick. Being quiet now.
7:19 – Our nominees for pop solo performance: Adele, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Katy Perry’s Boobs (which have been shown more on this telecast than every nominee put together tonight and I don’t think anyone has a problem with that).
7:20 – Pop solo performance goes to… Set Fire to the Rain by Adele. Her winning music should be changed to “All I do is Win”. Thank God “Call Me Maybe” didn’t win; that song makes me want to kick homeless people.
7:21 – Barney Stinson! Legendary!
7:22 – Legendary gangster rap icon Katherine Hepburn? Neil Patrick Harris’ public persona is just Barney Stinson now. I hope he challenges Pitbull to a Slap Bet backstage.
7:23 – I’m just out on Fun. Sorry. They should change the name to Awful.
7:26 – First Nicki Minaj sighting. Mrs. Me just growled at the television.
7:29 – Are you shitting me? We’re remixing State Farm commercials now?
7:31 – Does drunken Blake Shelton crash the set when Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley perform? I say yes.
7:32 – I didn’t know Bonnie Raitt was still alive, let alone winning Grammy’s. She and despicable boy toy John Mayer introduce Miranda and Dierks.
7:33 – ‘Over You’ and ‘Home’ are beautiful, haunting, soul-crushing songs. I have nothing negative to say. Don’t get used to that. Miranda’s thighs can crush steel, and there is nothing wrong with that.
7:40 – LL takes the opportunity to show old home videos. He seems like he could use a wingman or drinking buddy or something.
7:41 – Miguel and Wiz Khalifa get a lot of old white people on their feet.
7:42 – And they wrap up by introducing the nominees for best country solo performance. That was weird. Blake Shelton, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Hunter Hayes (SHIT), Ronnie Dunn (?) and Carrie Underwood each have a song up for grabs.
7:43 – Our winner… Blown Away by Carrie Underwood. No by hell no. That said, she is NOT UNATTRACTIVE.
7:48 – The Surface Pro commercials make me want to break dance.
7:50 – Just checked the photo LL tweeted of Carrie Underwood… not what I was hoping for.
7:51 – Tim and Faith (their Nashville names) introduce Song of the Year. Nominees: Kelly Clarkson, Carly Rae Jepsen, Fun., Ed Sheeran, Miguel.
7:52 – Song of the Year goes to… “We Are Young” by Fun. If the song they performed earlier is any indication, they’ll be hocking that bad boy on Ebay in four years.
7:53 – The ‘Get Off the Stage’ music comes on for the first time.
7:54 – Johnny Depp has no clue what he’s supposed to be doing. He barely mumbles out, ‘Mumford and Sons’.
7:55 – I guess I like Mumford. I don’t know how English folk rock became one of the biggest voices of 2012, but there are worse sounds to attack your cerebrum. Like the fact that I know “Call Me Maybe” will be running through my head for the next two days.
7:57 – Would anyone be worse to sit next to at an awards show than Taylor Swift? The camera just panned to her flailing her arms and singing along.
8:02 – The much-ballyhooed Justin Timberlake performance is about to go off. It’s preceded with a quick snippet of ‘99 Problems’ (the best song on tonight’s telecast, hands down) and Mrs. Jigga and Ellen come out to introduce the Pride of Memphis, Tenn. (according to the white folks that live there).
8:04 – JT gets the ‘black-and-white’ performance with ‘Suit and Tie’, according to my wife. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but apparently it’s quite the honor.
8:06 – Sean Carter arrives. The song immediately goes from ‘imminently forgettable’ to ‘pretty damn good’. I’m definitely the whitest person alive that admittedly, unabashedly loves Jay-Z’s music.
8:10 – That performance needed to be two minutes shorter or feature two more minutes of Jay-Z.
8:11 – One of Destiny’s other Children and some dude present the nominees for Best Urban Contemporary Album (BUCA from henceforth): Chris Brown, Miguel, Frank Ocean
8:12 – The Grammy for BUCA goes to… Frank Ocean for ‘Channel Orange’. Even I know Frank Ocean is talented.
8:16 – I’m starting to worry about James Franco. I hope he doesn’t wind up like Heath Ledger.
8:18 – Timberlake was on two commercials during that one commercial break. Bud Light Platinum and Target. Overexposure has never been the man’s concern.
8:19 – Dave Grohl and Abby from NCIS introduce Best Rock Performance. The noms: Alabama Shakes, the Black Keys, Coldplay, Mumford and Sons and Bruce Springsteen.
8:21 – Rock Performance Grammy goes to… The Black Keys, ‘Lonely Boy’. YESSSSS! Something I like won something! I have songs on my iPod by those guys. I swear to God, I just got a chill. Is this what it feels like to be cool?
8:22 – Alicia Keys is preceded by Maroon 5. My bad…fell asleep on the clicker and turned it to the 2005 Grammy’s.
8:23 – Son of a… this is live?
8:25 – While I make fun of most of the process, Adam Levine and Alicia Keys give it 110 percent during their performances. Kind of like going to see a Daniel Day-Lewis movie – you know you’re getting first-class effort and showmanship.
8:27 – Kaley Cuoco and Keith Urban. I think it’s funny she refers to him as ‘Keith Urban’ the whole time.
8:28 – Best Pop Vocal Album nominees: Kelly Clarkson, Florence and the Machine, Fun., Maroon 5, Pink. Big comeback for the mid-2000s tonight.
8:29 – Best Pop Album winner… Kelly Clarkson for “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”. Didn’t that album come out in 2008?
8:30 – Kelly Clarkson gives an extremely rambling, possibly wasted speech which was obviously the highlight of the first 90 minutes.
8:32 – Mrs. Me (on the Mid-Aughts resurgence): “I feel like I’m back in middle school watching TRL again!”
8:36 – LL uses a lot of adjectives, then introduces Rihanna. She sings something vaguely awful with the help of some douche in a stocking cap. I’d say more, but I fell asleep halfway through.
8:40 – As it wraps up, the camera flashes to Chris Brown, which secured the award for ‘Most times America flipped off an image on television’.
8:41 – Best Rap Collaboration: Flo-Rida and Sia (Wild Ones), Jay-Z, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and The Dream (No Church in the Wild), John Legend and Ludacris (Tonight), Nas and Amy Winehouse (Cherry Wine) and Rihanna and Jay-Z (Talk That Talk).
8:42 – And the Grammy for Best Rap Collaboration goes to… Jay, K, Frank and the Dream for ‘No Church in the Wild’. Mr. Carter thanks a swap meet, and silences the ‘Get Off the Stage’ music with no effort. He’s the coolest man in any room. You do not play Sean Corey Carter off the stage, Grammy house music player.
8:46 – What kind of irresponsible basketball coach serves McDonald’s to his team? Don’t you know what’s in that stuff?
8:49 – One of the Two Broke Girls (the ugly one) introduces the Black Keys, a jazz band and Dr. John in a headdress on piano. There’s no way this won’t win the evening.
8:50 – ‘Lonely Boy’ is phenomenal. I’m still stunned that I like something that could be termed ‘critically acclaimed’. I wonder if Dr. John killed that thing on his head all by himself? If so, kudos. It makes him look tough.
8:53 – Kelly Clarkson sings a tribute. At this point, we’re just killing time until the big money awards. I’m sure Carole King and Patti Page would be delighted though.
8:57 – She also presents the nominees for Best Country Album: Zac Brown Band, Hunter Hayes (DAMMIT), Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert, The Time Jumpers
8:58 – The Grammy goes to… Zac Brown Band, ‘Uncaged’. I thought ‘The Foundation’ was better but hey. Wait, was he not wearing a beanie? Gonna be some controversy there.
9:05 – The Bob Marley tribute, featuring Bruno Mars, Sting (?!) and Damian and Ziggy. There’s no way Bruno Mars is older than 16 or taller than 5’ 4”.
9:10 – This would be more enjoyable if I were stoned. And it’s not half-bad the way it is.
9:18 – LL introduces The Lumineers, who (I think) are introducing Jack White. The Grammy’s are like an All-Star game for music; everybody gets to play for a few minutes, even if you have to throw off the rotation a bit. That was an analogy for any sports fan with the fortitude to make it 1,700 words into this thing.
9:21 – Sure enough, The Lumineers finish up and we cut to Jack White. I liked the White Stripes, and Jack’s solo efforts have certainly been good. My wife is strongly reminded of Marilyn Manson, somehow.
9:25 – Pretty straight-forward so far tonight. Remember last year’s DeadMau5 performance outside the venue, the one that gave one-third of America seizures and inspired at least three dozen acid flashbacks just in my apartment complex? None of that junk. Better times.
9:26 – Katy Perry’s Boobs come out to introduce Best New Artist. They’ve stolen the show tonight. The nominees: Alabama Shakes, Fun., Hunter Hayes (BALLS), The Lumineers, Frank Ocean.
9:27 – The Grammy goes to… Fun. Legitimate upset? I thought the night was going to be a coronation of Frank Ocean. Even the guy from Fun. – the one that speaks the most and looks like British character actor Steven Mackintosh – seems a bit shocked.
9:34 – NOOOOOO! Hunter Hayes. He’s country music’s answer to Justin Bieber. THAT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT.
9:35 – Of course he introduces Carrie Underwood. Is this what hell is like? I’m making sure to tithe next week.
9:37 – And now Carrie’s dress reminds Mrs. Me of the Hunger Games dress. If she sneaks in a Twilight comparison it can be all my least favorite things of 2012!
9:39 – Mrs. Me: “That was awesome.” Just kill me.
9:40 – Musical legend and Professional Crazy Person Prince announces the Record of the Year nominees: The Black Keys, Kelly Clarkson, Fun., Gotye and Kimbra, Frank Ocean, Taylor Swift. I wish Dave Chappelle as Prince had been on hand to do this. “Award…blouses.”
9:41 – The Grammy goes to… Gotye and Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know”. Okay, legit upset. Regardless, I love this song and I will not be ashamed of it. Prince becomes the first presenter to be thanked twice.
9:51 – Grammy Foundation time, when many people run to the bathroom. Me included.
9:53 – The ‘Who Died this Year’ montage. Big cheers: Donna Summer, Earl Scruggs, Dick Clark, Andy Griffith Ravi Shankar, Adam Yauch. Money shot: Levon Helm.
9:57 – This kind of segues into Elton John, Zac Brown, the Mumford guys and a handful of other folks that I couldn’t identify singing The Band’s ‘The Weight’ in tribute to Levon Helm and the Sandy Hook victims. Poignant moment but there may have been too many cooks in the kitchen that time.
10:08 – This needs to end soon.
10:09 – A guy looking like Antonio Banderas in Desperado shows up to sing a Spanish anthem.
10:11 – Frank Ocean performs. Mrs. Me: “Is this song about Forrest Gump?”
10:14 – That was both strange and excellent. Just about all I can confirm is that Frank Ocean is just as weird as advertised.
10:16 – Adele presents for Album of the Year. She’ll go back to winning it next year. Nominees: Black Keys, Fun., Mumford and Sons, Frank Ocean, Jack White.
10:17 – The Grammy goes to…Mumford and Sons for ‘Babel’. No one band/artist has swept the night like we’ve seen in the past…the Black Keys, Fun., and Mumford have all done their share of winning.
10:22 – Mrs. Me: “Three and a half hours is very long.” Agreed. Three and a half hours for musicians and famous people to fellate one another over success seems a tad much.
10:24 – LL caps this thing off by putting on his rapper hat (literally), introducing Chuck D, Tom Morello, Travis Barker and DJ Z-Trip performing “Refuse to Lose”. I’m stunned and a bit delighted this is how we’re wrapping this thing up.
10:28 – The Grammy Foundation and Delta adverts came on while LL was still singing. He would be so pissed if he knew.
10:30 – That’s a wrap. This was much less horrible than last year; even while making fun of everyone, it was hard not to enjoy at least a few moments. For a full list of the winners, go here. See you guys next year.