Previously on NCIS Los Angeles, I mean the 2015 Grammy Awards. Here’s a video package of last year’s show in case you forget what we do.
LL Cool J opens this year’s show with shots from last year’s instead of the show’s history. Then AC/DC shows up forty years too late to open the show. As Gaga wraps herself around Tony Bennett in the audience, James says there are 22 more performances.
8:09: Taylor Swift bitches about not winning Best New Artist, which she quickly announces goes to Sam Smith. Sam beats out Iggy Azalea, and somewhere, Tom Petty smiles. Sam is charming. It might be a very long Sam Smith night.
Arianna Grande quickly follows with her own performance. 21 to go. Wow.
8:20 Songwriting couple extraorinarre Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann win a Trustee Award. Tom Jones and Jessie J cover “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling”. Jessie screams, Tom growls, and they eventually stop to award Best Pop Solo Performance to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”. Yes, last year, but this is “live” version.
8:35: Country tart Miranda Lambert appears in front of a fan wearing black leather and boots. She’s a hard-looking 31. Angry hard-looking. Blake Shelton clapped, duh.
Barry Gibb appears for the first time since he lost his brothers because The Bee Gees won a lifetime award. Barry and chaperons Petatonix then award Best Pop Vocal Album to Sam Smith, and we’re in danger of a Christopher Cross Grammy show. Sam Smith says his music was only heard when he stopped trying to lose weight and sing songs that weren’t him. His plunge into authenticity aside, Ed Sheeran looks stunned that he didn’t win.
8:45: Kanye has 57 Grammy nominations? Wow. He performs understated in a purple outfit over a grate billowing smoke and half-lit on the stage with voice by AutoTune. It really was understated, but you had to be there. True to James’ promise, there’s less than a minute until Madge takes the stage. She’s AutoTuned too and knows how to create spectacle with a vintage Madonna performance featuring men dressed as demons and a ride out of the pit.
8:55: Sam Smith isn’t nominated for Best Rock Album so Beck wins for “Morning Phase”, a nice change of pace.
9:05: Niles Rogers and Smokey Robinson give George Harrison a Lifetime Achievement Award. Macca, who already has one, appears wistful. They also give Best R&B Award to Beyonce and Jay-Z.
Zoom to the next performer, Ed Sheerhan, who has proven in two years that he isn’t a flash in the pan with three nominations tonight. He performs with a bespectacled John Mayer, Herbie Hancock on piano, and always on-the-beat Questlove.
Ed immediately throws to ELO, who performs “Evil Woman” and joins the classic rockers for “Mr. Blue Sky”. The best moment may have been McCartney jumping up in the audience and singing along, pleased that a contemporary was singing another 1970s hit. Scoring at home? One song from the ’60s and two from the ’70s played so far, and those are just the songs.
After a timeless performance by Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani, Hozier arrives to take everyone to church. This version is slower and Annie Lennox helps create vocal magic. The pair get my first, “I’d buy that” comment of the night. Then they segue into “I Put A Spell On You” and I immediately said, “Forget the other one. I’ll take this”.
That’s when this year’s Grammys get even more random. Miranda Lambert grabs a country award while Pharrell, classical superstar Lang Lang and Hans Zimmer perform a dystopian “Happy” with dancing choirs, violinists decked out in yellow, and Pharrell decked out as a hotel bellman channeling Mickey Mouse.
9:45: President Obama on video calls for an end to domestic violence and plugs ItsOnUs.org , follwed by domestic violence victim Brooke Axtell with a powerful slam poem that gives way to Katy Perry singing a haunting “By the Grace of God”.
10:05: Stevie Wonder’s show is plugged and Usher sings an amazing version of “If It’s Magic” backed only by a harpist to retrieve Stevie from a darkened stage so that the master can hit his harmonica solo. Amazing.
10:15: After performances by country throwbacks Eric Church and then Brandy Clark, Rihanna, Kanye and Macca perform the single that dropped two weeks ago. It’s really a Rihanna single, but those are two decent collaborators. Rihanna is harmonizing brilliantly with Kanye. Sir Paul acquits himself damn well for a guy 9 years older than the other two’s combined ages.
10:30: Many long commercials, and Taylor Swift intros Sam Swift and Mary J. Blige. Sam had earned the right to sing his song alone, but somehow Mary J gets verse 2 and the chorus with the choir. They give way to Juanes, making his second straight Grammy performance. I’ve always liked him, but wonder if Latin fans think he’s their Keith Urban.
10:40: Prince, presenting Album of the Year utters a classic line, “Albums, like black lives, matter”. Grammy isn’t Grammy without one political line. Then Beck’s “Morning Phase” shocks everyone, even Beck’s wife, with a win. As Beck reaches the stage, Kanye jumps up and reaches for the mic. The audience laughs, and Kanye’s redemption cycle is complete.
10:55: Sia’s “Chandelier” with Sia dopplegangers is done, and Enrique Iglesias presents Song of the Year. Taylor Swift producer Max Martin is name checked as Producer of the Year. It’s Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me” again.
On more performance by Beck with Coldplay’s Chris Martin takes us closer to the big awards.
11:05: Jamie Foxx and Stevie Wonder come out to sing, err, present, uh, goof off and plug the show. Jamie Foxx becomes Ray for a minute until Stevie announces “Stay With Me” wins Song of the Year. Sam Smith gets off the line thanking the man who broke his heart giving him the impetus to write the song that won the night. At this point, the audience is restless and it feels like every cutaway shot of Jay-Z shows him channeling mob-connected era Sinatra.
After the obligatory Memoriam and talk of an artist alliance to win back royalties, the stage is given to Beyonce to sing “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and then John Legend and Common performing “Glory” to close out the show.
Tally: Sam Smith 4, Beck 2 but a big one, America, eh, maybe 1 1/2. When the Grammys try too hard to fit everyone in, they simply become a version of putting your playlist on shuffle. The Grammy moment is plugged too hard, but there are several each year. When we look back, however, 2015 will be remembered as the year Sam Smith asked you to stay with him.