Biggest Grammy Show Since MJ Thrilled in 1984

Monday morning quarterbacking had cognescenti and fans alike debating whether the Grammys,  the “family” that host LL Cool J referred to before a prayer for “our sister Whitney” had done enough to honor Houston’s legacy, even as her catalog albums and hit singles reached renewed best-seller status on Amazon and iTunes, and Sony Music capitalized by raising the price. 

As the 54th Annual Grammy Awards progressed, various artists including Rihanna and Alicia Keys gave recognition to Whitney, before Jennifer Hudson sang a heartrending version ofHouston’s top smash hit, “I Will Always Love You.”

That it came midway through the three and a half hour program, culminating the “in memoriam” segment that honored other recently departed industry stalwarts like Amy Winehouse and Don Cornelius, disappointed some. To others, it seemed dignified and appropriate.

The resonance of Houston’s death and the official crowning of Adele as music’s favorite songstress with six trophies for the landmark “21” made this Grammy telecast the second watched in history, after the 1984 edition in which Michael Jackson was coronated for his epic “Thriller.”  

Although the 23-year-old Brit, who performed for the first time since having vocal cord surgery in the fall, didn’t mention Houston by name, she might do well to remember the lessons of the pop star’s life and stay away from further “rubbish relationships”– even as they inspire best-selling songs.

Katy Perry wasted no time mining her divorce from Russell Brand in a scathing new song she performed with lyrics that included “Your love was cheap” and its laser-clear message “There’s part of me you’ll never gonna ever take away from me.”

The performances, more than the trophies themselves are what makes the Grammys such a compelling watch. This year seemed to have more showstoppers and conversation-starters than any in recent memory, perhaps even going back to Eminem joining with Elton John a decade ago.

Take Chris Brown, jumping around like an acrobat while lip-synching, and given not one, but two chances to redeem himself after the disgrace of battering Rihanna three years ago—a move many thought entirely inappropriate, especially in light of Houston’s abuse at the hands of former husband Bobby Brown. Clearly, producers couldn’t renege, but it still begs the question: why Brown and not another worthy nominee like Rihanna?

Oh, that’s right, she technically did perform two songs, one solo and one with an ultra-boring and off key Chris Martin and Coldplay.

Several other genre and generation-mashing combos hit the right notes, some more successfully than others, like Maroon 5 and Foster the People doing a medley of Beach Boys tunes until the original group joined them on stage. A bit hard to believe it has been 50 years since they brought their seminal California surf, sun and sand sound to the world, or that Brian Wilson agreed to the performance, but exciting nonetheless to see and hear the band.

Collective breaths were held as Glen Campbell appeared and sang lead on his iconic “Rhinestone Cowboy” with the likes of Blake Shelton and The Band Perry prefacing his entrance and joining in. It was only when you heard him say “Where do I go now?” after the tune ended that the reality of his Alzheimer’s hit.

And then there was the Nicki Minaj exorcism fiasco. We’d say more, except we tuned out after two seconds and used the opportunity to check out what was happening on “Downton Abbey,” which also seems to have jumped the shark, albeit in a much more buttoned up manner.

Other favorite moments: Dave Grohl praising music not made by computers, talking about how the Foo Fighter’s Grammy-winning record was recorded in his garage, and Best New Artist, Bon Iver frontman/songwriter Justin Vernon thanking all the people who would never be up there accepting a Grammy.

But it was living legend Paul McCartney who stole our hearts, not only with his new single “My Valentine,” but the boffo show ending with the electric guitars of Grohl, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Walsh jamming to a medley from the Beatles iconic1969 “Abbey Road.”

And then to see that McCartney and new wife Nancy Shevell made a stop at the people’s tribute to Whitney Houston outside the Beverly Hilton, and deflected any comments about him to her truly endeared the Beatle to us on this Valentine’s Day.

The Grammys Pay Fitting Tribute to a Fallen Star

Although she died far too young, it was almost destined that Whitney Houston should take her permanent leave on the night of her mentor Clive Davis’ party, the eve of the 54th annual Grammy Awards – as they always call it, music’s biggest night. For although her heyday was 20 years ago, Houston left this world as one of music’s biggest stars.

 

Because of the timing, her name was on the lips of everyone in the industry, and although her passing would have been a huge news story at any time, as Amy Winehouse’s untimely death was last year, the white-hot light of fame focused by the Grammys’ star power illuminated her legacy to an even greater degree. That beautiful face, that even sweeter voice that could tremulously hold notes in several octaves and send shivers down your spine, Houstonwas in an orbit that few attain.

 

Grammy producers had to scramble to pay proper tribute to Houston during Sunday night’s show, but as recording academy president Neil Portnow said, “We’re musicians, we improvise.” And that they did, after host LL Cool J started things off with a prayer as the audience bowed their heads, the grief and shock still apparent.

 

As the show progressed, artists including Alicia Keys and Rihanna– among those that are part of her musical progeny– gave shout outs to Whitney, before Jennifer Hudson sang a heartrending version of Houston’s top smash hit, “I Will Always Love You.”

 

It’s fascinating to watch the scenes of “The Bodyguard” that she starred in with Kevin Costner, spawning one of the best-selling soundtracks of all time and going back to a time before Houston’s life became complicated by substance abuse.

 

The resonance of Houston’s death and the official crowning of Adele as music’s favorite songstress made this Grammy telecast the second watched in history, after the 1984 edition in which Michael Jackson was coronated for the epic “Thriller.”  Although the 23-year-old Brit, who performed for the first time since having vocal cord surgery in the fall didn’t mention Houston by name, she would do well to remember the lessons of her life and stay away from further “rubbish relationships”– even as they inspire best-selling songs.

 

 

 

 

Oscar Gowns and Gaffes

Hey Melissa, congrats on your Oscar, but this drapery belongs on the living room curtains--of your grandma's house

When it comes to the Academy Awards, the ultra white-hot impact red carpet photographs have a shelf life of years, if not decades. One false fashion move can follow you forever, and we’re afraid Melissa Leo made it.

The best supporting actress winner has actually come up in our estimation for breaking the mold during the highly political awards season campaigning. Let’s not forget no one had really heard of her until a few years ago and her role in “Frozen River,” for which she was also nominated. Despite her many TV parts dating back to 1985—she was also a player on the highly regarded “Homicide: Life on the Streets” in the mid 90s–Leo was kind of a blank slate, personality and image-wise, until a few months ago.

She took out her own “for your consideration” ads in the trades, which breaks the unspoken rules that only a studio or agency does that for a client, and if it rubbed some people the wrong way, it didn’t hurt her when it came to the balloting. Because she was pitch perfect as the grizzly mama momager in “The Fighter.” Congratulations, Melissa! You deserve that Oscar—and you won fair and square.

And then there’s the f-word controversy during her acceptance speech, when she used the expletive in referring to two years ago when she lost the statuette to Kate Winslet. Come on, people (Nikki Finke) who are acting like this is such a horrifying thing that should get her banned from future work. Okay, maybe it wasn’t the wisest choice, but it seems like Bono got away with saying the f-bomb on national television in a moment of exuberance, so lay off our girl.

But that dress—ugh. Just horrible, from the brocade or crochet or whatever it was made of to the neckline to the sleeves. What was she thinking? What was her stylist thinking, if she had one?   Designed by Marc Bouwer, this has got to be the most unattractive Oscar gown in recent memory. This is something you would wear to your great aunt’s 80th birthday party at a Marriott in Topeka, not to the Academy Awards in Hollywood, when you’re a frontrunner for the trophy. Melissa Leo, you’re a lightning rod right now, but more power to you.

And then there’s fellow nominee Jennifer Lawrence, who never had a shot of winning but had the eyes of the world upon her, for the first time. OK, we get that you have a hot body, honey, but that plain red dress just didn’t make the mark. It reminded some of beachwear and truly needed some flourishes to rise to the level of the occasion.

Another lady in red, or orangey-red, songstress Jennifer Hudson is scoring kudos for her svelte after-baby body—and the gown. But to my eyes, her breasts looked weird popping out. The opening should have been narrower to minimize that somewhat strange effect, a la Gwynneth Paltrow’s vertical cleavage slit in her gorgeous silvery, shimmery Calvin Klein. Tasteful, beautiful, stunning. And our favorite gown of the evening. Gwynneth has gone wrong before—think back to the goth look she sported once and her ill-fitting gown when she won the Oscar for “Shakespeare in Love,” but this was a winner.

Others also scored fashion gold. Best actress winner Natalie Portman was a purple swan. She couldn’t have looked more beautiful in her off the shoulder Rodarte gown set off with Tiffany tassel earrings that picked up the lovely hue of her pregnant-perfect gown.  

A similar shade was worn by Scarlett Johansson, whose messy hair sort of ruined the effect. The magenta lace dress might have looked better with a sleek ‘do that complemented the high neckline. Mila Kunis in a lavender lace and ruffled number by Elie Saab—although reminiscent of his red see-through gown Halle Berry wore to the Costume Designers Guild Awards earlier in the week,  looked lovely and fresh in that feminine hue. Berry also scored again, looking dreamy in her perfectly form fitting, nude crystal-encrusted Marchesa gown.

Oscar dreams are made of this.   

For more Oscar photos: http://oscars.movies.yahoo.com/photos/153-2011-red-carpet-report-card?nc#OmgPhoid=1