The 10 Least Boring Moments From The 2013 Grammys

The 10 Least Boring Moments From The 2013 Grammys

About two thirds of the way through last night’s endless Grammy ceremony, Justin Timberlake ambled onstage for the second time, this time to flank Recording Academy CEO and inveterate pirate-scolder Neil Portnoy. Timberlake asked a question: “Best Grammys ever?” Then he answered himself: “Best Grammys ever.” Well, no, Justin. The idea of a “best” Grammys, or even an “OK” Grammys, is nearly impossible to conceive. As far as I can remember, the best Grammys ever was 1998, when Ol’ Dirty Bastard soy bombed Shawn Colvin and Soy Bomb soy bombed Bob Dylan, if only because that was the year that the entire enterprise seemed to be falling apart, with fun and interesting results. Since then, precious little has interrupted the Grammy parade of self-congratulation and bad old-people decision-making. Last night falls somewhere on a long and predictable continuum of disappointment.

The comments section here has already had its day with me for writing about how I like Mumford & Sons, but Mumford’s big Album of the Year victory over Frank Ocean was exactly what I’m talking about here: A readymade travesty that anyone who follows these things saw coming miles away. If you give these voters half a chance to reward goofball traditionalism or heritage-artist coasting over actual real-time excellence, they will never not take it. And last night’s performances were mostly rote and uninspired (the Levon Helm trio, the Black Keys Treme mini-episode) or howlingly dumb (Taylor Swift’s show-opening Cirque du Soleil jack).

But as with every year, we had a handful of true heroes and fun minor moments. From a certain perspective, it’s worth it to sit through an Ed Sheeran/Elton John duet to get a half-glimpse of Riff Raff, inexplicable seated in the third row. And so here are a few command performances and dumb, enjoyable trivialities that made last night’s death-march that much more bearable.

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2013 GRAMMY WINNERS
• Album of the year: Babel, Mumford & Sons
?• Record of the year: “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Gotye featuring Kimbra
?• Song of the year: “We Are Young,” fun.
?• New artist: fun.
?• Pop solo performance: “Set Fire to the Rain (Live),” Adele
?• Pop vocal album: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
?• Rock performance: “Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys
?• Urban contemporary album: Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
?• Rap/sung collaboration: “No Church in the Wild,” Jay-Z, Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean, The-Dream
?• Pop/duo group performance: “Somebody That I Used to Know,” Gotye featuring Kimbra
?• Rap performance: “N****s in Paris,” Jay-Z, Kanye West
?• Rap song: “N****s in Paris,” Shawn Carter, Mike Dean, Chauncey Hollis, Kanye West
?• Rap album: Take Care, Drake
?• R&B performance: “Climax,” Usher
?• Traditional R&B performance: “Love on Top,” Beyonce
?• R&B song: “Adorn,” Miguel Pimentel
?• R&B album: Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment. ?• Rock song: “Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys
• Rock album: El Camino, The Black Keys
?• Hard rock/metal performance: “Love Bites (So Do I),” Halestorm
?• Alternative music album: Making Mirrors, Gotye
?• Dance recording: “Bangarang,” Skrillex featuring Sirah
?• Dance/electronica album: Bangarang, Skrillex
?• Comedy album: Blow Your Pants Off, Jimmy Fallon
?• Score soundtrack album: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
?• Producer of the year, non-classical: Dan Auerbach
 ?• Short-form music video: “We Found Love,” Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris
 ?• Long-form music video: “Big Easy Express,” Mumford & Sons

9. Whatever Was Going On With Carrie Underwood's Dress

The most spaced-out, mind-bending performance moment came from the least likely source. I don't know what that whole thing was supposed to connote: Psychedelic gas pains, maybe? But it looked just awesome. I was pretty drunk by this point of the night, and this was exactly what I needed, somehow.

8. Fun.'s Onstage Thunderstorm

Fun. are pretty much Yellowcard if they decided to become Queen, and they're way better than I would've ever imagined. They obviously never should've beat Ocean for a couple of televised awards, but they got a giddily happy Lena Dunham on camera a bunch of times, and their staged rainstorm was some top-shelf awesomely-stupid stagecraft.

7. Rap-Hands Taylor Swift

I can't possibly imagine why Taylor needed mimes and fire-eaters and shit to sing "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" at the show's outset; does anyone actually like that shit? She came off looking like Russell Brand at the Olympic Opening Ceremony, and that is not a good thing. You're making it hard to defend you, Tay Tay! But during the rest of the show, the camera kept showing her in full-on gawky rap-hands bliss, singing along with Mumford and the Lumineers and that Bob Marley tribute, performing goofy early-20s enthusiasm on the grandest possible stage.

6. LL Cool J's Giddily Nonsensical Rap-Rock Revival

When he's not surrounded by goobers, Grammy host LL Cool J is still one of the best live rappers breathing. But last night, he had the bright idea to close out the show by enlisting Tom Morello, Travis Barker, Z-Trip, and fellow legend Chuck D for a clattering siren-blare mess of a performance. It was absolute squalid chaos, but it wasn't boring.

5. Drunk Jay-Z

Judging by last night's performance, Justin Timberlake really wants to become some sort of Robin Thicke/Mayer Hawthorne hybrid, and I can't even wrap my mind around how dumb that is. But Jay, whose "Suit & Tie" verse absolutely sucks, found ways to shine anyway. He went from front-row high-fiving The-Dream during Beyonce's Justin introduction to ambling onstage for his verse to clapping back in the crowd when Justin was done. I know it was choreographed to death, but it almost seemed like Jay realized suddenly that he was on that song, bum-rushed the stage, commandeered a backup singer's mic, and ended up back in his seat before anyone realized what just happened. Almost as good: Jay dedicating his "No Church In The Wild" acceptance speech to making fun of The-Dream's hat.

4. Miguel, Quietly Owning

Miguel got 90 seconds of stage time, and he had to give a piece of that over to a Wiz Khalifa guest verse. But his take on "Adorn" wasn't rushed; it was languorous and assured, utterly commanding and dazzily in the least show-offy way possible. Miguel is enough of a professional to realize that he'll probably get more time in years ahead, smart enough about his own gift that he knew to let it breathe.

3. Jack White, Showing All The Banjo-Folk Bands How It's Done

Again: I like Mumford just fine. But Jack White's performance, a while after Mumford and immediately following another one from cornpone fake-Goslings the Lumineers, who did not observe the only-one-fedora-per-group rule, White stepped onstage and just obliterated them. His face a pancake-makeup mask, White and his all-female backing band did a lazily trad-Nashville version of "Love Interruption" that absolutely schooled these new jacks at their own chosen aesthetic. And then, for good measure, White and his all-male band turned "Freedom At 21" into a first-rate garage-rock tantrum, erasing any lingering Black Keys memories in the process.

2. Frank Ocean's Mom's Face

OK, but this was the best moment: As Ocean quietly accepted his award for Urban Contemporary Album (not an actual genre), his mom, in the crowd, was all joyous proud tears, her face flooded with love. It was wonderful.

Frank Ocean In General

He lost every major award, but he still managed to be all over last night's show. His gently psychedelic "Forrest Gump" performance was a burst of inspired weirdness, the sort of thing that rarely makes its way to the Grammy stage. He made his two minor acceptance-speeches gracefully, without giving much indication that this whole silliness meant anything to him. He's the reason Tyler, The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt got split-second on-camera cameos. Shown during his rivals' acceptances, he laughed at the right moments and managed not to look like a dick. During a night as ridiculous and ego-inflating and ego-wounding as the Grammys, he did every last little thing right.

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