CARLTON FLETCHER: This year, the Grammys got it right

OPINION: Music moves front and center at Grammy Awards

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

Here we are now, entertain us.


Seems the folks that run the Grammys came to a realization similar to the one Bill Clinton rode into the White House: It’s the music, stupid.

Or maybe they took Tom Petty’s “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus” line and gave it their own spin: Don’t lose it, get to the music.

CBS’s broadcast of the Grammy Awards Sunday night was not so much about handing out the “gold sippy cup” that Jay-Z collected for his daughter Blue, but more about musical performance. And, oh yeah, isn’t music what the Grammys are supposed to be about?

I can’t imagine there are many music fans out there who would rather listen to some sound engineer thank God, his family, his co-workers, the great uncle who bought him his first stereo, the guy at McDonald’s who loaned him a buck when he didn’t have enough for a Big Mac, and his girlfriend and his other girlfriend and his accountant and blah, blah, blah than they would see Casey Musgraves sing up a storm.

So the Grammy folks got it right. They packed an almost-four-hour show with some amazing performances, from collaborations that shouldn’t have worked but did to some of the biggest names in the history of music bringing their A games.

While I did hate missing out on Kanye West’s reaction to McLemore and Ryan Lewis getting the rap album of the year Grammy — I was hoping for a full-on tug-of-war as Ye tried to snatch the golden phonograph from McLemore — I was left feeling better about the future of popular music by the end of the marathon broadcast, which ended up being pretty much like getting to watch superduperstars play Bonneroo, but in your T-shirt and boxers and without having beer slopped on you or having to breathe in second-hand pot smoke.

Highlights of the evening (other than Ozzie’s unintelligible introduction of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr):

— Far and away — I’m still hyped!!! — was the mash-up of Kendrick Lamar’s “M.A.A.D City” and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.” Holy moly, who would have seen that coming? “Radioactive” was far and away the best song of 2013, and Lamar has earned a reputation as rap’s best live performer. The two songs fit together seemlessly, and the artists got way into it. I’m so psyched about it, I’m waiting to download that segment as soon as it’s put up online. (Honestly, I’ll have my 11-year-old download it, but still …) This was the most rock and roll moment I’ve seen since Ozzy snorted that line of ants.

— McCartney doing the rousing “Queenie Eye” from his wonderful “New” LP with — hey, who’s that guy in the background playing druns … It’s Ringo!! And, yes, a new wave of Beatlemania swept the nation.

— Metallica doing their classic “One” with accompaniment from Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang. As noted musical expert — and 7-year-old — Milla McEwen noted, “It’s harder to hear Lars’ drums with that guy playing the piano,” but this was still a chill-inducing moment.

— McLemore (sorry, Kanye), Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Trombone Slim, Queen Latifah, a choir and Madonna in a really ugly cowgirl outfit putting a unique spin on McleMore’s “Same Love.” The performance was excellent; the fact that Queen Latifah married 32 couples during the instrumental break of the song that promotes tolerance of gay love was, well, maybe not rock and roll, but definitely unique.

— Gary Clark Jr. and Keith Urban guitar-slinging together. Gary Clark Jr. is, next to Tom Morello, perhaps the greatest young guitar player out there today. Keith Urban sings some of the worst country songs in the history of country songs. But Urban earned much respect by holding his own in a guitar faceoff with Clark. Nice.

— Pink, who’s given up just performing to become — along with the Cirque du Soleil folks — the best trapeze singer in the world. Her duet with fun.’s Nate Reuss on “Just Give Me a Reason” was another highlight.

Ironically, perhaps the most mehh performance of the night was the show-opener, the one supposed to set the stage for the evening. Beyonce and Jay-Z’s collabo on “Drunk in Love” was way less thrilling that it should have been. But when B and Jay are the lowlights of an evening of music, you know you’ve just witnessed an unbelievable evening of music.

Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.

Thank you, Grammys. Give us more like that.