On Sunday night, the Recording Academy took the opportunity to dispel any criticism that it was “old” and “out-of-touch” by producing a colorful display of electric performances, heartfelt tributes and surprise collaborations at the 2010 Grammy Awards.
The drama for the evening was set, as industry folk and viewers at home debated which pop diva — Beyoncé, Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift — would steal the show. And when it was all said and done, music’s biggest night ended with a Queen B, a country princess and a royally snubbed Lady Gaga.
With 10 nominations — the most of any artist this year — Beyoncé dazzled with her engaging and over-the-top rendition of “If I Were a Boy,” segueing for just a minute into a cover of Alanis Morrisette’s girl power anthem “You Oughta Know.”
Amid clouds of smoke, the Sasha Fierce star emerged onstage with an impressive fleet of male soldiers, but it was her vocals and studded costume that showed, without a doubt, who was high in command.
The star went home with six awards, including best female pop vocal performance for her ballad “Halo,” and broke the record for most Grammys won in a single night by a female artist.
Not too bad, B.
Taylor Swift was also modestly decorated with Grammy hardware. The singer graced the Grammy stage three times: once to perform with Stevie Nicks and twice more to accept her awards, which included the show’s most coveted prize, album of the year, for her sophomore effort, Fearless.
The night’s best performance, however, wasn’t by Taylor Swift or Beyoncé but instead the show’s opener. Within six minutes of going live, pop supernova Lady Gaga transported an arena filled with famous peers, anxious fans and stuffy record executives to the Fame Factory — making them all her little monsters. From high-energy choreography to her personal manifestation of monster moves, the sight seemed to be plucked right out of a Tony award-winning production.
Gaga’s inspired theatrics were in full effect as dancers draped in nude leotards were dragged on the floor and a screaming Gaga was thrown into a burning steel funnel, only to reappear completely cindered yet still in control. As a new-wave gay icon, Gaga sang a duet with Elton John, which blended her monster masterpiece “Speechless” with John’s classic “Your Song.” On her first Grammy performance, Gaga demonstrated her unique ability to move and inspire the masses.
Unfortunately for her, the performance was a little too late. While Gaga might have made believers out of the audience that night, the starlet only received two awards out of her six nominations, both in dance categories — an outcome that shocked critics and music fans alike. Some even contested that Swift’s top honor was awarded to the wrong lady.
Even still, relevance seemed to be the running theme of the night. Each performance and presentation played perfectly to a year’s worth of momentous events: the fight for music education, Haiti relief and, of course, the passing of music legend Michael Jackson, who was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Recording Academy.
An eclectic pack of music all-stars — Celine Dion, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson and Usher — led another memorable Grammy moment by joining forces to sing a new version of “We are the World” for a 3-D Michael Jackson tribute.
The collection of star power was fitting to tribute the lifetime legacy of music Jackson left behind. With each pitch-perfect note, the Grammy veterans brought heavy emotion that nicely complemented the night’s more silly performances, such as the futuristic robot display during the Black Eyed Peas’ “Imma Be” and “I Gotta Feeling.”
To raise funds for Haiti earthquake victims, opera man Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige also teamed up to sing a stirring duet of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which will be available to download on iTunes.
Rounding out what was definitely a ladies night, Pink’s performance of “Glitter In The Air” can’t be forgotten. She balanced high-flying stunts with grace and beauty as she plummeted into a pool center stage, then rose above the audience to drench her colleagues with water, which she obviously didn’t care about. Though she didn’t win an award, Pink, a resilient rocker for over a decade, shifted more musical credibility in her pocket.
Over a three-and-a-half-hour-long affair, the Grammy show lacked any dreary buzzkill that has become a common disease for award shows of its type. Show producers pulled acts from all genres and combined a selective roster of legendary and contemporary acts in a way that was not just old versus new.
With music award shows like the MTV Video Music Awards and the American Music Awards resting on controversy and style, the Grammys offered substance, bringing social reference and entertainment to a platform fitting of the power of music.