Glitter and Glamor at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards
The Staples Center in Los Angeles came alive on Sunday, February 10th as the 55th annual Grammy Awards got underway and the world of music aficionados stood up and took notice. As the Chairman of Board of Trustees George J. Flanigen said, “Once again we honor and celebrate the best recordings of the year and the amazing people who create them.”
Way back when (in 1957), the ’57 Chevy made it’s debut, Elvis was topping the charts, and an innovative group of music executives had a vision and pursued it: create a club or type of organization (with a community atmosphere) to acknowledge the top talented musicians, vocalists, and technical (recording) people who make it all possible. The stunning result was the Recording Academy and its once a year Grammy Awards ceremony, honoring those gifted individuals without considering record sales or position on their respective charts – whether it be for country music, rock, rhythm and blues, etc.
Originally aired as a taped series on T.V. called “The Best on Record,” the Grammys have long since evolved into a live production; showcasing the top talent in the country and bringing them all together for one special night and celebrating their achievements. Often overlooked are the other awards created by the Recording Academy: the Lifetime Achievement Award, Trustee’s Award, Technical Grammy Award, and others which honor other musicians and the behind-the-scenes people. Established in 1973 to recognize the best recordings at least 25 years old, the Grammy Hall of Fame now contains about 1,000 songs from all categories, each regarded as “musical excellence.”
This particular C.B.S. live television spectacular lasted three and a half hours while spotlighting 12 categories, but somehow lacked a pinnacle moment that the public would talk about for weeks to come. Exploding on stage for the opening act was Taylor Swift, performing a circus-style version of her newest hit single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Surrounded by dancers posing as puppets and clowns and dressed in a ringmasters costume, Swift appeared to be a two-legged 3-ring circus spectacle. The Black Keys blazed a virtual trail for all others to follow on Sunday night, taking home Best Rock Album award for “El Camino” and Rock Song “Lonely Boy.”
Also in the spotlight was Gotye, grabbing Record of the Year with “Somebody That I Used to Know” from “Making Mirrors,” voted the Best Alternative Album. Garnering everyone’s undivided attention for a few minutes was Best New Artist “Fun” who performed Song of the Year “Carry On” and made it intentionally rain on themselves for extra effect. Later Rihanna captivated everyone’s undivided attention, belting out her memorable ballad “Stay,” convincing everyone that she is a shining example of how a significant female singer could perform.
Highlighting this C.B.S. primetime marathon was Justin Timberlake, debuting the first two songs from his upcoming album “The 20/20 Experience,” combining a 1940’s style black-n-white presentation of his song “Suit and Tie” with Jay Z’s rap creativity. Folk-rock band Mumford and Sons surprised everyone at the end of the telecast, accepting the most prestigious Album of the Year Award for their latest release “Babel.”
On a more personal note, it’s always amazing to me to have the opportunity to be part of the whirlwind of activity backstage while the show is going on. There are a variety of lounge areas set up where the producers, promoters, managers, and sometimes even stars hang out. One of the most exciting moments this year was hanging out with the pinball wizard. Elton John, Sting, his wife, and Zac Brown were some of the superstars I encountered in this exciting setting. I enjoyed the chance to chat with Elton, who was dressed in a brilliant blue suit and matching sunglasses. I found him easy to converse with, casual, informal in nature, and generally very charming and fun to be with. Chatting with an engaging and sincere personality like Zac Brown was also very cool. It was special to me to catch up with Wouter “Wally” De Backer, better known by his stage name of Gotye, who I met five or six months ago to interviewed him backstage at the Aragon Ballroom before another great Jam Production. One thing that is a major challenge at the Staples Center is trying to capture all of these great talents at one time. I found myself walking around a four block area non-stop because of the vastness of the building and wide array of things and people to see – there were even presentations or acts on stage I missed entirely! Watching the show again on my DVR certainly provided an amazing perspective on what I’d been a part of…
This major undertaking was produced by Ken Ehrlich and progressed without a flaw. What appeals to me about the Grammys is the grand style of everything – bright lights, loud and intriguing music, and the beautiful costumes – I would love to own one of them! Let’s not forget about all the after-parties that take place that evening. My favorite was the Mumford and Sons party held at Sassafras, featuring New Orleans style and ambiance.