Last night at the large, luxurious Manhattan club Marquee, the Recording Academy's New York chapter threw an official viewing party for this year's Grammys hosted by Adrian Grenier of Entourage. With tickets ranging from $40 for Academy members to $100 for mere civilians, the party — despite its stated aim — wasn't exactly tailored towards watching and digesting the events of "music's biggest night," a fact that became starkly apparent when I looked up to watch Lorde's performance of "Royals," only for my view to be obstructed by a massive, rotating chandelier. I'm told she was great.
I slipped into the party at 8:03 p.m., with Beyoncé's performance having just begun. Few of the other revelers seemed to be paying close attention to Bey, possibly because even on the club's hi-fi speakers, it sounded exactly like we were hearing the recorded version of "Drunk in Love." But to be fair, people weren't likely paying between $40 and $100 to get into a club to watch TV; even a headline performance from America's biggest pop star was less important than finding the free booze.
I made my way to the club's second level, where Grenier was hanging by the bar. Billed as the party's host, he milled about a VIP area drinking and talking to people. He looked affable and attractive, his oft-messy hair was trimmed and styled, and he had the air of an especially handsome clubgoer rather than that of a famous actor. My interview with him had been pre-arranged, and he wanted to talk to me before he got too many drinks in him, so we shuffled over to a marginally quieter corner as someone named DJ Chachi spun "Blurred Lines."
Grenier seemed eager to chat, but also careful to stay in the opinion-averse role of Tonight's Famous Face. A typical slice of our conversation went like this:
Me: "Do you have any favorite picks out of this year's Album of the Year nominees?"
Grenier: "I have a hard time picking favorites. I just know what I like and what I don't like."
Me: "Which is what?"
Grenier: "Oh, come on now…"
Me: "You could be general."
Grenier: "I'm also not a player-hater."
Me: "What's your favorite Macklemore song?"
Grenier: "The last one, the most recent one. The one he won for."
At that point, Macklemore had yet to win a televised award. Grenier does own a studio, play drums and runs his an indie label, Wreckroom, so he's not without some credibility in music matters. He mentioned Lorde as a pop star to whom he gravitates.
"I'm excited to see what she comes up with next, where she goes with her career," he said, as our conversation began to click into something approaching a normal rhythm. "I want to see what she does for the industry. Just the fact that she's so young and able to break in in an unconventional way. And that she's speaking about things and not just models and bottles and full throttles and whatever."
We both chuckled at his impromptu rhyme, and I noted that it was funny that he admires Lorde's anti-consumerism given that his best known role is as Entourage's Vinny Chase, the playboy actor whose hanger-on friends spend their days chasing girls around Los Angeles in fancy sports cars.
"I've always had good values," countered Grenier. "I have a good Mom. I like models and bottles and full throttles. But I also like role models."
He then shifted conversational gears, taking a moment to push a band of his called the Skins, who he said he hopes to see on the Grammy stage one day. But he also told me that despite managing little-known rock bands, he doesn't think the Grammy's should be more, well, hip.
"The Grammys are an enormous and popular event, so I don't expect there to be some quirky, weird, experimental, abstract music [being showcased] because they're catering to listeners of pop music," he explained. "I don't have any illusions about that."
Nor did I. Once the interview petered out, Grenier and I were presented with a massive shot (more like three) of tequila. (Apparently being famous gets you a good pour.) Before us and a few others threw the shots back, we posed for a photo with our glasses raised. "Let's put the tequila down," Grenier said. So we did.
Later I talked to a man named Claude Zdanow, the young CEO of Stadiumred, an entertainment firm that was helping to throw the party. Zdanow, 25, is a member of the Academy, but one of its younger members. I pushed him on whether or not the Grammys should cater toward younger audiences — an age-old criticism — and though he was conciliatory, he also noted the complexities of the institution.
"I think a difficult thing the Academy has to deal with is how fast things are changing and what's gonna stick and what's not gonna stick, and they have to figure out how to adjust," he said confidently. "They have to take into account music across a wide spectrum. . . every genre, every sub-genre. But we're a big organization and we can't just jump on everything right away. There's part of that bureaucracy you have to deal with."
As the ceremony whizzed by, I scanned the crowd to determine if any nominees, winners or performers seemed to resonate in any sort of special way with this crowd of people who are ardent enough supporters of music that'd pay to come to an expensive Grammy party. But rather than any resounding ovations, every win was met with pockets of cheering from somewhere in the club, which, on a larger scale, is precisely the reaction the Grammys are going for.
If there was one performance, though, that seemed to grab everyone's attention it was Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' rendition of "Same Love," featuring Madonna and during which Queen Latifah married 34 couples who'd walked down the aisle of the Staples Center. For that, my view was also blocked, but this time it wasn't an ostentatious lighting fixture that was in the way, but a woman in front of me raising her fist.
And if there was one award that elicited any sort of vocal consensus, it was Daft Punk winning Album of the Year for Random Access Memories. I was expecting the award to go to Taylor Swift’s Red, and like Swift herself I was faked out when presenter Alicia Keys opened her mouth and said “Rrr—.” I yelped, but as Keys finished with “—andom Access Memories,” I ducked my head, drowned out by applause and shrieks. It wasn’t until I opened Twitter on the train ride home that I saw Vines of Swift slumping back into her seat, too. It was a strange night.