Grammys 2016: 20 Best and Worst Moments
The 58th Annual Grammy Awards reveled in hip-hop’s power, rock’s explosive churn and pop’s ability to get Sofia Vergara to dress up like a taxi cab on national TV. Taylor Swift burst with confetti and clapbacks while the Fame Monster paid tribute to the “Fame” monster. Here’s the best and worst of music’s biggest night.
BEST OF THE NIGHT: Kendrick Lamar Brings the Night’s Best Hip-Hop Musical
Sorry, Lin-Manuel. Kendrick Lamar conquered the Grammys with a theatrical hip-hop musical that jettisoned through history, paying tribute to the hands that really built Alexander Hamilton’s America. This intense piece of jailhouse rock traveled from New Orleans to Compton to Africa to N.W.A’s “Express Yourself” music video to Busta Rhymes’ “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” music video to Diddy’s ecstatic adlibs. It ended with a celebration of hip-hop itself: Just a close up of Kendrick Lamar’s face — all spittle and strobes — bringing an explosive arrangement of “Alright” and new lyrics of fury about the slaying of Trayvon Martin. “2012 mistakes for the world to see/Sent us back another 400 years/This is modern-day slavery.” He proceeds to give us what we need.
BEST: Lady Gaga Brings the House Down for Bowie
Lady Gaga spent the days before her Grammy tribute to David Bowie getting an Aladdin Sane tattoo, then showed up on the red carpet dressed as Ziggy Stardust. So, yeah, there was never any doubt she meant business. And like most things she and her Haus do, the attention to detail in her performance was evident — but that’s a requirement when attempting to honor a chameleon like Bowie. So while her outfits were dazzling, and her nods to Bowie’s performances (updates of “Rebel Rebel,” “Fame” and “Heroes“) showed a true obsessive, what made Gaga’s performance perfect was the way she captured the spirit of the man’s work throughout his career. Bowie’s looks changed, but the guiding principle behind his work didn’t: He delighted in remaining true to himself. And you got the same sense from Gaga, who wasn’t just celebrating the man’s music, but relishing the opportunity to perform it in front of this buttoned-up, all-business crowd. It was odd, amorphous, over-the-top and everything you could’ve hoped for. Bowie would’ve loved this.
WORST: Adele’s Audio Rolls Into Deep Trouble
The fact that Adele — who wasn’t even eligible for any of this year’s awards — was performing at the Grammys, made it a must-watch event. The woman with the best-selling album of 2015, who broke all kinds of records and saved the music industry (again), was to be a draw that would bring together generations during an often disparate awards show. Donning a sparkly red gown and a messy bob that screamed, “I don’t give a fuck,” she appeared in the middle of the audience to perform her piano ballad “All I Ask.” The performance was plagued by poor sound mixing, dissonant tones that sounded like a fork on a guitar and a volume drop that nearly silenced the singer. “The piano mics fell on to the piano strings; that’s what the guitar sound was,” explained Adele on Twitter. “It made it sound out of tune. Shit happens. Because of it though… I’m treating myself to an In n Out [burger]. So maybe it was worth it.” Adele soldiered on in her first Grammys performance since 2012, but it was a disappointment for those who awaited her return.
BEST: Taylor Brushes Off a Famous Hater
As the cameras turned to Taylor Swift for the Grammys’ opening number, a question hung in the air: Would she take this chance to lash back at Kanye West’s crass, misogynist shot at her on his song “Famous” (and his subsequent, half-assed attempt to claim her blessing for the same)? The answer was no: She saved that for a pointed subliminal in her Album of the Year acceptance speech a few hours later. Instead, at the top of the show, she got her best revenge with an arena-rock performance of 1989‘s “Out of the Woods,” belted out in front of a spooky forest out of Wicked with help from Bleachers’ Jack Antonoff doing his best Springsteen-circa-Born in the U.S.A. As the song reached its emotional peak, Swift strode right out to the crowd, cool and confident. Pieces of her confetti explosion could be seen flecked on audience members long after she left the stage. Sorry, Kanye, this just wasn’t your night.