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MEMO TO THE GRAMMYS: PLEASE LET THEM FINISH!


The great Quincy Jones has a philosophy that has guided him throughout his long and illustrious career—“Leave a little room for God to walk to walk through the room.”

I wish the producers of the Grammy telecast would heed Jones’ wisdom. They packed the 61st annual Grammy Awards with so many performances and medleys and Grammy Moments that they continually had to cut winners off in the middle of their acceptance speeches.

It’s as if they were saying, “We don’t have time for this. We have to keep moving.” Well, they would have time for this if they didn’t stuff the show to the gills.

I’m not sure why Diana Ross was allowed to perform two full songs. Oh, that’s right: She’ll turn 75 next month. That’s a fairly thin rationale.

I’m not sure why Jennifer Lopez was asked to lead a 10-song tribute to Motown (in the manner of Ann-Margret in Las Vegas circa 1975). Oh, right: The Grammys were promoting their upcoming salute to Motown (though I’m not sure a widely panned spot like this was the best way to do that).

If they had trimmed some of the fat, they wouldn’t have had to give the bum’s rush to winner after winner. Quite simply, it’s rude to cut people off. When the music starts swelling behind a speaker, the TV audience is distracted from what the winner is saying. The audience feels uncomfortable as the music gets louder, and the now more flustered winner rushes to say what he or she wants to say. It plays out like a war of wills between the winner and the Grammy producers. The producers always win because they can simply pull the camera back, cut the mic and go to commercial.

If they had trimmed some of the fat, they wouldn’t have had to give the bum’s rush to winner after winner. Quite simply,
it’s rude to cut people off.

But they should keep in mind that this is a huge moment for the winners. If they don’t care about the winners’ feelings in this moment, they should care about the audience, which doesn’t like to witness uncomfortable moments. Host Alicia Keys spoke often about the love and harmony in the room; cutting people off mid-speech doesn’t show much of either.

In at least one case, it’s not entirely clear why the winner was cut off. The producers cut away from Drake’s acceptance speech for Best Rap Song as he was challenging the very idea of awards. He told fellow artists that if they have an audience that appreciates them, “You don’t need this this right here.” Backstage, producers said that when Drake paused for a moment in his remarks they thought he was finished, so they cut his mic. Whether the producers cut Drake off because he was getting into a touchy area, or they truly believed he was done, doesn’t really matter. The artist should decide when he’s done, not the producers. The producers should allow for the possibility that the winner is merely collecting his thoughts or catching his breath. They should put the artist first.

Some winners will go on forever if you don’t cut them off. But cutting winners off should be a move of last resort, not the prevailing strategy to bring the show in on time.

Don’t pack your suitcase with so much stuff that you don’t have any room to pick up a bauble or two on your trip.

Listen to Quincy Jones. The man doesn’t have more Grammys than any other living person for nothing.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for the Recording Academy

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