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TWO GRAMMY NERDS DISH ABOUT THE BIG SHOW

After lots of build-up and a few letdowns (two words: Ariana Grande), the 61st annual Grammy Awards finally arrived on Sunday. Your favorite Grammy nerds watched the whole shebang. Then they got up bright and early the next morning to compare notes. Listen in.

Paul: So what’d ya think?

Lenny: Considering all the restrictions that they had with artists who wouldn’t appear, I think they did a good job presenting an entertaining show; there were some real highlights. I love Kacey [Musgraves], so seeing her do two songs was great for me. I thought Brandi [Carlile] was amazing. It was interesting to see H.E.R. after all the talk. I had never seen her before. I thought the St. Vincent/Dua Lipa spot worked really well.

Paul: Yeah, I did too. I thought that was the best collaboration. You had the sense they liked each other and were happy to be doing it. They weren’t just forced together on a bad blind date.

Lenny: I think the star of the night was Miley [Cyrus]. I thought she was just incredible in the Shawn Mendes number and the Dolly number. When she’s just doing straight-up singing, she’s as good as anybody in the business.

Paul: She’s a great singer. I would have liked Shawn to have had his moment. I liked what Chris Barton said in the Los Angeles Times: “[Rather than ginning up Grammy Moments], shouldn’t the Grammys honor the year’s best by letting that music stand—or fall—on its own?” I didn’t think Shawn needed any help.

Lenny: Yeah, but the show that they’ve always presented has had collaborations. If you want to just see Shawn, you should watch the American Music Awards. This is a different show and should be judged on its own merits… I thought Dan + Shay was a great moment.

Paul: What numbers did you think did not work?

Lenny: The Red Hot Chili Peppers/Post Malone spot didn’t work for me. I found it a strange collaboration in the first place. Going back to your point, of anybody who deserved to have the stage by himself, Post Malone was one of the biggest artists of the year, so why didn’t he?

Paul: Any others that you thought didn’t work? I could give you a hint—J.Lo.

Lenny: Oh, my goodness.

Paul: And it wasn’t even her fault. I think it was unfair to send her out there to helm virtually the entire Motown tribute.

Lenny: What does she have to do with Motown?

Paul: She could have done one song to show the reach of Motown into different worlds. They did her no favors by having her carry virtually the entire spot. What did you think of Alicia [Keys] as host?

Lenny: She did a really good job. It was tough. That was nearly a four-hour show. She had to carry a lot of it.

Paul: I would think they’ll have her back. What do you think of the length of the show? The Oscars have pledged that they’re going to hold it to three hours this year, and the Grammys went past three and a half.

Lenny: Well past it—it was 3:45 or so. It just seemed endless. My biggest problem with the show is that there isn’t a narrative story about the year, so by the time you get to the big awards at the end, it’s just like a throw-in. There’s no anticipation, no build-up, no talking about the albums during the show. There’s no thread, no suspense. It’s a variety show.

Paul: I wish they would follow the Oscars’ lead and bring it down to three hours. A tight three-hour show is more entertaining than a 3:45 show with some fat in it. Turning to the awards, what stood out for you?

Lenny: I was really happy that Kacey won. That was my favorite album of the year. I was surprised that [Childish] Gambino won Record and Song. I thought he should win Record, but I didn’t think he should win Song. To me, the Song of the Year is like a standard. It’s something they’re going to be singing in Vegas in 20 years. I don’t understand him winning that at all. I thought “Shallow” should have won that, clearly.

Paul: That was one of the biggest shocks of the night. Why do you think “This Is America” won those two awards?

Lenny: Well, this is where you and I continue to differ. I think the Secret Committee has a bigger say in who’s going to win than you do.

Paul: That is unknowable. I think “This Is America” captures the political moment. In part, I think the wins were a rebuke to Trump and “Make America Great Again.” I pointed out a little detail in a previous article that is interesting: “This Is America” was passed over for a nomination for Best Rap Song, and yet it went on to win Song of the Year. It’s the first time that a song has been passed over for a nomination for its genre song award and yet has gone on to win Song of the Year since Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” It occurs to me that in both cases, the voters were making a political statement. I think they admired both songs, but the songs won for reasons that went beyond the songs.

Lenny: What did you think of Travis Scott?

Paul: I thought his performance was strong. I was surprised he didn’t win an award. I think he crossed over a little too late to have his full impact felt in this year’s nominations, but I’m glad they gave him a spot on the show.

Lenny: He probably should have won one or two awards, but I think he’ll be a factor going forward.

Paul: When Gaga won Best Pop Solo Performance for the title song from her 2016 album, I took that as a sign of affection for her and respect for what she had accomplished this year with A Star Is Born. When she won that, I thought “Shallow” was a lock for Song and maybe Record too. It’s odd that she won for “Joanne,” which nobody would have missed if it hadn’t been nominated, and then didn’t win Song. There are always weird twists and things that just don’t add up, but that’s part of the fun of it.

Lenny: I thought Brandi had a star-making turn. I think there will be a tremendous amount of discovery of her. Just look at iTunes.

Paul: They slotted her performance very late in the show. I wonder why. I imagine that tune-in is highest in the first hour and kind of drifts off as people go to bed or get bored or distracted. Another thing I wanted to bring up: Kacey had two on-air awards; Brandi didn’t have any. It seems to me that if they had known the outcome in advance, they wouldn’t have presented Best Country Album on-air, because Kacey was going to win Album of the Year. But they would have presented Best Americana Album on-air, so Brandi would win something on-air.

Lenny: I don’t think Ken [Ehrlich] knows who’s going to win. I think other people know who’s going to win, but not Ken.

Paul: He’s smart and can guess who’s going to win. Usually he probably guesses right, and occasionally, like here, maybe he guessed wrong. Based on the other awards that were or weren’t presented on-air, it looks like he thought Brandi would win Album of the Year.

Lenny: John Prine is a personal favorite, so I’m kind of sad that he didn’t win anything.

Paul: I am too. There were two deserving winners in the three Americana/American Roots categories. If this had been any other year, when he wasn’t going up against Brandi, he probably would have won all three. I was also surprised that Kendrick Lamar & SZA’s “All the Stars” didn’t win Best Rap/Sung Performance; Gambino took that one too. That’s another case where you had two powerhouse entries competing against each other.

Lenny: “All the Stars” is great. It should have won something.

Paul: Anything else you want to talk about, about winners and losers, the show, the tribute to Neil [Portnow]?

Lenny: I thought that came off well. Neil has done a lot of really good things for the Academy. I think he deserved his moment.

Paul: Why do you think those two words—“step up”—created such a stir?

Lenny: Because of the times that we’re in.

Paul: Because what he said was fairly innocuous.

Lenny: It turned out that it wasn’t.

Paul: I don’t think he meant a damn thing by it. But we’re in an unforgiving era.

Lenny: We haven’t talked about the opening of the show [an extravaganza built around Camila Cabello’s “Havana”]?

Paul: What’d you think?

Lenny: I liked it. I thought it was entertaining—quite the amazing stage set. Putting that whole thing together must have been an incredible task.

Paul: You didn’t think it was overproduced?

Lenny: Well, it was the opening number. It was attention-grabbing. It was colorful. It was bright.

Paul: If that record [featuring Young Thug] had been released a month later, it would have fallen in this Grammy eligibility year. Do you think it would have won Record or Song of the Year? Could it have beaten “This Is America”?

Lenny: Don’t know.

Paul: We’ll never know. But it would have been a very strong nominee.

Lenny: “Havana” and “Shallow” would have been a great battle for Song of the Year. The best songs of the year were “Shallow” and “Havana.” I’m also willing to accept “The Joke” as one of those. Those three songs will stand tall for a really long time.

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