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GRAMMY CHEW:
THE AFTERMATH

Here’s the short version: Awards-wise, the major Grammys were head-scratchers, with a few important exceptions. TV-wise, the show was strong in its front half but ultimately lost momentum. Both the contest and the presentation reflect an attempt to “old up” the whole affair, at the expense of cultural relevance—and a performance by any rapper under age 48.

Regarding the awards, let’s start with a few examples of what went right.

Olivia Rodrigo's winning Best New Artist was the most on-target of the night’s key wins, reflecting her enormous impact—as did her two Pop awards.

Doja Cat’s joint Pop victory with SZA in Pop Duo/Group Performance underscored her breakout year and the charm and chemistry of this duet.

Tyler, The Creator’s Rap Album win, Jazmine Sullivan’s trophy for R&B Album and Chris Stapleton’s three Country gramophones were all well-deserved laurels for artists at the top of their game.

It was gratifying to see newcomer Baby Keem recognized in Rap Performance for his duet with Kendrick Lamar (and his warm speech was a nice moment).

Though it would’ve been sacrilege to give the Traditional Pop Album trophy to anyone but Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, that win was a fitting tribute to an ailing vocal giant and the present-day superstar who has been both his inspired collaborator and stalwart friend.

The fact remains, though, that several top awards suggest Grammy’s cultural compass is pointing in the wrong direction.

The decision to give Album of the Year to Jon Batiste—who, apart from his bandleader role on TV, was well off the cultural radar until his mind-boggling 11 nominations last fall—was, frankly, incorrect. Batiste is hugely talented. But to call his set the Album of the Year, given the other contenders, beggars belief.

As for Song and Record, it’s true that Silk Sonic has had a great run with “Leave the Door Open,” which is top-flight ear candy. But would anyone seriously argue that “Door” is more culturally relevant than the other top nominees in the field?

The Grammys, as ever, do whatever they want, regardless of the state of music or even common sense. But these choices would seem to reflect an attempt to move the center of gravity even further from the youth who drive the marketplace. Which doesn’t bode well for the institution’s continued relevance.

But let’s talk about the show.

The telecast undeniably started with a bang as a suite of performances, including those by Silk Sonic, Rodrigo, J Balvin and Maria Becerra, BTS and Lil Nas X, brought the razzle-dazzle.

The energy was sustained for nearly the first 90 minutes. Billie Eilish destroyed once again, offering a huge rock moment to counter the elegant sizzle of her Oscars perf a week earlier. Gaga shone, as ever. H.E.R., joined by Lenny Kravitz, proved once again that she’s a brilliant performer who, with some hits, would be truly dangerous.

Indeed, it was a strong night generally for RCA acts, with Doja, SZA and H.E.R. demonstrating the success of Peter Edge’s diva development—and Sullivan teed up as a breakout-in-waiting.

Moments that might’ve blunted the momentum, such as a stirring segment dedicated to Ukraine and a Sondheim-heavy In Memoriam, worked well.

In any event, producer Raj Kapoor is earning much credit for overseeing the performances, which, apart from occasional glitches, looked and sounded strong.

It was in the final hour that things slowed. Carrie Underwood and Brothers Osborne are strong performers, but why were they chosen to close out the show?

Let’s face it: Viewership this year was low no matter how you spin it. It’s true that the Oscars sucked all the energy out of the awards space. But CBS radically underpromoted the Grammys, despite opportunities for spots on the weekend’s NCAA Final Four on TBS.

Until the Grammys figure out how to wrest the awards from the agendas that drive it toward irrelevancy, though, these other considerations are probably moot.

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