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“Gaga’s hat is now having sex with Ricky [Martin]’s pants.” Rob Sheffield on RollingStone.com

ESPERANZA SPRINGS ETERNAL

Jazz/Classical Bassist Spalding Is Night’s Big Surprise in a Night Full of Them
The 2011 Grammys garnered the best TV ratings it’s had in a decade on last night’s CBS telecast.

That was the good news.

There was a lot of head-scratching among music pundits over some of the major awards, including mind-boggling upsets in both the Album of the Year and Best New Artist categories.

Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, after losing out earlier in the evening to the Black Keys in a pair of minor Alternative and Rock categories, swept past favored Eminem, not to mention Ladys A and G, as well as Katy Perry, for its big win. For those paying attention, though, the band’s position as the closing act was a good bet they wouldn’t be walking away empty-handed. Remember, the Grammys are, first and foremost, a prime-time TV show—as indicated by the dearth of awards actually presented on-air.

Given the Academy’s overwhelming country constituency, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Lady Antebellum swept both Record and Song of the Year with its crossover smash, “Need You Now,” though that doesn’t quite explain how they got beat in the Album category.

The Esperanza Spalding victory is a little more telling. Ever since her surprise nomination, Spalding has been the Recording Academy’s favored candidate, thanks to her impressive resume, which includes being a professor at Berklee School of Music, playing the White House after an invitation from Obama, and being the favorite of a bloc of influential NARAS voters.  How she managed to best a field that included superstars Justin Bieber and Drake, as well as fast-rising U.K. critical faves Mumford & Sons and Florence + the Machine, is best left to the experts, but suffice to say it has to go down as one of the biggest upsets in the long history of the Grammys, which includes more than its share of head-scratchers over the years. A Taste of Honey or Starland Vocal Band, anyone?

Of course, the evening’s big winners may well have been several that didn’t go home with any hardware, starting with Glassnote’s Mumford & Sons, who climbed to #1 on iTunes overnight, selling a reported 20k digital downloads. Columbia’s Rick Rubin signing, The Avett Brothers, who joined them on-stage for an acoustic segment that featured a grizzled Bob Dylan, also benefited from the exposure, as did Bieber, who placed three albums on the leader board, and saw his 3D biopic, Never Say Never, open last Friday to a $30 million opening at the box office.

With a series of show-stopping performances, the Grammys offered  one of its most star-studded extravaganzas to date, with kudos to longtime executive producer Ken Ehrlich and, of course, Esperanza’s fellow bass-player Neil Portnow.  Just remind us never to try to predict the outcome of future Grammy shows, because you never can tell…

Following is a smattering of press coverage for last night’s three-and-a-half hour show.

“If you don’t like the Grammy Awards, now celebrating 53 years of mostly mainstream pabulum, over-produced and quickly forgotten artists or elderly rockers who never choked on their own vomit and now do yoga daily, then bashing this awards show will make you look like a cantankerous bastard.” Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter

“The Grammys may be the last music-business institution trying to be all things to all listeners. The awards themselves micro-sliced the year’s recorded music into 108 categories this year, with most of the winners named in a Webcast just before the main show. Then the telecast scrambled to pull together the genres and generations — sometimes harmoniously, sometimes in collision.” Jon Pareles, N.Y. Times

“This year's Grammy Awards ceremony… was a generational takeover and an airing of the widening gap between the traditional corporate music industry and the dynamic, diverse culture that's redefining the very nature of popular music right now. Here was a Grammys show full of bold moves and noisy risks, most taken by young artists, capped by a triumph for [Arcade Fire], the band that, for many serious music fans, defines uncorrupted artistry.” Ann Powers, L.A. Times

“The results Sunday night ended up depressing. Though I dare anyone not to sing along with the chorus of "Need You Now," each and every time it hits the airwaves, the song really amounts to a return to the processed "cheese food" that was ‘70s soft-rock. It sounds most like a lost Pure Prairie League single (remember "Amy"?), if not some dross by Air Supply or Loggins & Messina. At best, it's a guilty pleasure, redeemed only by its sheer hummability.” Jim Farber, N.Y. Daily News

"Damn, I can't find the words to explain how I feel about the best new artist award... Don't wanna say the wrong thing." Kanye West on Twitter

“Ok, Im not THAT old but whos Arcade Fire? & worse, who the hell thinks their good? Did I just lose all my followers? Cuz they sucked, sorry.” Tawny Kitaen on Twitter

“Gaga’s hat is now having sex with Ricky [Martin]’s pants.” Rob Sheffield on RollingStone.com

 

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