Greg Kot | Chicago Tribune
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis steamrolled the competition in the early going Sunday at the Grammys. The Seattle hip-hop duo swept the rap awards in the pre-telecast for rap album (“The Heist”) and rap song and best rap sung performance (“Thrift Shop”), then added a fourth Grammy during the prime-time national TV event with a victory in the prestigious best new artist category, beating out acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar and rising country star Kacey Musgraves, among others.
“We made this album without a record label, we made it independently,” Macklemore said in accepting the award.
New Zealand teen Lorde, who was up for four awards but, strangely enough, not best new artist, delivered a twitchy performance of her hit “Royals” that elicited more social media commentary on her odd hand accessories than the actual music. What a performer wears, or doesn’t wear, is often as much or more important than the song in this glittery showcase for the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.
That was certainly the case as Beyonce rolled out a provocative solo dance number with a chair, apparently so awestruck it couldn’t move. As twerk throwdowns go, it was a big “Take that!” to Miley Cyrus, who wiggled her way through MTV’s Video Music Awards a few months ago. For extra punctuation, Jay Z joined his wife to complete the power-couple opener.
Katy Perry was less successful in seizing the moment, looking like a prop on her own mini-movie set, which included an excess of pyro and writhing extras. Pink dangled over the audience by her ankles and twirled while presumably singing in perfect pitch. And, yes, the Grammys claim no one lip-syncs, but … c’mon.
The more successful moments, at least from a purely musical standpoint, were the sparsest: a solo piano performance by John Legend, and a similarly scaled delivery by Taylor Swift, before she shifted into hair-tossing bombast.
Daft Punk, the largely anonymous French duo who wear robot masks in public, had one of their collaborators, Pharrell Williams, do the talking in accepting their award for best pop duo performance.
“On behalf of the robots,” Williams said. “They’d like to thank their parents.”
And Adele can’t get enough. Just when you thought the British singer was taking some time off to gear up for her next album after dominating the Grammys two years ago, she won another award for best song written for visual media (“Skyfall”).
Most of the 82 Grammy Awards to be handed out Sunday, voted upon by the music-industry professionals in the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, were revealed in the pre-Grammy telecast. Here are a few notable highlights and anecdotes:
Early front-runners: The Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis swept the stacked rap categories for best album (“The Heist”) and best song (“Thrift Shop”). They bested competition that included Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Kanye West and Drake.
What year is this anyway? In the best rock album category, which included such contemporary bands as Queens of the Stone Age and Kings of Leon, the award went to Led Zeppelin, for an album recapping their only concert since the 1980s. Is this a commentary on the state of rock music, or on the ongoing stodginess of the Recording Academy?
Maybe they were stuck in traffic? If you’ve ever wondered what Michael Buble, Ziggy Marley, the Gipsy Kings and Herb Alpert have in common, here’s your answer — they all didn’t show up to accept their awards. Ladysmith Black Mambazo, who also didn’t make it to the ceremony on time, really were stuck in L.A. traffic. That’s what their manager said anyway, as he accepted the South African group’s award for best world music album.
Best performance you probably didn’t see: Roomful of Teeth, an a cappella quartet who won for best chamber music performance, brought a mesmerizing mix of avant-garde harmonics and lush, hushed beauty.
The shut-out streak continues: It’s always fun to document long-running Grammy oversights, and one of this year’s prime examples is Brian Eno. He’s responsible for some of the most ground-breaking music of the last 40 years, but he still hasn’t won an individual Grammy. The British maverick was bested for best new age album by Laura Sullivan. New Orleans great Allen Toussaint also was denied his first award, twice denied in the stacked Americana categories.
Obligatory anti-piracy rant: Classical composer Maria Schneider made the event’s first plea for an overhauled copyright law that cracks down on music piracy. As if the current (if seriously outdated) law isn’t already doing that? How about a call to support more efficient and equitable music services that support and pay artists?
Robots in hiding: Daft Punk maintained the suspense about whether they’d actually approach the podium if called upon as prime-time winners when they sent an emissary to accept their best dance-electronic music album.