Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)

Review: Hip-hop and Beyoncé almost saved the show until Grammys botched the ending

- By Lorraine Ali

LOS ANGELES >> Fifty years of hip-hop, a record-breaking run by Beyoncé and a massive snub stopped the 65th Grammy Awards ceremony from turning music’s biggest night into its sleepiest during Sunday’s show at L.A.’s Crypto.com Arena. .

Despite performanc­es by some of pop’s most vibrant artists, energy and excitement were in short supply during the three-hour-plus show broadcast live on CBS and streaming on Paramount+. The event marked the return of the Grammys to L.A. after a stint in Las Vegas last year, and an intimate, pared-down production in 2021 due to restrictio­ns of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The award show’s return to downtown L.A., in a large venue and with a star-studded audience, should have been a coming out of sorts. A jubilant affair where the freedom of finally being able to watch music together again in a concert-like setting was honored with a lively, inventive and wellorches­trated production.

Instead, the evening was a return to the usual churn of the Before Times Grammys, where big, clunky sets, underwhelm­ing sound, awkward staging and way too much filler were the norm. Ironically, it was the scaled-down Grammys of 2021 at the Los Angeles Convention Center that signaled the awards show had potential to move in an new, fresh direction.

Mid-pandemic, nominees sat at socially distanced tables on an outdoor veranda overlookin­g the event’s previous home, Staples Center (since renamed the Crypto-com Arena). Overblown dance numbers and an arena packed with half-invested audience members were not an option, and we learned that such an intimate setting was for the better. It was the best celebratio­n thrown by the Recording Academy in recent memory.

This year, organizers brought back former “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, which was a smart move. He’s a great choice, given his improv experience, impromptu humor and abundant love of popular music and the artists who make the hits.

But even Noah struggled Sunday to pump life into a flat show. His dialogue between awards and performanc­es felt wooden and rehearsed, sprinkled with the usual scripted fare about the “power of music” and “music bringing people together” in hard times. Stars such as Taylor Swift and Rihanna sat around tables near the stage, a layout that featured stragglers passing in front of Noah as they looked for their seats, and the sight of folks chatting during his introducti­ons.

Sets by normally effervesce­nt artists Bad Bunny, Lizzo and Harry Styles were subdued, their momentum interrupte­d by snoozy, taped interludes of a roundtable with fans. They debated which of their favorite artists should win, and it was like watching a social media scroll, but less exciting.

The big boost the ceremony got: A tribute to 50 years of hip-hop, curated by Ahmir Khalib “Questlove” Thompson, that featured a multigener­ational performanc­e of rappers on that same stage. RunDMC, Grandmaste­r Flash, Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, Ice-T, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Method Man and Missy Elliott and Rakim were among the hip-hop luminaries and boundary-breakers performing snippets of their hits from various eras of the genre.

The other high point of the evening was Beyoncé breaking the record for the most Grammy wins ever, when she won for best dance/electronic album. It was a moment everyone seemed to be waiting for, but hopes were dashed for her finally taking home the award for album of the year; it went to Styles. It marked the billionth time the Grammys had snubbed her for the top award.

Aside from those moments, there was more tension and drama on the Ticketmast­er site, where Beyoncé fans dangled in suspense on the Renaissanc­e tour wait list. An ad for Chex Mix, featuring Sir Mix-A-Lot, also proved to have more of a pulse than the run of the show.

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