Welcome to Sound of the City’s liveblog of the 54th Annual Grammys, coming to you live from a couch in Astoria. There are quite a few questions lurking around tonight’s ceremony. Will Adele sweep the three major categories in which she’s nominated, thus putting a cap on the megaselling, incredibly popular 21—and how will she sound in her live return? Will Skrillex (above, sorta) put a wub-wub-wub on the Best New Artist category? Will Bon Iver pout his way to the podium if he upsets Adele in Record or Song of the Year? Will Adam Levine upstage the Beach Boys when they share the stage? Will LL Cool J make at least 10 cross-promotional references to other CBS shows? Will Kanye West show up? Will the Whitney Houston tribute be okay? Tune in belooowwww!
7:57 p.m. Fresh off a 60 Minutes puff piece in which we learned that Adele worked at a record shop—Rough Trade?!—in the interim between 19 and 21. I hope she puts out a 7-inch about the guys who broke her heart by buying Duffy albums!
7:59 p.m. Springsteen is scheduled to start the show, but right now I’m sitting through an ad for a hotel.
8:00 p.m. In true reality-show fashion, we have a “last year on the Grammys” introduction. Does this mean we should prepare for an Arcade Fire run-in?
8:00 p.m. Bruce Springsteen, the E Street Band, and an orchestra kick off the festivities with “We Take Care Of Our Own.” The orchestra makes it sound extra Magnetic Fieldsy.
8:01 p.m. Lots of “uuuuuuu”s in my Twitter feed right now. R.I.P. Clarence Clemons.
8:02 p.m. Guitar placement preventing repeat performance of Bruce’s Super Bowl Crotch Slide. Ah well.
8:03 p.m. The close-ups of Bruce singing his heart out are making me very emotional. Am I going to be a wreck by the time the Whitney tribute happens?
8:04 p.m. (Probably.)
8:04 p.m. I was sort of expecting a Gaga run-in there, but there she is, in the audience. And wearing a veil just like the one I saw Björk wearing at the Antony show!
8:06 p.m. Was not expecting an opening prayer tonight, but it makes sense.
8:07 p.m. #rememberthe90s with this Whitney clip.
8:08 p.m. Although she did that live. Who else could? Not many people. What a horribly sad story.
8:09 p.m. Liking Adele’s side part much better than the blown-back curl she wore in the 60 Minutes interview.
8:10 p.m. Control room going crazy panning from artist to artist. “We have to make sure people know who all these people being name-dropped are!”
8:11 p.m. Bruno Mars is covering the “Tell Her About It” video?
8:12 p.m. Bruno Mars’s concert: One of the better shows I saw last year. But didn’t he also do a retro schtick for the 2011 ceremony? With black and white filter on the lens and everything?
8:13 p.m. Bruno Mars calling out the “rich asses” in the crowd. He’s still in the 99% with all those Smeezingtons royalties? Man, the music business is tough these days.
8:14 p.m. Dear Bruno Mars, please go on tour and show all the people on my Twitter feed why I’ve liked you so much all these months.
8:18 p.m. This commercial’s one-two punch of asking “why would anyone limit the iPhone” and then cutting to a wide-eyed kid is probably sending me the wrong message. Because I’m basically like “PROTECT THAT KID!”
8:20 p.m. Wondering if I should start doing a #rememberthe90s tally with this “Something To Talk About” snippet.
8:21 p.m. Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt set up to present with a keyboard and guitar, covering the performed-by-Etta James “A Sunday Kind Of Love.” Alicia a bit off pitch-wise, Bonnie getting cheers from note three.
8:22 p.m. This has already been a terrible year for musician deaths.
8:23 p.m. First award (of 10) presented tonight: Best Pop Solo Performance. s there any way Adele doesn’t win?
8:24 p.m. No, there is not.
8:25 p.m. “Someone Like You” was co-written by Dan Wilson of Semisonic! Every new beginning, etc.
8:26 p.m. Wise of Chris Brown to perform one of his songs about dancing, and not one of his pouty rants against “the haters.” Also, he is wearing silver shows. Also, I am guessing David Guetta will emerge from behind this big replica of the cover of Interpol’s Turn On The Bright Lights?
8:27 p.m. [Sigh occasioned by complicated feelings about Chris Brown and his recent past and his Jackson-like crotch grab]
8:28 p.m. That said, he’s a little old to still be working the letter-jacket schtick, no?
8:29 p.m That was some backflip there. I actually said “whoa.” And I felt millions of listeners hoping that he would falter somehow.
8:32 p.m. KELLLLLYYYY
8:35 p.m. And now Fergie and Marc Anthony award the Best Rap Performance award. Lupe’s going to take it, right?
8:36 p.m. Best Rap Performance: Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Otis.” Neither of them’s here to accept, though. Oh well!
8:38 p.m. Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson dueting on “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” The sound guy screwed up Kelly’s sound cue and so she didn’t come in until the second “don’t you wanna.” Sigh.
8:39 p.m. But she is a TOTAL PRO and sounding amazing.
8:39 p.m. When I saw Kelly perform this live a few weeks back she was accompanied by a 20-foot projection of Jason Aldean. This is better, if the steampunk stage design is a little… quaint.
8:40 p.m. [Obligatory plea to have Kelly perform with a rotating cast of duet partners for the next three hours.]
8:43 p.m. Gentrification, brought to you by J. Lo and Harmon Kardon. (Is this supposed to represent her *really* being in the Bronx?)
8:46 p.m. Actually Jack Black I was wondering whether or not Jeepers Creepers Semi-Star beat the 18th hole…
8:47 p.m. The Foo Fighters have indie cred now? Sure, that term doesn’t really mean anything anymore.
8:48 p.m. That said Dave Grohl > Justin Vernon because duh.
8:49 p.m. Dave’s Slayer tee is making me flash back fondly to the days when I would research the bands being represented in every t-shirt worn by my favorite bands in promo pictures.
8:50 p.m. Lots of Foo Fighters acid in my Twitter feed. Yo, sorry, not to reiterate, and this isn’t their best work (hello “Everlong”!) but this is so much better than all the stuff nominated in the Best Alternative Album category it’s not funny. Perhaps that’s why it got put in Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance—to have the fight be at least a little bit fair?
8:53 p.m. The YouTube effect: Two ads with “ordinary people” singing huge hits so far. Ha, remember that competition where people auditioned for spots on the Grammys? So much for that.
8:56 p.m. LL Cool J is serving up the Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity of the International House of Grammys I guess.
8:57 p.m. We found fireworks in a head voice-less place.
8:58 p.m. Rihanna is in a denim vest and black mesh-and-leather outfit. I think this counts as a #rememberthe90s moment?
8:58 p.m. This song is such a pile of nothing. Please find some melodic progression in that hopeless place.
9:00 p.m. Also the way high note on the chorus gets super-super reedy on this live performance is driving my eardrum nuts.
9:00 p.m. Chris Martin rates a chyron introducing him! Did the Grammys really think Mylo Xyloto flopped so badly that America forgot about him?
9:01 p.m. We found Rihanna’s vocal coach in a hopeless place.
9:02 p.m. This performance needs some “Viva La Vida.” Instead we get the crowd turning into the “All Of The Lights” video via glowstick wristbands.
9:03 p.m. Oh Chris Martin… oh.
9:04 p.m. Let’s subtitle this performance “the tension between a peak-filled record and recreating that performance in a live setting.” Yeesh, couldn’t they have brought in a kids’ choir to back up Chris on this bit?
9:06 p.m. That performance gave me a bigger 🙁 than Chris Brown’s.
9:08 p.m. Oh, but wow at this Chipotle ad where Willie Nelson covers “The Scientist.” Giving me chills. See Coldplay? You don’t need to get all head-voicey. Just be you!
9:11 p.m. Has LL Cool J always been a Giants fan?
9:13 p.m. Best Rock performance, presented by CBS synergy and awarded to… the Foo Fighters. So they are rock and hard rock.
9:14 p.m. Butch Vig! #rememberthe90s
9:15 p.m. Grohl ranting about practicing and sounding good as a human, and not as an animatronic. And he’s played off by LMFAO and the announcement of Ryan Seacrest! And he’s still talking while Little Steven looks on sternly! And Ryan Seacrest is going to barrel through BY HOOK OR BY CROOK.
9:17 p.m. Ryan Seacrest: “Please welcome… a judge on that show that’s beating Idol in the ratings.”
9:17 p.m. Adam Levine does not have the vocal Moves Like Wilson.
9:18 p.m. This recovered a bit, but why trot out Maroon 5 to pay tribute to any act that isn’t Hall & Oates?
9:19 p.m. And now Foster the People is doing “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” transposed into a different key that’s just making everything sound extra-awkward. I guess the backing vocals are nice, but the lead Person’s voice is just not suited to this particular song. It’s too… quacky? Is “quacky” the right word? My mind is conjuring up a duck when listening to him.
9:21 p.m. Ryan Seacrest, representing Music Lovers All Over The World while introducing the Beach Boys. “As only they can do it,” he points out, as if the last two performances didn’t prove that.
9:22 p.m. Aw, Brian Wilson’s voice still sounds so great. (I wasn’t looking up when I typed that though. He looks… not so good.)
9:24 p.m. Nice hat, Mike Love.
9:25 p.m. Well, that brought up a lot of conflicting feelings and confused emotions and hopes that Brian Wilson has a nice time for the rest of the night!
9:31 p.m. Time to bring out Stevie Wonder, sending a message to Whitney and breaking out his harmonica for a bit of… “Love Me Do.”
9:32 p.m. If only Stevie’d walked over to the side of the stage for a little “Ebony & Ivory.” Instead we have Paul McCartney in a very lapel-forward white hacket and an open collar with no tie, doing a weepy version of his new song “My Valentine.”
9:34 p.m. Sort of surprised that Jimmy Iovine didn’t invoke his pull and get McCartney to do a medley-of-sorts with this and “Video Games.”
9:36 p.m. I mean obviously this is better, but you know, tonight’s been all about attempts to elevate current stars via pairings with older ones.
9:37 p.m. Common and Taraji P. Henson awarding Best R&B Album and honoring Gil Scott-Heron for, like, two seconds.
9:37 p.m. Chris Brown wins over… a lot of records better than F.A.M.E.
9:38 p.m. Thanking God, the Grammys, Team Breezy. “We got one. Thank you.” And he’s gone. Ugh.
9:39 p.m. Guessing the Civil Wars’ Two-Person Real Music bit is the Grammys’ attempt to wash away the ill will that might have been occasioned by a Chris Brown win?
9:40 p.m. Well, that’s going to sell a lot of records tomorrow. (Not kidding.) And now it’s time for Taylor Swift, performing her Grammy-winning broadside against people who say she can’t sing. You know, not for nothing, but I feel like all this “fuck the haters” posturing could probably take a lesson from Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love Of All.” Learning to love yourself, giving yourself a sense of pride. You don’t have to cut down other people to do that! Elevate yourself by being awesome. I don’t know. I guess the later years of Whitney’s life stripped a lot of that bravado from her public persona, which makes her decline even more sad.
9:43 p.m. It’s worth noting that this is the same staging for “Mean” Taylor used on tour last year.
9:45 p.m. Also that this song is about Lefsetz, of all people, for God’s sake if there’s one music commentator you shouldn’t let get under your skin it’s that guy.
9:48 p.m. There is a Target commercial on now with a Fray song that makes me think of Rick Springfield’s “Love Somebody,” one of his more underheralded hits.
9:50 p.m. Wasn’t Josh Radnor the star of How I Met Your Mother? Anyway, here’s Neil Patrick Harris presenting Song of the Year. WHAT IF HOLOCENE WINS YOU GUYS
9:51 p.m. Oh man, I am so happy I was wrong about “Holocene” winning this award. Adele wins instead! Well, guess that sews up the rest of the night.
9:53 p.m. And as if to ruin my buzz, here’s Katy Perry doing “E.T.”
9:53 p.m. Oh ha the “power went out.” And now she’s singing acapella! REAL ARTIST REAL ARTIST
9:55 p.m. Katy Perry’s “look” right now is some hybrid of Sasha Fierce, Wendy O. Williams, and… I don’t even know. Also, I will never ever like her voice.
9:58 p.m. Thank you, Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, for washing that waste-of-water performance away. (Seriously, those Brand figures were ice sculptures!)
9:58 p.m. Lady Antebellum’s Own The Night wins the Best Country Album Grammy. I wonder if there’ll be another awkward press room altercation about their name this year?
10:03 p.m. When does the speculation about Adele’s lips start?
10:03 p.m. I’m almost afraid of the ramifications of making that joke.
10:05 p.m. Having Gwyneth Paltrow introduce Adele is some sort of Easter-egg joke for the Internet, right?
10:05 p.m. Adele in a dress that I am really coveting, doing “Rolling In The Deep.” I am very envious of this brand of breakup revenge, I’ll be honest.
10:09 p.m. Getting a little weepy. This song! Also, you know, the way it was used on the Enlightened finale made me fall in love with it all over again.
10:16 p.m. Every time I see The Band Perry I think of that country group that was on The Next Great American Band. Siblings, country, three stringed instruments. A bit more fiery than this, though. OK, a lot more fiery.
10:18 p.m. This version of “Gentle On My Mind” is very nice though.
10:19 p.m. And Blake Shelton on “Southern Nights.” Yeah, this is good, too. The backdrops probably could have been a bit more abstract, though.
10:20 p.m. I’m trying to think of Grammy Power Rankings So Far and it would seem the country artists are winning overall, although I liked Paul McCartney and Bruno Mars a lot too. Last place is a tie between Chris Brown’s acceptance speech, Chris Martin’s falsetto, and Mike Love’s hat.
10:22 p.m. Who are these people dancing?
10:23 p.m. Okay, that and Adele back to back! Things are picking up! Maybe someone can vaporize Chris Brown from the Staples Center between now and his scheduled appearance?
10:25 p.m. Playing the chorus of “Rolling In The Deep” while the announcer asks “Who will win Record of the Year and Album of the Year?”: Real subtle.
10:30 p.m. Carrie Underwood dressed like a chimney sweep’s brush. With sequins. Also shouldn’t American Idol winners be DQ’ed from Best New Artist? Here she is introducing Tony Bennett and the standing ovation. We almost got to see Skrillex standing up to honor him!
10:33 p.m. This performance made me realize there’s been no Amy Winehouse tribute yet. Maybe the Best New Artist presentation will be it?
10:34 p.m. Bon Iver wins Best New Artist. Goddammit. “It’s really hard to accept this award… there’s so much talent out here, on this stage, and there’s a lot of talent not here tonight. It’s hard to accept blah blah I’m uncomfortable but grateful” can we just start playing the LMFAO now? At least Grohl had Butch Vig in his posse.
10:36 p.m. Well it’s nice that Jagjaguwar got a shoutout. Go buy those Julie Doiron and Black Mountain records, everyone.
10:39 p.m. The RIP montage is going to be super-rough this year. I was going through all the obituaries we’ve run since I started and we had 30. And that was with a few being missed. Guessing Seth Putnam doesn’t get shouted out here.
10:43 p.m. Here’s Jennifer Hudson, alone on a stage under a spotlight and with a blowout, singing “I Will Always Love You.” Lots of pauses.
10:44 p.m. Lots of looking up to the heavens. She’s throwing herself into this all the way.
10:46 p.m. That’s it? Also, no Don Cornelius shout-out but Steve Jobs gets one?
10:51 p.m. Combining the dance music of now tribute with the Don Cornelius tribute: I don’t even know.
10:51 p.m. Chris Brown and a Snooki impersonator waving… glowthundersticks… i don’t even know.
10:53 p.m. Perhaps having a bunch of people waving things that could be construed as weapons at Chris Brown is the Grammys producers’ way of offering catharsis.
10:53 p.m. Well that was weird and inert. I had a much better time during David Guetta’s 15 minute party at Jingle Ball. But now we have… “Detachable Penis”? Oh, no, it’s the Foo Fighters doing “Rope.”
10:56 p.m. OK the sight of Deadmau5 just made me collapse into giggles. The best thing about the nu-rave movement is the way it makes me laugh and laugh without the aid of any drugs at all.
11:01 p.m. davegrohlinaslayershirtandablazerrockingouttodeadmau5.tumblr.com better be a thing by midnight, everyone.
11:03 p.m. Oh great. Drake in a tux. This was inevitable, huh.
11:05 p.m. NICKIIIIIIII
11:05 p.m. She’s lipsyncing. IN A CONFESSIONAL.
11:05 p.m. A movie!
11:06 p.m. I wonder if that’s the new Viva Glam she’s smearing all over her mouth?
11:07 p.m. OK now we’ve moved to a church stage where she’s strapped to a gurney. As a recovering Catholic I am TOTALLY MARKING OUT FOR THIS.
11:08 p.m. Although maybe a song with fewer expletives would have showed off her rapping prowess a little bit better?
11:09 p.m. Nicki really liked Ghostbusters too.
11:10 p.m. The spectacle of that was awesome. The dropped-out lyrics, not so much. The abrupt ending, too.
11:10 p.m. And now here’s Lady Antebellum presenting Record of the Year and shouting out… “Hotel California.” Uh.
11:11 p.m. “Rolling In the Deep” wins. Not a surprise at all.
11:13 p.m. And I’m not really sure Adele should be surprised by its radio love. It’s kind of a monster pop song, and, as her remixers know, eminently translatable to any format.
11:18 p.m. Diana Ross here to present Album of the Year. Rihanna mouths “Ah love her” to Katy Perry.
11:19 p.m. Producer of the Year gets a pre-Album of the Year shoutout. But isn’t he going to be honored in like five seconds… uh oh.
11:20 p.m. Yeah, that shoutout to Paul Epworth, who worked on Adele’s 21, was unnecessary. It won. Totally unsurprising.
11:21 p.m. Here come the tears! Also, I really need to invest in fake eyelashes.
11:22 p.m. She’s so real she snots up on stage! Seriously though who among us, etc.
11:23 p.m. “My homie, Sir Paul McCartney” plays us out. Well, not my homie, LL’s. But you know what I mean.
11:24 p.m. Beatles fans in my Twitter feed going nuts over the choice of “Golden Slumbers” here.
11:25 p.m. And now “Carry That Weight.” Great songs but, is this going to get remixed by Skrillex live or something? It is 2012…
11:27 p.m. Abe Laboriel going nuts on the drums. And now it’s a guitar party. Look at all the old white guys on stage! (Sorry.) (But not?) (I mean come on!)
11:29 p.m. Ha, remember when all that end-of-year chatter was about how 2011 was the Year of the Woman? Ha. Ha.
11:30 p.m. The 54th Grammys: The year that electronic dance music and 23-year-old firebrand singers get recognized, but the old guys running things assert their place at the beginning and the end.
11:33 p.m. Well, I’ll have more on this tomorrow, but now I have to go see Guns N’ Roses. Thanks for reading! Check back in the morning for my in-depth analysis of the show, which was overall pretty not-bad as far as these things go.
(PS: If you want to know what was up with that Scientology ad, my boss has a breakdown of it on the Voice‘s news blog.)