4 p.m. NEIL YOUNG! So, apparently when there’s not a Beatle covering himself, Young actually has a chance. Young’s “Angry World,” from “Le Noise,” was named best rock song. “This is my first Grammy for music, and it’s appreciated greatly,” Young said. “I’m not Mavis, but I am close.” Young’s only other Grammy came in the recording package field.
3:56 p.m.: Arcade Fire are 0-for-2, and will go home winless, despite likely delivering the strongest performance of the night. No, not biased, just fact. The group was again bested by the Black Keys in the best rock performance by a duo/group field, which won for “Tighten Up.” Arcade Fire had submitted “Ready to Start.”
3:49 p.m.: Lamest win, this far: Paul McCartney’s “Helter Skelter” for best rock solo vocal performance from his live effort “Good Evening New York City.” Really, Grammy voters? I realize awarding a 1968 song is better than giving anything to Mayer, but Neil Young continues to be ignored by Grammy voters, and, unlike McCartney, he’s a veteran artist who is actually challenging himself.
3:40 p.m. THE MOST DESERVED WIN THUS FAR: Mavis Staples for her “You Are Not Alone,” recorded for local indie Anti- and produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, which was named best Americana album.
It’s a shame the Chicago soul legend won’t be performing tonight, but she’s never not gracious. Staples was near tears as she walked up onstage, needing someone to lower her mike and hold her Grammy.
“Oh my God, that was the shock of my life,” Staples said of winning the first Grammy to her name. “My goodness. It’s been a long time, a long time coming,” she continued before finally breaking down in tears.
“Oh my goodness,” Staples continued. “OK, OK, OK, all right. Give the honor to God and to my father, Pops Staples. It’s because of you, Pops, that I stand here today. I tell you, you laid the foundation, and I am still working on the building … This Grammy took a long time coming. A long time. But it was worth the wait, worth the wait. But I’m going to be around a while. You will not see the last of me. God is not through with me.”
Staples caught a shot of herself on-camera. “They kept telling me all day that I looked glamorous and wonderful, but I didn’t know till I looked up there.”
She also thanked Tweedy for bringing the “young adults, the college kids” back to her, referring to the increased attention the Wilco name has brought to Staples
3:32 p.m.: A thought on the rap genre field wins: So is this Eminem’s year? Suddenly, perhaps, that could be called into question. While Eminem should still be considered the frontrunner for album of the year for his “Recovery,” he took only one award for his 10 nominations in the pre-telecast. His “Not Afraid” was named best rap performance, although Kanye West’s “Power” was likely the critical favorite here. Yet when it came to best rap/sung collaboration, the prize went to “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, which bested Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” with Rihanna. Additionally, “Empire State of Mind” was named best rap song, topping two Eminem singles. “Empire” is the favorite for record of the year.
3:26 p.m.: Best pre-show quote: Pinetop Perkins accepting his award for traditional blues album: “They used to call me Pinetop, but as I’ve gotten older, I’m Pinebottom now.” Seconds later, Buddy Guy’s “Living Proof” was deservedly named best contemporary blues album.
3:20 p.m.: The Grammys deserve plenty of criticism for this year’s show lineup, and one travesty could be traced straight to the pre-show. No, it had nothing to do with the performance, as Buddy Guy and Mavis Staples ignited some fire into a pretty-formulaic pre-show. The problem was that this cast, which also included Cyndi Lauper, Maria Muldaur and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, was relegated to pre-show duties. Yet the make-shift group’s take on “Wang Dang Doodle,” now a blues standard written for Howlin’ Wolf, was a back-and-forth and call-and-response between the three vocalists.
3:14 p.m.: BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM SHOCKER: Though also nominated for album of the year, the Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” failed to win alternative album this year. The Arcade Fire is now 0-3 when it comes to the alternative album field. The trophy went to the Black Keys’ “Brothers,” an album earlier recognized for best recording package.
Allow for a brief rant: This upset points to the boneheaded-ness of Grammy voters. The Arcade Fire released an album strong enough to score an album of the year nomination, yet said album was not even the best album in its genre field? There is one important difference: The Black Keys record for a major label in Nonescuch, while the Arcade Fire records for an indie in Merge.
3:08: Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” wins country performance by a duo/group with vocals. This is good/bad news. Good, as the act will likely not win album of the year, but sets Lady Antebellum on track to score best country album. Zac Brown Band took best country collaboration with vocals (CORRECTED: SEE COMMENTS) for “As She’s Walking Away,” but when Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” was named best country song, a songwriter’s award, it all but assured that Miranda Lambert had zero chance of taking best country album this evening.
It’s also setting up a Lady Antebellum versus Eminem showdown. Settle in, kids.
3:01 p.m.: Looking for jazz stuff? That will also be on Culture Monster.
2:53 p.m.: AND WE HAVE MUSIC (likely better music than you will see in a few hours). Trombone Shorty, whose jazzy-funk touches on hip-hop and pop, is primed for a breakout success story. At the Grammy pre-telecast, he kept things light and upbeat, with horn riffs that seemed to name-check every spy movie and none.
“That settles it, I’m moving to New Orleans,” Spalding said afterward.
2:41 p.m. Classical album of the year: “Verdi Requiem.” Later, our friends at Culture Monster will explain why this is/isn’t important. Or, they just think they’re smarter than me and don’t want me to say much. There’s a feud, ever since I was skeptical toward “American Idiot” and Culture Monster was rah-rah-rah toward “American Idiot.” Today, they can say, “But ‘American Idiot’ won a Grammy.” Exactly. So, I win then.
2:24 p.m.: My favorite moments from this year’s Clive Davis pre-Grammy party. I did not attend, but I did watch the live coverage on the Grammy site, and I thought it was brilliant. Two moments in particular stood out. One was actor-comedian Ben Gleib asking Keri Hilson to be his valentine. Hilson noted that the best advice she ever received was to “stay single” and “marry” the music (Umm, that’s my plan — stay single and marry the journalism). Hilson jokingly accepted Gleib’s offer, but suddenly, that became the entire interview. Gleib wanted to know what time, where they would go, what to wear, etc., and Hilson wanted out, ASAP. Beautiful.
The second best moment of the party, according to the Grammy online broadcast, was when Lazar wanted to speak with Bill Maher, who I didn’t take for someone who would turn away from a live camera. But no, Maher kept walking, and told Lazar that he didn’t want to miss dinner. Just one year ago, Lazar tried to corral Jon Bon Jovi, who blew her off even more coldly, saying something about how he would not do interviews till the next day.
Let’s back up: The Clive Davis pre-Grammy party is not some “safe zone.” This is a major PR event, one with a red carpet, and one whose guests are tipped via a press release. Also, the Grammys now throw the party, so shouldn’t being nice to Grammy interviewers be a priority? After all, I don’t think they were going to refuse to give Maher his dinner.
2:12 p.m. As the Grammys head into their mini-Latin portion, Pop & Hiss is going to take a second to show you some other coverage LAT has going on. For some insight into tonight’s performances, that would be here, and if you’re looking for some fancy-dancy red carpet pics from Saturday night’s Clive Davis party, that would be here. Curious about how Bruno Mars partied? We got that too. Did you miss the Dierks Bentley hootenanny with Miranda Lambert and Lady Antebellum? Read about that here.
And if you hate me and just want the news straight up, a) I probably attempted to date you at one point and b) you should follow Awards Tracker.
2:02 p.m.: Some of the more mainstream categories are rolling out now. Rihanna’s “Only Girl in the World” was named best dance recording. Stargate producer Tor Erik accepted, and said to his daughter, “I know I promised you a dog if we won, but I honestly didn’t expect to win. We’ll talk.”
Moments later, in what was surely something of a surprise, U.K. electro and synth act La Roux’s self-titled record was named best electronic album, topping such big names as the Chemical Brothers and BT. In accepting the award, Elly Jackson said, “I didn’t think that was going to happen. I don’t know what to say. I can’t describe how happy this makes us. We made this record in our living room.”
1:52 p.m. And just before 2 p.m. on a seemingly normal Sunday afternoon, the 53rd Grammy Awards officially declared that punk was done/dead/over/had reached its conclusion/had shuffled off this mortal coil. Green Day’s “American Idiot” was named best musical show album, and with that, punk rock, we bid you adieu. A moment of silence. “Glee” producers, the work of the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Buzzcocks, the Ramones and Screeching Weasel now essentially belong to you.
1:46 p.m.: AND WE HAVE HISTORY AT THE GRAMMY AWARDS!!!! Composer Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu” was named best instrumental recording. Sigh — so what, ye say? A-ha! Not so fast. “Baba Yetu” was written for Sid Meier’s Civilization IV, a PC game, and Tin noted that this was “the first Grammy to ever be given to a video game,” adding that he hoped more would pay attention to the genre.
1:37 p.m.: As sure as Justin Bieber’s hair is blond, no Grammy Awards can go down without a John Mayer album being gifted some sort of award. In this case, his “Battle Studies” was named best engineered album. Heading into tonight’s ceremony, Mayer had seven awards to his name, all of ’em, no doubt, deserved.
1:31 p.m.: The very fine Rhino compilation “Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968” failed in its quest to take the best historical album field, which went to “The Beatles (Original Studio Recordings)” in a complete non-shock. Let’s give Grammy voters a round of applause for highlighting a piece of musical history that very few know about. Well done. The album’s producer, Jeff Jones, got a laugh from the pre-telecast crowd when he said, “I’m Jeff Jones from Apple — the original Apple.”
1:27 p.m.: The White Stripes may have called it quits, but the act’s work was still recognized for a Grammy, as its “Under Great White Northern Lights” was named best boxed or special limited-edition package. The award went to Jack White and Rob Jones.
1:20 p.m.: And we’re off! Officially, at least. The pre-tel was running a little late, which forebodes badly for the rest of the evening. The stream began with a pairing between Spalding and McFerrin, with Spalding weaving a spider web of bass notes and McFerrin scatting over them, making the minimalist presentation safe for afternoon coffee and scones.
AWARDS! They’ve happened. Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was named best short-form music video, which is a producer’s award that doesn’t technically go to the artist. The video was directed by Francis Lawrence. Meanwhile, the Doors’ “When You’re Strange” was named best long-form music video, awarded to director Tom DiCillo for showing the world more of an act that’s hardly ever been chronicled.
12:57 p.m.: A tip of the hat to the Recording Academy for its live coverage of the all this weekend’s Grammy festivities. There will be plenty of poking fun at the Grammys throughout the night (it’s nothing personal, Recording Academy voters and friends), but the constant red carpet live-streaming is a win. Unlike television broadcasts, there are no cutaways — just one camera with Shira Lazar and a couple of dudes talking continuously and awkwardly. Just moments ago, Lazar told members of the Nortec Collective that she’d “never been to Tijuana,” and then asked Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine to introduce himself, as she clearly was stumped, and then proceeded to ask him to talk about his hair and inquired what he does to “rock on.”
Let’s be clear: I am not poking fun, as Lazar is near the top of my list of favorite-people-I-have-not-yet-met, and I find the behind-the-scenes peek at red carpet stress fascinating. There are no producers tipping questions and no generic what-are-you-wearing cliches, just one camera, rolling live, capturing frantic publicists and unprepared interviewees (“I love me some reggae!” Lazar screamed after she found out she was talking to Gregory Isaacs).
12:50 p.m.: IT’S BRUNCH AT THE 2011 GRAMMY AWARDS! We are live at the LAT HQ — just a few subway stops away from the L.A. Live/Staples Center/Los Angeles Convention Center complex that’s housing all the Grammy festivities. Here’s what to expect for the next 2.5 hours: Awards will come fast, with the major categories, such as rock, pop rap and R&B, being handed out in a rush in the final 45 minutes. If Eminem is going to have a big night, it should be clear by about 3:15 p.m.
Pre-telecast hosts will be jazz nominee Esperanza Spalding and Bobby McFerrin — one an experimental young artist and the other known for a novelty hit. Yet there will be some fine-and-dandy performances during the pre-tel, including appearances from Mavis Staples and Buddy Guy. While surprises can happen, it doesn’t happen that either Staples or Guy will be performing with Willow Smith, as there are no cheesy young-and-old genre mash-ups in the pre-telecast.
Stay tuned to this post, as it will be updated intermittingly during the pre-telecast.
Photo: A look at the Grammy seating arrangements. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
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