Commentary: Grammys win with stellar collaborations, rob Frank Ocean of Best New Artist title
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 22:02
Frank Ocean was robbed.
The biggest mistake the Grammys make, year after year, is refusing to award the title of Best New Artist to the best new artist. The 55th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday night continued this trend, as Ocean did not win in this category.
Ocean caused a buzz in July when he came out as bisexual in an entry on his Tumblr account, and about a week later he released his debut album “channel ORANGE,” which generated just as much noise. The album earned Ocean the award for Best Urban Contemporary Album, but on top of that, he truly deserved to win Best New Artist.
Instead of Ocean, indie-pop band fun. took home the Best New Artist Grammy. That’s all fine and well because fun. is a talented trio, but the band is anything but new. In 2009, fun. released its stellar debut album “Aim and Ignite,” with a notably different passion and theatrical style than the fun. dominating today’s radio airwaves.
Four years ago, the award would have made sense, but Sunday night should have seen Ocean with one more Grammy in his possession. His “channel ORANGE” was one of the best albums of the year and was even nominated as such (although the Grammy for Album of the Year ultimately went to Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” — a well-deserved win).
Maybe Grammy voters are just confused — after all, Best New Artist went to Bon Iver in 2012, again four years after the release of the band’s debut album, “For Emma, Forever Ago.” The 2011 winner was hardly better, as jazz musician Esperanza Spalding came out of nowhere to snub the likes of Justin Bieber, Florence and The Machine, Drake and Mumford & Sons — and hasn’t been heard from since.
One aspect of the Grammys still managed to impress though: incredible performances from the industry’s most talented musicians.
The Grammys is one night that offers mind-blowing matchups, and this year was no different. Ed Sheeran took the stage with the great Elton John to perform Sheeran’s breakout hit “The A Team.” The result was a beautiful harmony of John’s raspy vocals and soaring piano lines with Sheeran’s smooth tone and acoustic guitar strums.
John’s night didn’t end there, as he returned to team up with Mumford & Sons, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown and Alabama Shakes’ singer Brittany Howard in a tribute to the late Levon Helm, formerly a drummer and vocalist for The Band. The group performed Helm’s song “The Weight,” and it was undoubtedly the best collaboration of the night.
Other stellar performances of the night included an emotional Rihanna belting out “Stay,” allowing us and boyfriend Chris Brown to see right into her soul as she sang, “Funny you’re the broken one but I’m the only one who needed saving / Cause when you never see the light it’s hard to know which one of us is caving.”
Rihanna also joined Sting, Ziggy and Damian Marley and Bruno Mars onstage for a phenomenal tribute to reggae singer Bob Marley — another performance only the Grammys could offer — although it was notedly odd that the tribute began with one of Mars’ songs and only included one Bob Marley song, “Could You Be Loved.”
But perhaps the most confusing part of the night was LL Cool J, whose real name is James Todd Smith, as host. I struggled to remember why Smith is relevant to the music industry right now. Apparently he is set to release an album in May, but does anyone care?
The Grammy Awards are arguably music’s biggest night, and the job of Grammy host should go to someone who is going to kill it onstage.
Both Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris presented awards — but either would have been better choices to host. Neither DeGeneres nor Harris have ever been nominated for a music-related Grammy, but both have hosted multiple awards shows (DeGeneres has hosted the Academy Awards, Harris hosted the Tony Awards three times and both have hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards) and done well each time.
Along with Smith as host, another disappointment of the night came when Kelly Clarkson won Best Pop Vocal Album for “Stronger.” Either Florence and the Machine or fun. would have been a far more deserving choice as “Ceremonials” and “Some Nights” were both well-done albums all the way through.