The Grammys' energy shortage: Kendrick was fierce but what happened to Bieber, the Weeknd and Adele?

February 16, 2016

 

 

 

What did it say about the 58th Grammy Awards that among the liveliest moments in the show were a tribute to the late B.B. King, a number from a Broadway musical and — oh, yes — a celebration of the music of Lionel Richie?Nothing good, that's for sure.The Grammys have long been known for favoring veterans over newcomers when it comes to handing out trophies. As we've seen with the Academy Awards, that's an institutional hazard facing any show-business organization filled with the folks who made our memories.

But at this year's ceremony, broadcast live Monday night on CBS from Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, it wasn't the awards that felt old-fashioned. As widely expected,Taylor Swift won the flagship album of the year prize with her "1989," as modern a pop statement (despite that title) as any in recent memory.

And though there's no denying the retro flavor of Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk," which was named record of the year, it's a pungent piece of 2015.

Instead, Monday's show atrophied in the performances, which seemed to slow to a crawl any time someone under the age of 40 appeared onstage. It was as though pop's elite — the movers and shakers who make the music go — had fallen under some wicked spell, encouraged to live up to a tired ideal.

Looking stiff (if dapper) in a form-fitting tuxedo, the Weeknd transformed his exuberant R&B track "In the Night" into a sleepy supper-club ballad complete with strings. Little Big Town did the same with "Girl Crush," its slyly sensual country hit, as did Ellie Goulding in "Love Me Like You Do," a love song with real passion in its studio recording.

Tori Kelly and James Bay, two young singer-songwriters nominated for best new artist (which Meghan Trainor won), looked like nervous music-school students rehearsing for a big recital during their joyless duet.

Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood had even less chemistry in a lumpy mash-up of his "Take Your Time" and her "Heartbeat."

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