The 2013 Grammy Awards played it safe and got it wrong
With most of the night's "lesser" awards already presented and never discussed on-air, the broadcast depends on memorable performances to make or break the show. And that (in addition to awarding Mumford and Sons with the Album of the Year), was the Grammys biggest failure. Other than Jack White's fiery renditions of "Love Interruption" and "Freedom At 21," there was very little passion or soul in all of the evening's performances.
The misguided Bob Marley tribute seemed to forget that they were there to honor an artist far more original than Bruno Mars and Sting, as they forced in a tepid take on Marley's "Could You Be Loved" only after Mars and Sting had played their own material. A full-fledged tribute to the Beastie Boys Adam Yauch (MCA), instead of the half-assed version we got from LL and Chuck D during the tail end of the show, would have been far more appropriate and reverential, especially given that today's musical audience have much more of an attachment to the musical legacy of MCA than they do to Marley's indelible reggae.
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The Levon Helm tribute was touching, but mostly to fans of the Band, leaving Tyler, The Creator and others scratching their collective heads about the significance of the song and who Helm was in the first place. And the performance of "The Weight" was spoiled a bit by the producers trying to cram as many musicians as they could into the segment, as a result the song lost it's focus as it dragged on.
It just seems impossible for the Grammys to capture the raw intensity and boundless spirit that we all consistently witness at live shows throughout the Twin Cities and beyond, so they frequently turn to gimmicks (Taylor's Swift's clumsy trip down the rabbit hole and Carrie Underwood's psychedelic dress) and forced collaborations (Ed Sheeran and Elton John was as strange as it sounds, while Alicia Keys and Maroon 5 made less sense live than it even does on paper), with most of the musical experiments becoming instantly forgettable and ultimately regrettable.
There needs to be an edge to the Grammys that can only come from the Academy and CBS itself being willing to take some chances and not consistently play it safe. Having it rain on Fun., or Rihanna delivering another sleepy ballad isn't going to cut it anymore. Music is in a better place than this, and giving us fans anything less is insulting and insufferable. The Grammys needs to start taking some actual risks with their scheduled performances, and not be so predictable with their awards, or else they are in jeopardy of losing the audience they are trying so desperately to cater to, while drifting ever closer to irrelevancy -- especially in the modern musical era where artists can make their entire career from the isolated comfort of their own bedrooms, with no need for the outdated support of labels and award shows in order to reach a wide audience.
There are exciting things happening in music that have nothing to do with Mumford and Sons, Adele, or Taylor Swift, and while those artists certainly pad the bank accounts of record executives and retailers alike, they aren't the only musicians who warrant having a spotlight shone on them. Music isn't supposed to be this safe, and until the Grammys recognizes this simple fact they will continue to get it all wrong.
But maybe expecting them to change their ways is perhaps the biggest mistake of them all.