Grammys: The Best and Worst Moments

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Cee Lo performs at the 2011 Grammys / Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty; Cee Lo, Kevork Djansezian/Getty; Scott)
WRITTEN BY
Steve Kandell

Has there been a major female pop star in the past 20 years who dances worse than Katy Perry? Does she exist solely to make Lady Gaga look like Motown: 25-era Michael Jackson? Not even talking about her songs or her singing, the latter of which was much stronger than awards performances past (and as for the former, we are "Firework" apologists).

But Perry is no dummy, and came up with the perfect way to compensate: "How about I just project videos from my celebrity wedding onto myself during the number? Will that make everyone forget that I'm basically just inert for the next five minutes?" Done. And a special shout-out to Nicole Kidman, whose giddy sing-along to "Teenage Dream" during a cutaway was the most human-seeming thing she's done in a decade.

Canniest Move in the Ongoing Campaign to Get American Audiences to Care About Muse
Give them Best Rock Album over Pearl Jam, Neil Young, and Tom Petty. (Yes, and Jeff Beck. But: Jeff Beck?) The British trio's performance of "Resistance," complete with fake security guards chasing fake stage-rushers and giant TV screens made for a bold slice of cultural criticism about...something. Alright, America, let's try this one more time. But no one's holding their breath.

Biggest Snark-Related Culture Clash
After an entire awards show during which America's cool kids derisively snorted, "Who the hell are Lady Antebellum?" every time the country trio scored major awards (including Song of the Year and Record of the Year), the entire rest of the country had the pleasure of ending the night asking, "Who the hell are Arcade Fire?" Don't just take my word for it, ask noted culture czar Rosie O'Donnell. Speaking of:

Best Thing About the Final Eight Minutes of the Telecast
Where to even begin? Let's break this down:
11:22 P.M. Arcade Fire close out the show proper with a blistering tear through their least CBS-friendly song, "Month of May," complete with seizure-inducing strobe lights and two lackadaisical BMX riders, presumably to satisfy some producer's idea of "edgy," but really looked more like the "I want my two dollars!" kid from Better Off Dead.
11:26 P.M. Babs Streisand and Kris Friggin' Kristofferson decree Arcade Fire as Album of the Year winners, as Lady Gaga's expression is conveniently obscured by some giant hat thing. The Arcade Fire members, huddled beneath the stage, look genuinely shocked, as opposed to that Taylor Swift kind of shocked, and seven-foot-tall lead singer Win Butler stoops over the mic to gracefully accept and thank his parents and thank Canada for taking them in, then the whole gang just up and run to their instruments because fuck it, we got a barn, let's put on a show, and Butler places the Grammy on top of his amp.
11:28 P.M. Butler beams as he sings the first line of "Ready To Start": "Businessmen they drink my blood."
11:30 P.M. "...Hilton Hotels, the official hotel of the Grammy Awards..."And with that, an entire population of rock fans entrenched in "the Grammys don't mean anything, ha-ha Justin Bieber's hair" camp -- the music equivalent of just watching the Super Bowl for the commercials -- now urgently careens into "what does it all mean?" mode.

Best Exhaustion-Derived Existential Conundrum
What came first: Cee-Lo's giant rainbow-feathered chicken or Lady Gaga's translucent Spinal Tap egg? (Discuss in the comments!)

Yes, she did the song on Glee, but still not sure how Gwyneth Paltrow has wound up so inextricably involved with what the Grammy telecast amusingly referred to as "The Song Otherwise Known As 'Forget You." Or why she thinks she's the only person who's ever seen The Fabulous Baker Boys. It can't be a good sign when your presence makes less contextual sense than a backing band comprised of Muppets.

Best Performance By a 67-Year-Old Who Doesn't Look a Day Over 47
Mick Jagger. One wouldn't really describe him as "ageless" at this point, but his spirited star turn (and Grammy performance debut) honoring the late Solomon Burke with "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" was a pretty potent forget-you to anyone who would dismiss the allegedly tiny-todgered Stone as a relic.

Biggest Jerk
Me, for looking at the rest of the loaded Best New Artist field -- Drake, Bieber, Florence, Mumford -- when the nominees were first announced and dismissing the talented but decidedly less well-known Esperanza Spalding as a pitiable also-ran. Could be that the other four artists, already commercially and critically established beyond their years, split the votes so evenly that Spalding was left with some anomalous statistical edge, I don't know. But congratulations, Esperanza Spalding! Sorry!

Most Surprising Cameo
Tom Waits, who made an uncharacteristic but warmly received Grammy appearance backed by Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers for a rootsy jug-band style cover of Bob Dylan's "Maggie's Farm." The gravel-voiced legend...hey, wait a second. Never mind, move along.

Worst Performance By a Married Couple Pretending to Bicker Like a Married Couple
Jennifer "Jen-Lope" Lopez and Marc Anthony's chemistry-free onstage repartee. These two had met previously, yes?

The Chester Bennington Award for Best Performance By Someone Who Looks Exactly Like Chester Bennington
Eminem. Still, better than another velour tracksuit. Side note: Seth Rogen's best zinger from his introduction wasn't the "getting high with Miley Cyrus" line, but,"I'm the most badass guy they could find to introduce Eminem," which was alarming because he might have been right.

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