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GRAMMY CHEW: POST-SHOW RUMINATIONS, WITH A HANGOVER

Simon: Before we get into the details of the Grammy show, I think we should acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of the task Ben Winston faced in putting it together.

Lenny: Agreed. In his first time at the wheel he had to assemble a “COVID show” with a different look and deal with questionable nominations, political concerns and the disconnect between a young listening audience and a much older viewing audience.

Overall, I’d give him an eight out of 10. He put together some really strong moments with the emphasis firmly on music, and it felt like a show rather than another dreaded Zoom meeting.

Simon: He also managed to address the relevant political issues while keeping it entertaining.

Lenny: Yes, he did. I think the show had two main shortcomings. One was the choice of Trevor Noah as host, whose material felt off-key for the event.

Simon: I liked his energy and he looked great, but I agree with you about his jokes and references. He often seemed like a fish out of water.

Lenny: He was further hurt because his predecessor was Alicia Keys, who was a brilliant, savvy host and who used her great musicianship to tie everything together.

The other problem was the first 45 minutes. It’s mystifying to me why Black Pumas and HAIM were given so much real estate at the top of the show.

Simon: Not that they aren’t good. But it almost felt as though they were the warm-up act for the real Grammy show.

Lenny: It looked and felt like public-access programming. And then Harry Styles was really underserved. He should’ve either had a splashier presentation up top or saved what they did for later in the show. Given his star wattage, his moment could’ve had greater impact.

Simon: Breakout night for his manager, Jeffrey Azoff, though, who also reps Roddy Ricch, Anderson .Paak and HAIM and who, it must be said, looked resplendent in his green suit. His father, what’s-his-name, should be very proud.

Lenny: But back to my point: You’ve got to open the show with a bang. Not having The Weeknd, whose song was in every bumper on every event for the last year, made it more difficult. But any number of stars who performed during the show—Dua Lipa, Bruno Mars/.Paak and BTS, for example, all of whom were sensational—could’ve kicked things into gear immediately.

Simon: The show definitely perked up in a big way after that opening.

Lenny: It really did, though at 3 hours and 43 minutes, it was too long. Unfortunately, I think they lost a lot of viewers with that “warm-up” section, and that, combined with some of the other challenges we've mentioned, is probably why the ratings faltered.

Simon: The bulk of the show was very strong, though. Dua was a knockout; Bruno and Anderson killed. BTS was irresistible. I think Mickey Guyton had a breakout moment. Taylor Swift’s segment was lovely, both sonically and visually. Brittany Howard was powerful. Lil Baby’s big protest set piece was remarkably effective. DaBaby was super-charismatic.

Lenny: Yes, all Babies acquitted themselves quite well. There’s controversy about the Cardi B/Megan Thee Stallion number, “WAP.” A lot of people I spoke to were concerned about kids seeing that, especially those on the West Coast who saw it at 7:10pm. Even though the grownups admitted to enjoying it themselves.

Simon: Meh. I thought it was a lot of fun and have zero patience for the moralistic pearl-clutching these sorts of numbers always provoke, even though there’s a sexed-up twerking number on every Grammy show.

Lenny: I got a mixed reaction from people with little kids.

Simon: First off, adults have been cooped up for a year—many of them WITH little kids—and they’re fuckin’ horny. So this (and the Dua number, which was also rather steamy) was like a wet-ass oasis in the desert.

I mean, every song since Fats Waller has been about big-ass dick, but someone does a wet-ass pussy song and everybody loses it.

And people have been saying this kind of stuff since rock ‘n’ roll started—including about Little Richard, who got a loving tribute on the show. They had to film Elvis from the waist up to protect children from indecency.

Lenny: What do you really think?

Simon: This show was all about women—H.E.R., Beyoncé, Taylor, Dua, Billie, Megan, Cardi, Mickey, Brittany, Maren, Miranda—and they represent all kinds of different sensibilities. The elevation of women on the show shouldn’t mean that female artists can only be “role models” or paragons of nobility. That’s backward. Equality also means being able to be as frankly, grossly, playfully sexual as male artists.

Lenny: I’d wrap this up by saying that there was a lot to love about the show, and assuming Ben wants to do it again, I’d be 100% in his corner. He could make a few adjustments (hopefully with a post-COVID live audience) and it’ll probably work like gangbusters.

Simon: I’ll be watching. And I really hope I’ll be able to go to some parties afterward.

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