The two artists who undeniably garnered the most attention preceding the 54th annual Grammy Awards were triumphantly Adele and tragically Whitney Houston, each of them indelibly gifted with standout voices of their generation. Between the award announcements and performances, the attention seemed to bounce between Adele’s success and Houston’s untimely death. As predicted, Adele swept up six awards including Record of the Year and Album of the Year for her album “21.” With almost every performance came an artist’s impromptu dedication to Houston, ultimately leading to singer Jennifer Hudson’s chilling tribute performance.
Backed by a full orchestra, Bruce Springsteen kicked off Grammy night with enthusiastic kicks from underneath his electric guitar. In the audience, Paul McCartney clapped along to the Boss and the E Street Band’s latest single, “We Take Care of Our Own.”
Host L.L Cool J followed up with a prayer to honor Whitney Houston, who passed away Feb. 11, a day before the show, at age 48. The audience—from Katy Perry to Faith Hill and Tony Bennett—bowed their heads as L.L. Cool J finished with, “Whitney, we will always love you.”
Nominated for six Grammy awards this year, Bruno Mars performed “Runaway Baby,” from his album Doo-Wops and Hooligans. Mars synchronized costumes and choreography with his band, looping dapper in a gold blazer as he slid into the splits mid-song, never once missing a beat or his key.
Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt joined country and R&B forces on shortened yet soulful version “Sunday Kind of Love” in tribute to another lost artist this past year, Etta James.
As expected, the award for Pop Solo Performance went to Adele for “Someone Like You,” despite competing against pop mega-forces Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Pink. In her acceptance speech, Adele said that the song changed her life. With this win and a classic look of voluminous curls and red lips, Adele proved not all pop hits are the result of sugar-coated dance beats and scantily-clad songstresses.
Chris Brown made his Grammy comeback with three nominations after a three-year absence following the release of violent images of his assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. His signature pop-and-lock dance moves dominated his song “Turn Up the Music” against a technicolor stage that times flashes of rainbow colors and skyline images perfectly as each beat dropped. With this performance, Chris Brown reminded the audience of his stage presence as he pleased the crowd with his dance moves despite his likely lip-syncing and court record of violence against women.
The clementine-clad Fergie and Marc Anthony presented the award for Best Rap Performance. Nominees include Jay-Z and Kanye West for “Otis,” Drake and Nicki Minaj for “Moment 4 Lyfe,” and Chris Brown featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne for “Look at Me Now.” Watch The Throne’s Jay-Z and West won, though they unfortunately were not in attendance to accept the award. Perhaps there was another event substantially cooler and more worthy of the rap stars’ attendance?
In typical Grammy fashion of pairing performers with clearly different sounds, the unexpected duo of Rihanna and Coldplay performed together. Rihanna slithered on the ground to her hit “We Found Love,” tossing her newly blonde locks as the song’s signature techno dance beat kicked in. As her song ended, the camera cut to Chris Martin of Coldplay on an acoustic guitar playing “Princess of China" when Rihanna joined him after only a few lyrics. After a quick duet, Martin raced to stage where the rest of Coldplay was waiting to perform hit single, “Paradise.” The performance didn’t prove to be an authentic collaboration but rightfully gave two of this year’s biggest acts much-deserved stage time on music’s biggest night.
The Foo Fighters in all their bearded glory beat out rock cult favorites Radiohead, Coldplay, The Decemberists and Mumford & Sons for Best Rock Performance. The band’s winning single, “Walk,” comes from album, Wasting Light, which was recorded on tape in the garage of lead singer Dave Grohl’s garage. Grohl marks the first winner of the night to be cut off by the show’s outro music as he screamed out, “Rock 'n' Roll.”
In celebration of The Beach Boys reunion, Maroon 5 performed the California band’s classic, “Surfer Girl.” Foster The People was up next with even more well-known Beach Boys’ staple, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Finally, The Beach Boys swung slowly along as they sung “Good Vibrations” which ended with a standing ovation by the audience and smiles all round.
It seems that only a legend is worthy of presenting another legend. Stevie Wonder introduced Paul McCartney, who crooned “My Valentine” in front of a full orchestra which included the sorrowful yet sweet strings of a classical guitar.
Surprisingly not dressed in her usual sequins, Taylor Swift took the stage in a modest boho dress. With a bango slung around her shoulders, Swift sang a lackluster version of her single “Mean.” She winked and smirked through the “I told you so” lyrics, reminding her audience that despite her poor track record as a live performer, she’s unbearably charming.
Song of the Year nominations included “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons, “All of the Lights” by Kanye West and Rihanna,“Grenade” by Bruno Mars, “Holocene” by Bon Iver and “Rolling In The Deep” by Adele. Not surprisingly enough, Adele happily skipped up the stage hand-in-hand with the song’s producer Paul Epworth to accept the award.
However, in a surprising turn of events, country’s girl-next-door Taylor Swift did not crush her country competition for Best Country Album. It was instead Lady Antebellum who won for Best Country Album with Own The Night.
Adele’s much-anticipated performance lived up to the hype as she crooned a hauntingly beautiful rendition of her song “Rolling In The Deep,” which won Song of the Year earlier in the night. With each second of her performance, from the acapella beginning to the bridge she belted out, Adele continued to outdo herself, clearly showing the world that she’s not the next big thing; she has already arrived.
Country stars The Band Perry and Blake Shelton honored Glen Campbell. Their performances pleasantly primed the stage for the true star, Glen Campbell, who proudly sang “Rhinestone Cowboy” while the audience clapped and sang along.
Jazz legend Tony Bennett sang alongside a refreshingly less-country version of Carrie Underwood’s voice that swapped southern twang for fluid jazz harmonies on “It Had To Be You.”
Bon Iver beat out The Band Perry, Skrillex, J.Cole and even Nicki Minaj who had an undeniably explosive year for new artist. He humbly accepted the award, tipping his theoretical hat to the musicians who have yet to be discovered.
In honor of the tragic death of Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, who just a couple nights ago was praising Houston’s voice on “Piers Morgan Tonight,” took the stage. Hudson stood under a spotlight while she delivered an impressive (though not quite on par with Houston’s) version of “I Will Always Love You.” Considering the obviously short notice of this performance and Hudson’s chilling rendition, you have to wonder if this is a song she’s dreamed of performing since she was a little girl.
Deadmau5, Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, David Guetta and Foo Fighters attempted to rouse the crowd with what the Grammy’s had been calling a “dance party” preceding the performance. David Guetta’s electronic beats slunk up and down as background music for Chris Brown and Lil Wayne in a haphazard performance that lacked cohesion. Strobe lights and smoke distracted from a performance that the show could’ve done without. As it turns out, a Deadmau5 and Foo Fighters collaboration make for a pretty abysmal performance.
Looking fresh in a tuxedo, rapper Drake teases us with an introduction of his “good friend” Nicki Minaj, instead of a performance of his own. It’s quite obvious through Minaj’s typical clothing style, that she strives to be different than your average pop or hip hop star, so her bizarre acting and rapping hybrid performance doesn’t come as much of a surprise. After rap lyrics littered with the word “bitch,” she sampled the Christmas carol, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” resulting in an odd performance that left the audience cheering but completely confused nonetheless.
The Band Perry presented the Record of the Year to Adele, sharing the same attitude as the rest of the audience with a simple, understated, “No surprise, 'Rolling in the Deep!'” At this point, does it even really matter who else was nominated?
Adele pulls off a six-for-six clean sweep with tears in her eyes as she accepts the final award of the night, Album of the Year. Despite a runny nose and a little voice cracking, she maintains a level of class and grace that other pop stars can only dream of having. “It has been the most life-changing year,” she sobs. And that is perhaps the understatement of the night.
Singer Chris Martin of the music group Coldplay performs on the Today show on Friday in New York. (Photo courtesy of NBC)
When Coldplay released its debut album, Parachutes, with its layers of beautiful, melancholic arrangements contrasting with the light-hearted lyrics of frontman Chris Martin, the band impressed audiences worldwide and started a movement that still resonates today. Alongside Radiohead, Coldplay has solidified itself atop the Britpop pedestal, each release a progressive climb towards pop icon status.
Mylo Xyloto continues in the Coldplay tradition — multiple crescendos, intricate arrangements and reflective social commentary — but with a more electronic, new wave direction.
Similar to its predecessor Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, Mylo Xyloto shows the group branching out into different realms of music: “Hurts Like Heaven” is reminiscent of The Cure with its soaring, moody vocals and synthy passages. “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” and its arena rock guitars are complemented by a thumping bass drum. The subtle harmonies are enthralling, veiled by lightly strummed acoustic guitar that adds to the song’s powerful sound.
“Princess of China” and its fuzzy synths, electronic hand claps and vocal contribution from Rihanna, showcases the band’s admiration for hip-hop. Martin comes off as confident in territory that is familiar to the hip-hop diva, resulting in a strangely intriguing union between the two.
The album bridges the gap between Coldplay’s poppy, piano-driven past and its electronic future: There is an almost flawless balancing of the two worlds, indicating the band’s desire to intermingle sounds and ideas that might have been difficult earlier in their career. The band easily experiments, taking elements from its past that propelled it into the mainstream, while successfully adding a component of unfamiliarity.
Though, it can be displeasing at times. “Up In Flames” leans too far into the electronic realm, and unlike most songs on the album, there is no captivating build. “Us Against the World” can also be redundant: it would have been perfect on Viva La Vida, but its significance on Mylo Xyloto is out of place. This is where Coldplay experiences trouble — rather than sticking to its guns, it either leans too far to the left or right. The struggle between the complacency of its old, definitive sound and fascination with its newfound sound is apparent in these songs, taking away from the album’s overall fluidity.
Mylo Xyloto indicates a turning point for Coldplay. Yes, the piano and acoustic guitar still remain a part of the band’s music, but it is the exploration of new territory and how it will manipulate it that will prove why Coldplay is a noteworthy band.
Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: Britpop mainstays go electronic
A crowd cheers for The Sword on Friday, October 8, 2010 at ACL. This year will be the tenth annual festival.
The sweaty, three-day, five stage, 130-band extravaganza that is the Austin City Limits Music Festival celebrates its 10-year anniversary this weekend.
The festival has taken the ACL name places Ed Bailey, ACL’s vice president of brand development, never envisioned. Twelve years ago, he sat down with the KLRU staff and its board of directors to expand the brand beyond the long-running public television series. Never did he imagine that during the next 10 years, the festival would have hosted performers such as Spoon, Pixies, The Strokes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, Bjork and Kanye West.
“Ten short years ago, all you had was the television taping six floors up in the communications building in the University of Texas,” Bailey said. “Amazingly, all this came just from that.”
The non-profit KLRU wanted to create a festival that would add another dimension to the ACL live music experience while staying true to the show’s vision. The vision is, in Bailey’s words, “to create a space where bands just let loose with their fans.”
To create this, KLRU outsourced production of the festival to a group of business partners that would eventually become C3 Presents, the music industry powerhouse that’s also responsible for Lollapalooza.
“There was no long-term deal; it was all, ‘Let’s go do it,’” Bailey said. “‘Let’s try to make it stand for what the TV show has always represented. Let’s take what we could do in a year’s worth of television shows and do it in a weekend.’”
Within a span of three or four months Charlie Jones and Charles Attal, the future co-founders of C3 Presents, developed a two-day festival with five stages and 67 bands. One-day passes were $25. Organizers had expected between 20,000 and 30,000 to attend, but 42,000 people showed up on that first Saturday in 2002. The first festival, which featured an array of artists from Gillian Welch to String Cheese Incident, set a precedent of eclectic line-ups that the festival has kept as its popularity has grown during the last 10 years. Some highlights of the decade include Pixies in 2004, Coldplay in 2005 — the dustiest year in the festival’s history, Dave Matthews Band in 2009 and the Flaming Lips’ infamous bubble entrance last year. This year’s festival features less well-known groups Reptar and AWOLNATION, as well as international superstars such as Stevie Wonder.
After a record 75,000 people attended on the Saturday in 2004, promoters lowered the festival’s maximum capacity at the request of surrounding neighborhood associations. A new contract last year with the City of Austin authorized C3 Presents to sell up to 75,000 tickets, and attendance last year was around 70,000 each day.
Bailey said the reputation of the ACL television show helped contribute to the success of that first festival. Now that the festival is an established destination, it brings major bands to the television show that might not otherwise have made the trip. In past years, Pearl Jam, My Morning Jacket, Wilco and The National have all doubled dipped, performing for both the festival and the show, and this year Austin City Limits Live will be taping Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Randy Newman, The Head and the Heart, and Gomez over the festival weekend.
Looking forward, ACL must continue to adapt by making content of the festival and television show directly accessible from computers and phones, Bailey said.
Last year, a number of performances at the festival were made available for live streaming for the first time. This weekend, C3 Presents is making 35 performances available for live streaming through the online magazine “Spacelab.”
“The business models of the record industry and the business models of television have changed so radically that if Austin City Limits is going to be in the conversation 10 years from now, we’re going to have to do a massive amount of change,” Bailey said.