While not as headline-grabbing as the recent Academy Awards and despite a strong first half, the 2022 Grammys fell into a similarly monotonous pattern by the end of its broadcast on Sunday, April 3.
The general field awards went to a diverse group of artists, with Jon Batiste winning Album of the Year for his 2021 project “We Are.” Silk Sonic – the collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak – won both Record of the Year and Song of the Year for their single “Leave the Door Open” and Olivia Rodrigo took home Best New Artist.
Batiste entered the ceremony with the most nominations and came away with the most awards of the night, winning five of a potential 11. These included Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for “Cry,” Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for “Soul” and Best Music Video for “Freedom.”
Rodrigo and Billie Eilish were the second most nominated artists with seven each. Rodrigo claimed three Grammys, including Best Pop Solo Performance for “drivers license” and Best Pop Vocal Album for “SOUR,” while Eilish left empty-handed.
Silk Sonic won all four awards they were nominated for to earn the second highest number of Grammys. Along with their general field victories, they also won Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance, tying in the latter category with Jazmine Sullivan for her song “Pick Up Your Feelings.”
Other televised awards included Best Country Album for Chris Stapleton’s “Starting Over,” Best Rap Performance for Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar’s “Family Ties,” Best R&B Album for Sullivan’s “Heaux Tales” and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for Doja Cat and SZA’s “Kiss Me More.”
Unlike the Oscars, which were mostly dull the whole way through, the Grammys kicked off relatively well, but struggled to maintain momentum and petered out by the end of the three-and-a-half hour show.
Trevor Noah returned as host for the second year in a row. While only a few of his jokes landed, he presented a natural charisma that carried some of the more mediocre material and gave the show some semblance of structure.
The night kicked off in style with Silk Sonic’s second Grammys performance in as many years. The group offered a rocking rendition of “777,” their ode to Las Vegas which reflected the ceremony taking place in the city for the first time.
Mars and .Paak continued their unbroken streak of excellent live performances, trading sections back-and-forth, with Mars in full Rick James mode and .Paak killing it on the drums. It was an energetic and fun start to the show that proved why Silk Sonic is one of the most exciting acts in music right now.
Things slowed down a bit as Rodrigo took the stage for a dramatic take on her smash-hit “drivers license.” Her tender vocals and the well-arranged backing instrumentation made for a solid showcase of her skills, even if the song itself seemed like a pretty safe choice.
Latin superstar J Balvin followed, performing two songs from his 2021 album “JOSE” where he unfortunately came away feeling like the least interesting part. María Becerra stole the show on a duet of "Qué Más Pues?" and Balvin himself appeared on auto-pilot as his performance moved into “In da Ghetto.”
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The pacing picked back up with international sensation BTS, whose secret-agent-themed stage setup gave them a perfect platform to deliver their trademark swagger and style over their English-language single “Butter.” It was an indulgent and over-the-top moment that worked well, as everything going on felt purposeful and intentional.
Lil Nas X presented a similarly flashy and entertaining performance, running through a medley of tracks from his 2021 debut album “MONTERO.”
“DEAD RIGHT NOW” offered a more introspective beginning before Lil Nas X went full popstar on “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” embracing the controversies and memes he’s found himself in over the past few years in a victory lap of sorts. Jack Harlow also showed up, rapping part of his verse on “INDUSTRY BABY.”
Meanwhile, Eilish opted for a more focused and aesthetic rendition of her song “Happier Than Ever” with an upside-down house as a stage. Eilish started inside for the first, more low-key half before moving up to join her brother, FINNEAS, for a raucous second half, with her whole set showing off her versatility as an artist.
Other performances in the first half included Brandi Carlile’s “Right on Time,” a decent but easy to overlook effort, a career-spanning but disjointed medley by rap legend Nas, and a stripped-back and passionate version of “Cold” by Stapleton.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared, making an appeal to viewers to pay attention to the war and the people it affects. This was followed by a tribute to the country from John Legend and various Ukrainian artists.
The other remaining highlight was the ‘In Memoriam’ segment, which was primarily a showcase of Stephen Sondheim songs. Cynthia Erivo, Ben Platt, Leslie Odom Jr. and Rachel Zegler gave a beautiful ode to the Broadway legend, covering songs from across his long and fruitful career.
From here, the show lost steam. As the performances slowed down and became less consistent, it became a matter of personal preference to find enjoyment.
Lady Gaga’s tribute to Tony Bennett felt surprisingly forced considering the two have collaborated multiple times. Gaga’s odd vocal inflections and drawn out performance felt completely out of place and stalled the show’s pacing to a crawl.
Batiste’s “Freedom” fell on the opposite end of the spectrum, upbeat and flashy almost to a fault, as it clashed with the atmosphere created up to this point. Batiste is certainly a talented musician and performer, but here his skills felt wasted as he lept around the stage with seemingly no clear goal.
And Justin Bieber’s performance of “Peaches” was a confusing mess that even Giveon and Daniel Caesar couldn’t salvage.
H.E.R.’s segment fell into the same trap as Nas’s earlier in the show, as her medley of songs was fine but didn’t leave enough time to fully sink into any of them. The choice to end with Carrie Underwood and Brothers Osborne, talented of country artists as they are, left things on an odd note considering neither of them were nominated in the major categories.
Ultimately, the Grammys played out as normally as they possibly could have, but without anything exceptionally special or memorable. In other words, it was just another Grammys.