Chances are you found yourself oddly enjoying the first hour or so of the Grammy Awards last night—a foreign sensation, to be sure, since the show has been a slate of dreck for years now. Much like KFC's Famous Bowl, which smashes five offerings on the fast-food giant's menu together into a failure pile in a sadness bowl, the Grammy Award broadcast historically forces disparate performers of varying abilities to collaborate onstage for the sake of the elusive "Grammy Moment."
Who can forget Stevie Wonder suffering the Jonas Brothers' incessant exhortations of "Come on, Stevie!" from 2009? Or the trainwreck opening from 2005, when producers made the Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani, Los Lonely Boys, Maroon 5 and Franz Ferdinand to play five different songs, all at once?
Instead, last night's Grammys opened with two songs from AC/DC, a non-event about as underwhelming as Steely Dan headlining Coachella. But that's truly as hard-edged as the broadcast's performances ever got, which is a weird thing to say about the Australian band-slash-dusty-museum-to-itself which has been doing essentially the same one thing over and over for decades.
Clearly, the show's producers have finally learned from other music-awards shows, and realized what audiences respond to. Amid all the muck and mire at the Grammys, quiet breakout performances were happening on other channels, like Adele's career-making performance of "Someone Like You" at the 2011 MTV VMAs, or Sam Smith's VMA rendition last year of "Stay With Me"—both heart-stopping moments of solemnity that stuck out from their surrounding of pyrotechnics, backup dancers, guitar solos and other cacophony.
And so this year's Grammy broadcast was full of faux-poignant, uplifting ballads, designed to pull at the heartstrings. Sparse instrumentation or gospel choirs accompanied many of them. A spiritual vibe reigned. When host L.L. Cool J talked about "the undeniable and undying power of music" in his introduction, what he foreshadowed was a show pandering to those who want music to hold their hand and constantly inform them how meaningful it is—and, by extension, a show that became a mawkish valentine to its own importance.