Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Performys! We’d call them the Grammys, but with just 10 televised trophy presentations and 22 live performances, that’s clearly a misnomer. Not that we’re complaining; this year’s diverse and dynamic group of performances easily outshined the lackluster awards, which proved as sadly anticlimactic as ever (Record of the Year to a perfectly nice retread of a 10-year-old Page and Plant single? Meh). Given that ratings are up — 19 million viewers tuned in to the Feb. 8 telecast, an 11 percent jump from last year — they’re obviously doing something right. Even so, we’ve decided to dole out our own prizes, some of which are pure gold; others are more…burnt tinfoil.
Best Bonus Jonas
Stevie Wonder, giving the Jonas Brothers’ ’08 hit ”Burnin’ Up” serious chops, and generously sharing his own soul-funk classic ”Superstition” with the Brothers, who struggled valiantly to keep pace — and, more important, not mess up their bangs.
Worst Reimagining of the Carmen Miranda Ice Capades
A tuneless Katy Perry, bouncing between giant fruit props like a bedazzled pinball. We dissed a girl, and we didn’t like it.
Best Radio(head) on the TV
Thom Yorke and Co. turning In Rainbows‘ midtempo brooder ”15 Step” into a stomp-the-yard überjam, full of ferocity and paranoid-android foreboding. Plus, tubas! (And a whole lot of other instruments, courtesy of the USC marching band.)
”Boots” Least Made for Rocking
U2 opened the show with an anemic, sound-muddled take on their new single, ”Get On Your Boots.” Bono, you’re single-handedly solving Africa’s debt crisis! Can’t you fix a lackluster chorus?
Most Golden Girls
Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and English rose Adele, both nailing their respective prizewinning ballads. The former crawled inside her stunner ”Stay” and then tore her way back out; the latter looked terrified, but delivered ”Chasing Pavements” with a soul-shivering strength that utterly justified her Best New Artist statuette.
Least Dynamic Duo
We’re closing in on the final bonanza! Twenty performances and three-plus hours of anticipation! What will they give us next?! A somnolent medley from the usually excellent Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, it turned out. The duo trotted out a ponderous take on ”Rich Woman,” and the slightly less narcoleptic ”Gone Gone Gone,” like unwilling seatmates on a commuter train, with Krauss’ face frozen into an odd rictus.
Most Interesting Assertions of Personality
Kanye’s Perfect Strangers mullet; Adele’s frantic gum-chewing while accepting an award; habitual cool customer Gwyneth Paltrow turning into a swooning Radiohead superfan on stage; M.I.A. proving ”stretch-mesh polka-dot Lycra onesie” and ”nine months pregnant” are not mutually exclusive phrases.
Worst Chatty Cathy
Academy president Neil Portnow, who came out and talked about Obama for a while. Then talked about some other stuff. Then talked about Obama again, and pretty much asked for a position in his cabinet. Hush, you little bearded yakker!
Most Awesomely Incongruous Quote
”He’s a poet, a pirate, a dreamer — but most important, he’s a man I’m proud to call my friend,” announced presenter Morgan Freeman. ”Ladies and gentlemen, Kenny Chesney.”