The Grammy Nominations Concert Live! just aired on CBS. In between nominations and banter from host LL Cool J, we saw performances from Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and other stars. So which performances were award-worthy in themselves, and which ones would we rather forget? After the jump, let’s review the highs and lows.
Katy Perry opened the show with “California Gurls,” a summer hit that I must admit I tired of months ago. Any fans who are still humming “California Gurls” as often today as they were in June no doubt enjoyed Perry’s performance much more. She and her backup dancers certainly seemed full of energy, though her voice was mixed so low on the chorus that she was barely audible over the backing tracks.
Her pop antics couldn’t have been more different from the performance that followed: Bruno Mars, with a simple acoustic version of his smash “Just the Way You Are.” The breakout singer-songwriter required no flashy staging, just an acoustic guitar, a couple of pals, and a string section. It was a perfect showcase for Mars’ understated songwriting chops and supremely sweet vocals.
A bit later, Train belted out “Hey Soul Sister,” another song that saw its expiration date pass long ago. Frequent viewers of televised music events have seen this band give nearly identical performances before, most recently at the American Music Awards the weekend before last. Time for a repertoire readjustment, perhaps?
Miranda Lambert held up country music’s portion of the evening with “Only Prettier.” The smirk she wore throughout her performance wavered between winningly sly and just plain smug. The song was only okay.
LL Cool J had been promising a “special” Justin Bieber performance all night. When Biebs finally appeared on screen, that turned out to mean a fairly standard run through “Favorite Girls.” The presentation was acoustic if you’re feeling charitable, anemic if not. Judging by the screams from the audience, his fans loved it.
Bruno Mars returned to join his buddy B.o.B on their collaboration “Nothin’ On You,” later nominated for Record of the Year. This isn’t exactly a brand-new tune, either, but somehow it felt fresher than some of the others we heard tonight. Maybe it’s just that these guys are such a likable duo, or maybe it’s because genuine love songs that are also massive pop hits are hard to come by these days. Either way, Mars deserves MVP honors for the evening.
Or should that honor go to B.o.B? After the final nominations had been announced, Bobby Ray got a second solo performance. Despite some nimble rap verses, his “Don’t Let Me Fall” is at heart a moody rocker after the model of Coldplay, one of his favorite bands. Playing guitar and crooning his heart out, B.o.B absolutely sold this less-known side of his talents. It was a rare surprise in an otherwise predictable night — at least when it came to the performances.
What did you think? Which performances were the night’s best and worst? Sound off in comments.
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