EW's Managing editor Jess Cagle discusses his opinion of the Grammys this year

By Jess Cagle
February 15, 2013 at 05:00 AM EST

Despite the terrific Alicia Keys–Maroon 5 mash-up and some unforgettable tributes led by Elton John, Kelly Clarkson, and Bruno Mars, this year’s Grammy telecast didn’t have the same must-see urgency as last year’s. There was no galvanizing artist like Adele taking center stage. And there was no news event (like the passing of Whitney Houston) pulling us in. The ”event” this year was meant to be the return of Justin Timberlake to the Grammy stage, but he brought a couple of underwhelming songs that didn’t quite live up to the hype. In this issue, EW’s Kyle Anderson points out some of the night’s best and worst moments. But all things considered, the Grammy telecast is the most reliably entertaining awards show (like all of us, executive producer Ken Ehrlich would rather hear an artist play music than thank a manager), and every now and then on Grammy night you can see a cultural movement crystallize before your eyes. For example, it happened with Ricky Martin — and Latin music — in 1999. And it happened on Feb. 10 when Mumford & Sons accepted the Album of the Year award for their banjo-heavy folk-rock hit Babel. The retro trend they’re part of is nothing new, but it’s a trend being executed by some brilliant artists, and Mumford & Sons’ victory established folk rock as the most exciting and artful movement in music right now. The Lumineers made their own case for the genre by performing their hit ”Ho Hey” on the telecast, and the song hit No. 1 on iTunes the next day. Fun.’s win as Best New Artist — a recognition of their commercial power, smart lyrics, irresistible hooks, and Nate Ruess’ soaring Freddie Mercury-flavored vocals — also signaled a victory for old-school style. Like Bruno Mars and Adele, Mumford and fun. are creating modern joy out of old tradition. Their love and respect for music, for entertaining, and for the audience shine through in songs both catchy and credible, admirable and lovable.