By Katherine Carpenter
2014 was a big year for music. Beyonce dropped the most secretly produced, critically acclaimed album of the decade. Taylor Swift released her first album in three years. Sia blessed us with an intimate, personal record. The music world saw a lot of activity, both bad and good, and it was all recognized, celebrated, and, in some cases, snubbed, last night at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards.
The first thing I noticed about last night’s ceremony was, because I came in late, an overwhelming, crotch-exposing Madonna performance. Prominently featured were some off-putting deer antler costumes, unimpressive Madonna-performed “acrobatics,” and lots and lots of red lipstick.
Though I can appreciate her influence in music and her lasting legacy, it also seems like it might be time to put away the skintight jumpsuits; Madonna is about a thousand years old and getting a tad wrinkly.
Even though my first Grammy impression last night was not particularly impressive, the rest of the evening proved to be more eventful and certainly more inspiring. Among my personal favorites of the night was the way the ceremony integrated ethical issues: both Beyonce’s and Pharrell’s performances included choreographed dance routines that imitated and supported the #handsupdontshoot movement that overtook social media earlier last year in light of the Ferguson killing and resulting protests.
As a hugely integrated part of the ceremony, there was a video message from President Obama detailing the shocking statistics about domestic violence against women in America, an emotional spoken word performance by domestic abuse survivor turned activist Brooke Axtell and an uncharacteristically somber performance by pop princess Katy Perry.
Last night’s ceremony, though unsmiling at some points, was a night of celebration for many and veiled devastation for others, or, in my case, undisguised shock and outrage on behalf of my favorite artists. Sam Smith unexpectedly took home four Grammys and Beck, who we haven’t heard from in quite some time, won two, one of which could definitely be seen as being stolen from the undisputed Queen of 2014: Beyonce.
Beyonce fans such as myself appreciated Kanye’s feint toward the stage in a nod to the iconic Taylor Swift VMAs incident. Though Beyonce was, as always, gracious and accepting of such a snub, I was personally lost in a rage blackout that caused me to miss the next few minutes. All I know is there was an ethereally glorious Beyonce performance soon after that.
Barbadian and R&B princess Rihanna was nothing less than exquisite all night, from cotton candy gown to her and Kanye’s matchy-matchy pantsuits. Her performance was exceptionally solid, though I wish I could have heard more of Paul McCartney in his and Rihanna’s performance with Kanye during FourFiveSeconds.
The fashion was also, as always, a huge draw. John Legend and wife/supermodel/adorable human being Chrissy Teigen always have been and always will be the perfect double date to Kimye’s intimidating pop culture presence, and have the stylists to prove it. Chrissy was sleek and elegant in a figure-hugging white cutout gown, and Legend probably wore a suit.
It took some time, I will admit, to recover from every single time Taylor Swift was nominated for an award and did not win. I know, however, that T-Swift will always rise triumphant from the ashes, even if those ashes are her previous seven Grammy awards. 1989 was a triumph, and an example of how to perfectly transition from genre to genre, and the fact that it didn’t get nominated for anything has given me an ulcer probably.
I was, to be honest, racked with disappointment many times throughout last night’s ceremony, mostly because throughout the evening I would suddenly remember that Beyonce didn’t win Album of the Year and again become prostrate. However, I appreciated and enjoyed the amount of diversity within the service, the heart and soul poured into all the performances and the many shots of Taylor Swift doing her mandatory awkward awards ceremony dance.