Scott Harvey, Staff Writer
Leading up to music’s biggest night, the 2017 Grammys, there were two names on the lips of every music fan: Adele and Beyonce. Which of these two massive pop stars would take home the night’s biggest awards? Despite all of the hype surrounding those two, the evening ended up belonging to some very different, unexpected names. These were the highs and lows from an always captivating and always divisive evening of music.
Chance the Rapper: For my money, the unequivocal winner of the evening was Chicago-bred hip-hop star Chance the Rapper, who broke out in 2016 with the release of his effervescent, gospel inspired mixtape, “Coloring Book.” Chance has garnered lots of press for his decision not to sell “Coloring Book” (or any of his previous mixtapes) and many wondered if that choice would hurt his chances at the Grammys. But those debates were quickly settled, first when Chance beat out Maren Morris, The Chainsmokers and others for Best New Artist, then later when he bested titans like Drake and Kanye West for Best Rap Album and finally when he turned in a brilliant, spine-tingling performance of “Coloring Book” standouts “How Great” and “All We Got.” Chance’s energy and enthusiasm was unfortunately lacking throughout most of the evening, but when he was on stage the show came noticeably to life.
A Tribe Called Quest: Further proving what a great night this year’s Grammys was for hip-hop were ‘90s rap icons A Tribe Called Quest, who dedicated their performance to MC Phife Dawg, an original Tribe member who passed away in 2016. And what a performance it was. The legendary group proved they haven’t lost any of their mojo with a thunderous version of recent single “We the People…” which finished with an impassioned cry for “resistance,” a rare political moment in an otherwise uncontroversial evening.
Katy Perry: The female pop star who managed to deliver on Grammy night turned out not to be Adele or Beyonce, but Katy Perry. Performing her terrific new single “Chained to the Rhythm” alongside Skip Marley, Perry wisely nixed lip-syncing in favor of a fun, creative, energetic and, best of all, authentic performance, one which turned attention where it should’ve been, to the music rather than the artist.
Twenty One Pilots: The prides of Columbus, Ohio may not have performed on Grammy night, but the indie pop duo still had one of the most memorable moments of the evening (and even got a shout-out from Ohio governor John Kasich) when accepting the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance in their underwear. Frontman Tyler Joseph quickly explained how the interesting wardrobe choice was a result of a deal he made with fellow Pilot Josh Dun, when the two were once watching the Grammys in their underwear, that they would show up in their skivvies if they ever made it to the show themselves. It was a humorous, but also refreshingly human moment that definitely stood out in the lengthy evening.
Bruno Mars’s Tribute to Prince: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no fan of Bruno Mars’s music, but the Hawaiian hitmaker has undeniable talent and that talent was perfectly showcased when Mars, decked out in purple, tackled “Let’s Go Crazy” from Prince’s classic “Purple Rain” album in a tribute to the late singer. Funky and lively, it made this fan wish more of Bruno’s music had the same originality as the song he covered.
Other Standouts: Lady Gaga’s fiery performance with Metallica, the soulful stylings of William Bell and Gary Clark Jr, a surprisingly enjoyable cover of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” from Demi Lovato, of all people.
Beyonce: I know this opinion is probably going to be about as popular as a frying pan to the face, but y’all came to The Paladin for hot takes, right? Beyonce’s much-hyped performance, for me, was a total dud. Ponderous, weird and nauseatingly self-indulgent, it opened with nearly two minutes of boilerplate, massage parlor lobby music before Bey herself even made an appearance. When she finally appeared, things didn’t get much better, as the normally reliable diva turned in what appeared to be a pre-recorded vocal performance that seemed to test the limits of how little effort she could put in and still make people go wild with worship. The answer? Very little.
Lukas Graham and Kelsea Ballerini: The Grammys are known for their often bizarre duo performances and there was none more random than this pairing of Danish piano-pop star Lukas Graham with Knoxville-born country queen Kelsea Ballerini. Graham’s hit single “7 Years” was already bad enough, but when paired with Ballerini’s “Peter Pan,” well, the less said the better.
James Corden: Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of James Corden. But the Grammy’s decision to go with a more traditional comedic host like Corden over the usually assured, if unremarkable, LL Cool J didn’t pay off. Corden’s lame gags failed to muster laughs and took valuable time away from the main event, time which would’ve been better used elsewhere–for example, on Chance The Rapper’s acceptance speech, which was cut short after about 20 seconds.