The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards (2011)

For all the awards show we self-force-feed, this was the first in a while where it actually showcased talent. Sure there were a number of moments worthy of eye-rolling, but for an evening that actually set to recognize achievement, we were surprised that it actually felt like it. The Grammys this year were less about the built-in popularity contest and more about the deservedness of the awards. Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga fans would disagree, but what can we tell you — someone’s always going to be angry.

On to the juicy bits. The show in a nutshell:

First off, the Aretha Franklin tribute was a bit boring. Go ahead and say it: sacrilege. Sacrilege against the Queen of Soul. Fair enough, but this has nothing to do with Franklin or with the bevy of beauties singing in tribute to her that evening. Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Florence Welch, Yolanda Adams, and Martina McBride definitely delivered a heartfelt tribute, but it probably would have carried more weight if it had been positioned later in the program. Not too far after Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” performance, not too much before the recognition of Dolly Parton for her Lifetime Achievement award. The placement was just a bit awkward, although in all other areas it was a great performance.

Speaking of which, we’ll segue on to Lady Gaga’s performance of “Born This Way“. It definitely brought on the theatrics, what with her “birth” onstage from her egg on the red carpet and the horns coming out of her shoulders that punctuated the visuals. She looked amazing and sang even better. However, there seems to be a concern among fans because it was quite possibly the most straightforward performance of Gaga’s to date. Obviously the song itself doesn’t quite have the punch of “Bad Romance“, but the performance was heartfelt and, quite like the song, was awesome for the last minute or so. So it wasn’t ambiguous enough. Big deal. But if you want some symbolism, what we’ve been hearing about her choice of costume is that it signifies afterbirth. How disgustingly ambiguous is that?

In the spirit of handing out awards, we have a few of our own to give out. The first award is in the Frozen in Time category, a three-parter that goes to Lenny Kravitz, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger. Those three have not changed a bit in the last ten years. Proof as to why money is power, or at the very least, a clear path leading to the Fountain of Youth. The latter two also are awarded the Still Got It? It Never Left Award. Bob Dylan’s performance with Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers was rousing, spirited and just nothing but pure him, no compromises. Mick Jagger’s was his first-ever appearance on the Grammy stage, performing the recently departed Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love” with an intense energy and swagger that belongs only to him alone.

Other memorable performances include Janelle Monae, B.O.B. and Bruno Mars during their medley for “Nothing On You“, “Grenade” (done old school, in black-and-white, no less), and “Cold War“. The trio also stole the show for the Seriously Best Dressed Award. Crisp, clean black-and-white pairings with anything from two-toned shoes to monocles. Would we have been happy if Monae hadn’t crowd-surfed? Sure. But Two out of three ain’t bad.

The award for The Most Beautiful Presenters goes to Jewel and John Legend. They’re just gorgeous people; enough said.

The You Mad? Award goes to Eminem, and always should go to Eminem. During his performance of “Love The Way You Lie“, he just…looked and sounded so angry. It’s been said in so many ways, but this is the best way we know how: Marshall Mathers’ voice is so harsh and cutting that he could be rapping the Encyclopedia Britannica and we wouldn’t know whether to be aroused or scared.

The award for You May Be a Star But You Like Crappy Pop Music Just Like The Rest of Us goes to Nicole Kidman, who was caught singing along to Katy Perry’s performance of “Teenage Dream“. That? Was very cute. Really, we’re not in any way making fun of her. Also, the award for You’re Cute; Talent Needs a Bit of Work, But You Can Stick Around goes to the songstress whose song was mouthed to, Katy Perry. Her outfit, her makeup, dancers, and even the smushy wedding photos of her and husband Russell Brand were all adorable. However, we’re still on the fence about her voice. How many years has it been now?

On a related note, the award for Most Improved Vocals goes to Rihanna, who has matured as a vocalist since her “Good Girl Gone Bad” years. Perhaps it was the realization that if she planned on sticking around for a while she needed to pull her weight as a singer, not just as a rubber-wearing, but highly attractive, model-esque puppet (it’s such an awful word, but you know it applied at one point in her career. Don’t lie to yourself!). Her performances with Eminem and Drake were relatively spot on, although during “What’s My Name?” she could have put the mike down less instead of leaving it to her backup singers. Also, we personally could have thought of a million ways to dance less sexually with one’s legs spread like that, but for many, that’s low on people’s list of priorities.

The award for Let’s Try to Upstage Lady Gaga’s Fashion Sense goes to Cee-Lo Green, whose bedazzled, rainbow-colored, feathered and sunglassed outfit had little to no context, but was still pretty fun. He just looked like a huge bird who was having way too much fun with himself and his puppet singers and musicians. Gwyneth Paltrow, as always, gets the Damn, She’s Fine Award because damn, she is, hot pink feather earrings and all. (We think she should have worn diamonds to balance out the strange, but that might just be us.)

The award for OMG, You’re Wearing the Same Sunglasses! (Not Really) goes to Lenny Kravitz and Donnie Wahlberg, who both presented that evening. We were so glad to be wrong. How embarrassing would that have been?

And last but not least, the Silent Revenge Award goes to Justin Bieber, who we know will be back next year as an artist not riding largely on the hate his fans have for other deserving artists who took home awards in the same Grammy-approved category.

And that’s it for this year! What was your favorite moment from the Grammys? Your least favorite?