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Not even The Beatles can save interminable Grammy show

Grammy Awards show

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You know there’s a big Grammy Awards problem when you wonder if Pink, in the middle of another pointless aerial routine, is really singing. That the consensus at one Grammy party ranged from "No" to "Does it matter one way or the other?" only made an already interminable affair somehow seem much longer.

Paul McCartney (L) and Ringo Starr perform during last night's 56th Grammy Awards at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

In fact, not even the much ballyhooed surviving Beatles reunion moved it along, not with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr inexplicably performing “Queenie Eye” from McCartney’s latest album instead of a Beatles classic--the fact that they’re taping a Grammy Beatles tribute special tonight for Feb. 9 broadcast (50 years to the moment after The Beatles landmark Ed Sullivan Show appearance, as the hype noted) notwithstanding.

Starr fared far better on his right-on, fun performance of big hit “Photograph,” his own esteemed backup including drummer Kenny Aronoff and bassist Don Was.

The other great quartet that was revived, also with only two left, was the country supergroup The Highwaymen, mainly because Kris Kristofferson received the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award—though he, fellow Highwayman Willie Nelson and late Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings fill-ins Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton didn’t do any Kristofferson songs. They were good, though, with even weak link Shelton acquitting himself well next to the giants.

Kristofferson, by the way, looked and sounded great, as he bravely confronts the ravages of memory loss. But one of the best performances of the night was also from the country side, thanks to Best Country Album winner Kacey Musgraves no-frills job on “Follow Your Arrow.”

Perpetual Queen of the Crowd-Cutaway Shot Taylor Swift, though, bought herself more criticism from doubters with her overblown mugging and histrionic hair shaking during her trumped-up “intimate” turn on “All Too Well.”

Too soon to say that Lorde’s a one-hit wonder? She didn’t bring anything new to “Royals,” or anything new, period. Beyoncé’s dizzying “Drunk In Love” was overshadowed by Shakira’s far shorter Target commercial—which, it must be noted, didn’t require any mood-lowering bleep-outs.

Perhaps the production surrounding Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” was relevant. Not so the pairing of Grammy Hall of Fame inductee Chicago with Robin Thicke.

But no doubt at all about the teaming of MusiCares Person of the Year Carole King and Sara Bareilles on their respective songs “Beautiful” and “Brave,” which fit together seamlessly. Keith Urban and Gary Clark, Jr. on “Cop Car” proved also a perfect pairing.

Silly robotics aside, Daft Punk’s job on “Get Lucky” was a highpoint, what with help from Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder. And Billie Joe Armstrong and Miranda Lambert were excellent in their “When Will I Be Loved” memorial tribute to recently deceased Phil Everly, though Everly shouldn’t have been singled out over the likes of Lou Reed and George Jones.

Otherwise, this year’s Grammy show stood out for misguided do-good segments. Hunter Hayes apparently self-affirmational new single “Invisible” wasn’t so much a song as a run-on sentence. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s “Same Love,” with Mary Lambert, Trombone Shorty and Madonna was fine, but the inclusive (save for atheists) 33 weddings officiated by Queen Latifah, while well-intentioned and in line with the lyrics, came off as gimmicky—though it did give Paul Williams the chance to promote marriage equality during his Daft Punk Album of the Year acceptance speech while also joking about seeing robots after having gone sober.

And when it was noted that the winner of the first Music Educator Award teaches various school choirs, choruses, and ensembles including handbells, steel pans and Celtic American string bands, it would have been all the more impressive had any of this music, let alone so many more of the music genres represented in the 81 Grammy categories, been featured.

It would have given a lot more meaning to host LL Cool J’s opening blather about the power of music--not just commercially successful music--to bring people together.

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