As with all award shows, I approached the 2014 Grammys with slight apprehension, curious excitement, and a bet with my friends about when the first controversial, apology-necessary-in-the-morning moment would happen. Shockingly, this year’s awards provided a true representation of what the music industry should be by kicking it old school (sorry Beliebers, it wasn’t your night) and including monumental moments that reeked of history in the making. I’ve got to hand it to the big guys behind the Grammy scenes; you deserve a resounding—musically accompanied—round of applause. The show was a mish-mosh of exciting performances and controversial material, but the total sum was a night that surely sets the tone for 2014.
Before we delve into the most memorable moments of the night, we’ve got to first acknowledge the gaping absence of some of the music industry’s biggest stars: Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, Kanye West, and Rihanna were among those who skipped out on music’s biggest night. In comparison to the Grammys of recent years, where teenyboppers and chart-toppers ran rampant, the Staples Center felt hauntingly empty, even from my seat in Pittsburgh (not the best seat in the house, but they told me I could replace Taylor Swift next year.)
Still, legends walked the red carpet that night, and two in particular gave an opening performance that will forever change the way that I look at chairs. No, I’m not talking about Pharrell and his hat. I’m talking about Bey and Jay, Mrs. and Mr. Carter, Beyoncé and Jay Z. The power couple performed Beyoncé’s hit “Drunken Love” from her recently released self-titled album. After Bey straddled a chair in the middle of the stage for five minutes and accelerated the heartbeats of Americans everywhere, her husband joined her and brought along his usual powerhouse swag. The performance was highly sexual, and some viewers criticized the new mother for acting this way with Blue Ivy at home, but I see nothing wrong with dancing promiscuously on stage with her husband of six years. This was yet another example of how Beyoncé is breaking the delicate boundaries of female sexuality and giving a voice to the feminist movement. Grammys: 1, close-minded populace: 0.
Another memorable moment was Taylor Swift’s performance of “All Too Well” that caught on quickly after she incorporated a never-before-seen dance move. It was something between head banging while trying to get the water out of her ears. Unfortunately, her move stole the show, and no one is talking about the other obvious fact that it was actually a—gasp—good performance! Taylor has always been criticized for her smaller-range voice, but she got up there and belted with all the confidence that a 24-year-old with a $150 million net worth should. I applaud Taylor on her singing and performance, and maybe next time she’ll cut back on the innovative head rotations to focus on her diaphragm. We could use a little less to make fun of the poor girl for.
As I mentioned before, the 2014 Grammys time-warped us backwards with two awesome performances: Carole King accompanied by Sara Bareilles and, of course, a Beatles reunion. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr joined together to deliver a teaser from the good old days. My generation watched and joyfully reminisced on a time that we weren’t actually in existence for, and the over-40 crowd got to genuinely enjoy an awards show for the first time in years. Even Yoko Ono danced to their duet, and while she may have broken up the Beatles, she has got some serious moves. Performances like that are, in my opinion, important for a larger-than-life production like the Grammys. When the Beatles were in their prime, America was fighting a civil rights battle for racial equality. Forty years later and a different battle rages on, this time marriage equality.
When Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took the stage to perform “Same Love,” viewers thought it was just another seven minutes from the radio on stage. The song was beautifully done, as per usual, and Mary Lambert delivered a flawless melody, as per usual. Around five minutes in, Queen Latifah emerged and the camera panned back to show 33 couples—both gay and straight—lined up, hand in hand. Then, Queen Latifah, who apparently at some point became an ordained minister, married the couples, asking them to exchange rings. The spectacle could have ended there, but Madonna emerged to sing “Open Your Arms” and the world stopped spinning for a second. Naturally, Twitter exploded immediately with the majority of those tweets being positive and supportive sentiments. History was being made and marriage equality was given the best seat at the Grammys.
So, did this night set the tone for 2014? I think so. 2013 was a huge year for both feminism and marriage equality, between Obama’s supportive statements and Pope Francis’s inspiringly hands-off take on the matter. As we embark on 2014, Beyoncé continues to steamroll the feminist movement forward with her provocative dance moves. Marriage equality, as seen in Macklemore’s amazing performance, is at the forefront of America’s attention. If the Grammys were any indication, this will be a year full of history making and boundary breaking. The night left me with just two questions: whether or not 2014 will indeed live up to expectations, and who the hell gets to babysit Blue Ivy?