The president of the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, said so himself: the Grammy Awards nomination concert, now in its third year, is no “ratings juggernaut.” What it does do, however, is raise awareness for the main event on February 13. That’s when hundreds of artists from every genre imaginable will gather at the Staples Center for music’s biggest night. Wednesday’s warm-up concert at the tiny (by comparison) Club Nokia was just that: practice.
The one-hour show kicked off with a pre-taped performance of “California Girls” by Katy Perry,
after which the awkward pairing of Dave Grohl
and Selena Gomez
took the stage to read the first of several televised categories (read The Hollywood Reporter
’s take on this year’s nominees here
They were later followed by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Craig Ferguson and Paramore’s Hayley Williams, but the big draw was the music, particularly newer stars like Justin Bieber, who was beamed in from a performance in London, and Bruno Mars, who appeared twice (with B.O.B. and on his own) during the program. Other performers included Miranda Lambert, who wowed with her country dis song “Only Prettier,” and Train, who delivered their hit single “Soul Sister” from a nearby rooftop.
After the show, several nominees made their way next door to the Conga Room where they greeted the press. Craig Ferguson, nominated for Best Spoken Word Album for his audiobook “American on Purpose,” joked that compared to his fellow nominees Carol Burnett, Woody Allen, Jon Stewart and Sarah Silverman, “I’m the crappiest person in this!” Anticipating that his chances are “zero,” he joked, “you get nominated and people immediately start preparing you for being a loser.”
Feeling very much like a winner already was Bruno Mars, who’s up for no less than seven awards. Struggling to find words to describe his emotional state at that very moment, he told reporters, “It’s kind of… awesome? And a little surreal. It’s been one hell of a year.” Of all the awards he’s up for, one Bruno Mars truly hopes to nab is Cee Lo’s “F--- You,” which he produced as one-third of The Smeezingtons, “Can that just win a Grammy?,” he joked. The magic in that song, he explained, was quite simple: “[Cee Lo] just sang the shit out of it, basically.”
Plenty of artists were still processing their nominations at show’s end, including Monica, whose last Grammy nod came in 1999 and is up for two this year, including Best R&B Album. “At 16 years old, I didn't understand what [a Grammy] means,” she said. “Now at 30, I'm in shock at even being considered with some of the people in the category.” (Among them: Fantasia, Faith Evans and John Legend.)
Monica was the same age as nominee Justin Bieber, who landed in two categories, including Best New Artist. Said producer and longtime Grammy member Jimmy Jam of the teen wonder: “He has a root in being a musician which is really important. When you talk about a career or longevity, you can't be a one-trick pony. He's a good singer, writer, dancer and musician who wants to get better… He's also pretty good at Guitar Hero.”
Paramore singer Hayley Williams was the last person to come through the press room. Nominated as a featured guest on B.O.B.’s “Airplanes” (as well as with her own band on the fantastic ballad “The Only Exception”) she explained how the collaboration came to be. “It fell into my lap,” said Williams. “Someone dropped a demo off, I played it loud and the guys told me I was crazy if I didn't do it. I love the song, and I don't think I'd ever do anything if I didn't fully believe in it.” Williams and B.O.B. only met two months ago at the VMAs, the rest of this Grammy-nominated duet, including the video, was done separately. “Hey, it's 2010,” Williams shrugged. “We're just living in the future.”
Indeed, some of the night’s nominees couldn’t wait to get rocking. Train treated a few hundred fans to an impromptu show atop the LA Live complex and Cee Lo was headed to the Drai’s in the W for a midnight bow.