50th Annual Grammy Awards



Feb. 10, 2008, 8-11:30 p.m.

Nearly 400 Grammy Awards were given out Sunday night at Staples Center, but you would hardly have known it from the television broadcast.

As has become the tendency in recent years, the awards themselves seemed to be little more than a footnote to a nearly nonstop series of performances representing a wide range of musical genres. Befitting this 50th anniversary occasion, nostalgia and reverence for the past were big factors, though the impact was rather mixed (a reunion of the Time?).

The thinking behind the show seems to be that two or more is always better than one. Collaborations, ranging from the sublime (Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock on "Rhapsody in Blue"; Tina Turner and Beyonce on "Proud Mary") to the silly (Keely Smith and Kid Rock; the Foo Fighters with an orchestra conducted by John Paul Jones) were the order of the day. Indeed, the broadcast began with a duet between Alicia Keys and a video clip of Frank Sinatra.

No effort was spared in juicing up many of the numbers with outlandish visual elements. Carrie Under¬wood's "Before He Cheats" featured "Stomp"-style percussion; a Beatles medley had the cast of Cirque du Soleil's "Love" performing gymnastic routines; and Daft Punk provided futuristic visuals as well as musical flourishes to their duet with Kanye West.

Musical highlights included Andrea Bocelli and Josh Groban paying tribute to the late Luciano Pavarotti; Aretha Franklin and a gallery of gospel stars performing a medley of spirituals; and a rocking segment featuring John Fogerty and two legends of rock 'n' roll, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

She was denied entry into the country, but Amy Winehouse triumphed anyway via her performance beamed in from London. The sly smile on her face while she sang the now highly ironic "Rehab" was priceless, and her stunned, highly emotional reaction immediately afterward when she won for record of the year was the evening's most spontaneous moment.

As has become all too common with award shows, the influence of "American Idol" was felt, in this case with a tiresome interactive segment dubbed "My Grammy Moment" in which viewers were given the opportunity of voting among three classical musicians for the chance to play with the Foo Fighters.     

Although many tributes were doled out in the form of lifetime achievement awards, the rushed presentations and lack of onstage acceptances (from the honorees still with us) robbed them of their emotional impact. It would have been highly interesting, for instance, to hear what such recipients as Berry Gordy might have had to say.

The evening's biggest surprise came at the very end, with Herbie Hancock's win for album of the year, representing the first jazz album to win in that category in more than four decades. It was yet another reminder that Grammy voters have a longtime habit of defying expectations.    

The 50th Annual Grammy Awards
John Cossette Prods. and AEG Ehrlich Ventures for the Recording Academy

Executive producers: Ken Ehrlich, John Cossette
Producer-director: Walter C. Miller
Coordinating producer: Tisha Fein
Supervising producer: Tzvi Small