“Back when I was drinking … I would imagine things that weren’t there and I’d get frightened. Then I got sober and two robots called and asked me to make an album.” So recounted songwriter Paul Williams while accepting the Album of the Year Grammy on behalf of Daft Punk, the French electronic duo who wear robot helmets and don’t speak in public. Viewers of the 56th annual Grammy Award show could likely identify with Williams’ sense of the surreal, watching the event’s eclectic mishmash of unlikely collaborations.
One such pairing was Metallica performing with classical pianist Lang Lang, whose virtuosic runs both clashed with and complemented the electric guitars while stage fire raced behind him. Another unexpected moment came from the pairing of explicit rapper Kendrick Lamar with the clean-cut rock band Imagine Dragons, who won Best Rock Performance for their song “Radioactive.” Driven by pounding Japanese-style Kodo drums, amid a veil of smoke and frenzied strobe lights, Lamar and Imagine Dragons delivered an explosive performance that drew the crowd to its feet.
Katy Perry might not have won a Grammy this year but she certainly would have won the award for “Creepiest Performance” of the show, had it had such a category. Perry appeared in full witch attire amongst gnarled trees to perform her song “Dark Horse,” in which she warns a would-be lover, “So you want to play with magic / You should know what you’re falling for.” Duet partner Juicy J. expanded on the danger of falling in love with Perry: “She’s a beast / I call her Karma / She eats your heart out like Jeffrey Dahmer.” The performance ended with Perry appearing to be burned at a stake while her chest was lit up in the shape of a cross.
The quest for love predictably dominated this year’s Grammy’s, though the definition of love was a bit foggy. Kacey Musgraves, who took the Grammy for Best Country Album as well as Best Country Song, laid out simple relationship rules in her performance of “Follow your arrow”: “Make lots of noise / Kiss lots of boys / Or kiss lots girls if that’s something you’re into.”
The big “love story” of the night, however, occurred in conjunction with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ performance of their gay rights anthem “Same Love.” The song harangues “right wing conservatives” who “paraphrase a book written thirty-five hundred years ago.” The show producers pulled out all the stops for the performance, including a full choir, and filled the jumbo monitors with images of stained glass. At the song’s conclusion, Queen Latifah, a certified minister in California, officiated a brief wedding service for 33 couples—some gay and some straight. The ceremony concluded with rousing applause and tear-streaked faces. It capped off a big night for the rap duo who won a total of four Grammys, including Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Album, and Best Rap Song.
Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr reunited to perform McCartney’s new song, “Queenie Eye,” their first public performance since 2009. McCartney also won Best Rock Song for his work on “Cut Me Some Slack” with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl.
Rapper Jay-Z provided one of the few family-friendly moments after winning Best Rap Collaboration (with Justin Timberlake). He thanked God for his wife (Beyoncé) and dedicated the Grammy to his daughter, Blue, proclaiming: “Daddy just got a gold sippy cup for you!”
Listen to a John Stonestreet commentary on Grammy Awards on The World and Everything in It: