HITS Daily Double


ALL THE MONEY WAS ON THE SCREEN: Industryites agree: The Grammy show was, by and large, excellent TV. The staging, production and organization of Music’s Biggest Night was stellar and filled with outstanding performances. And it was obvious from those performances that the artists had significant input into how they would be presented. The energy onstage was palpable.

There was real depth and creativity to the staging. Olivia Rodrigo’s segment was vulnerable and intimate; Billie Eilish exuded a joyous intensity that recalled the rock greats of yore; Chris Stapleton channeled classic rock, blues and R&B and showcased one of the most powerful voices in contemporary music; Justin Bieber practically defied gravity while delivering the irresistible “Peaches” (despite some audio interference, about which more later); Lil Nas X was typically kinetic and boundary-pushing; Silk Sonic was pure old-school fun with style to burn; J Balvin and Maria Becerra were electric; BTS blew the roof off with their inimitable chemistry (and choreography); Lady Gaga knocked her Cole Porter material out of the park in tribute to the ailing Tony Bennett; Jon Batiste blended old-school soul and pop for a kicky, whimsical foray; and H.E.R. brought more rock theatrics, trading fiery guitar licks with Lenny Kravitz.

It was also obvious from the superb production values that this was a skillfully wrought, big-budget undertaking, quite distinct from the cheese-factory awards shows pumped out by the Billboard conglomerate. Many of the same acts appear on all these shows, but their performances were orders of magnitude more impressive on the Grammys.

There were plenty of other terrific moments and an esprit de corps that felt like a corrective to the discord and tension of the Oscars. That seemed particularly true given the authentic, intimate shots of artists in the audience enjoying and cheering one another’s work—and even helping to lift a train where needed.

There were glitches, to be sure. It’s a shame CBS censors mucked with Bieber’s audio, even though he jetted to the show after playing a tour stop in Pittsburgh the night before. Quickly becoming one of the biggest international live acts on the scene, the Biebs deserved better.

Another issue was the under-representation of hip-hop on the show; apart from a segment devoted to veteran Nas (whose breakthrough album came out in 1994), there was no straight-ahead rap on the show. This can be attributed in large part to the fact that the Recording Academy has disrespected and alienated so many top artists in the genre. Such politics make the already challenging jobs of the producers that much more complicated.

Much credit goes to Messrs. Sussman, Kapoor, Winston, Collins, Hamilton and teams for putting together a state-of-the-art Grammy night that flowed exceptionally well and displayed top artists in the best possible light. The telecast team has earned much love across the biz for once again mounting a truly engaging, high-energy show.

The unfortunate reality is that ratings for the Grammys will never be huge again if they continue to showcase pop culture, which is defined today by the streaming ecosystem. As we’ve noted many times before, the young, streaming-mad audience that drives the Olivias and Billies and Lil Everybodys up the charts simply don’t watch broadcast TV.

SECRET’S OUT: Of course a great show doesn’t fix what’s wrong with the Grammys as an institution. We have inveighed at length against the dysfunction and double-dealing at the heart of the Recording Academy, which continues to function without any real accountability, let alone the transparency long promised by Harvey Mason Jr.

As one insider put it, “When an organization doesn’t have real leadership and is controlled by a committee, it’s virtually impossible to get anything done.” And when that committee is an all-powerful secret cabal, the members of which trade favors to advance their own agendas, what you get is a system of patronage. The lifers in Grammyland are not in the swim of culture or the marketplace, and this is reflected everywhere.

Virtually no one in the biz believes that voting by the membership determines the awards anymore. Clearly, a group of ultimate insiders sits around (presumably in the secret “big room”) to determine who will be chosen based on the aforementioned agendas.

Most industry people feel HMJ has done a good job of creating change in terms of diversity and expanded membership. But he’s been unable to wrest control of the awards process from the inner circle.

The fact is that this group of horse-trading Academy B-listers has made a mockery of the Grammys, much to the consternation of the larger industry. It’s unlikely the Academy will recover from this, particularly as the situation appears to be worsening. There’s no question that Batiste is exceptionally talented and very well liked, but giving him Best Album was a middle finger to the new mainstream, a clear signal that the cabal doesn’t give a shit what the great mass of music fans think. The 9m or so people who saw the show were evidently not impressed either—Batiste’s album isn’t in the Top 200 at Spotify nor the Top 100 at Apple Music. The ecosystem has spoken.