Grammys 2015 roundup: The awards ceremony was manic and laced with politics

From Sam Smith to Barack Obama: this is what happened last night in LA

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The Independent Culture

If the Baftas is awards season’s most polite ceremony, then the Grammys, which took place several thousand miles away in Los Angeles last night, might just be its most bonkers.

No one cares too deeply about which musician wins a Grammy, besides the winners, the losers and Kanye West. But the spectacle is a superb excuse for snide social media commentary, and the tweeting began early last night, as Rihanna turned up in a pink loofah repurposed as a gown; Sia hid beneath a vast, Fraggle-inspired hairpiece; and Madonna flashed her fishnet-clad buttocks while dressed as a matador – not something you’d catch Dame Judi Dench doing on a red carpet.

In 2012, Adele risked a back injury by carrying a total of six Grammys home to London. Amy Whitehouse trousered five golden gramophones in 2008. This year, British hopes rested on Sam Smith, who walked away with the night’s biggest haul: four awards for Best New Artist; Best Pop Vocal Album, for his debut LP In The Lonely Hour; and a double of Song of the Year and Record of the Year for the smash-hit single “Stay With Me”. “Before I made this record I was doing everything to try get my music to the world,” the 22-year-old said as he accepted his first gong of the evening. “I tried to lose weight and was making awful music. It was only until I started to be myself that the music flowed.”

In other Brit-related developments, James Corden appeared onstage to introduce a performance by Ed Sheeran, ahead of Corden’s debut as the new face of the Late, Late Show on CBS, the network that broadcasts the Grammys in the US.

The biggest bombshell from a ceremony that sorely lacked surprises came when Beck’s acclaimed Morning Phase was named Album of the Year, upsetting front-runners Smith and Beyoncé – and Kanye, who rushed the stage in a near re-run of his 2009 antics (when he interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech to praise Beyoncé), only to think better of it at the last moment.

There was a political thread running through the ceremony. As he prepared to unveil Beck as the Best Album winner, the gnomic Prince mused: “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.” During his minor-key rendition of “Happy”, Pharrell Williams and his dancers posed in the”Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” stance adopted by protesters in Ferguson, New York and cities across the US last year, in the wake of the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

463034410.jpgPharrell performed in a costume that drew comparisons to the bellboy in Wes Anderson’s BAFTA-winning The Grand Budapest Hotel, and there was a further Oscar flavour to the evening, which concluded with a version of the Academy Award-nominated song “Glory”, by John Legend and Common, from the Martin Luther King biopic Selma.

A somber note was struck by the posthumous award for comedian Joan Rivers, who died last year but not before recording Diary of a Diva, which was named Best Spoken Word Album. President Barack Obama also appeared during the ceremony, in a video message urging an end to sexual assaults on college campuses as part of the administration’s “It’s On Us” campaign.

Throughout the evening, old and new acts collaborated (or should that be ‘collided’?): Voice coaches Jessie J and Sir Tom Jones joined forces for an underwhelming take on the Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling”, and there were duets, too, from Hozier and Annie Lennox, Usher and Stevie Wonder, and Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, who won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for their LP, Cheek to Cheek.

One of the most hotly-anticipated performances of the night was the stripped-down single, “FourFive Seconds”, featuring Kanye, Rihanna and Paul McCartney. Yet the evening’s inter-generational love-in was exposed at least partially as a pose when McCartney stood up to clap along to “Mr Blue Sky”, by Jeff Lynne’s ELO, in front of a sea of baffled faces apparently too youthful to remember the Electric Light Orchestra. When he noticed the cameras were on him, McCartney quickly sat down again.