Home Career Hip Hop, Beyoncé Can’t Save Grammys 2023 From Failing Finals

Hip Hop, Beyoncé Can’t Save Grammys 2023 From Failing Finals


Fifty years of hip-hop, Beyoncé’s record-breaking run and mass scorn kept the 65th Grammy Awards from turning music’s biggest night into its sleepiest during Sunday’s show at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.

Despite performances from some of pop’s brightest acts, the energy and excitement were in short supply during the more than three-hour show, which aired live on CBS and was broadcast on Paramount+. The event marked the return of the Grammys to Los Angeles after a stint in Las Vegas last year and an intimate, shortened production in 2021 due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bringing the awards ceremony back to downtown Los Angeles, in a big venue and with a star-studded audience, was supposed to be a departure. A joyous event where freedom, finally, the opportunity to watch music together in a concert setting, was celebrated with a lively, inventive and well-organized production.

Instead, the night reverted to the usual throwback of the Grammys of yore, where big, clunky sets, overwhelming sound, clunky production, and too much padding were the norm. Ironically, it was the shortened 2021 Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center that signaled that the awards show could be moving in a fresh new direction.

Mid-pandemic, nominees sat at tables on an outdoor veranda overlooking the event’s previous home, the Staples Center (since renamed the Crypto-com Arena). Over-the-top dance numbers and an arena filled with half-assed audience members were not an option, and we learned that such an intimate setting was for the best. It was the best celebration organized by the Recording Academy in recent times.

This year, organizers brought back former “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, which was a smart move. He’s a great choice given his improv experience, improvised humor and great love for popular music and hit artists.

But even Noah struggled to turn life into a flat show on Sunday. His dialogue between awards and speeches seemed wooden and rehearsed, peppered with the usual scripted story about “the power of music” and “music bringing people together” in difficult times. Stars such as Taylor Swift and Rihanna sat at tables near the stage, a stage that featured stragglers filing in front of Noah looking for their seats and the spectacle of people talking during his introduction.

Sets from the usually flamboyant Bad Bunny, Lizzo and Harry Styles were muted, their momentum punctuated by drowsy, taped fan roundtable interludes. They argued about which of their favorite artists should win, and it was like watching social media, but less exciting.

A big boost came from the ceremony, a tribute to 50 years of hip-hop curated by Ahmir Halib “Questlove” Thompson, which featured rappers from different generations on the same stage. Run-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, Ice-T, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Method Man and Missy Elliott and Rakim were among the hip-hop luminaries and boundary-breakers who performed segments of their hits from various eras of the genre.

Another highlight of the night was Beyoncé breaking the record for most Grammy wins in history when she won for Best Dance/Electronic Album. It was the moment everyone seemed to be waiting for, but hopes that she would finally take home the album of the year award were dashed; it went to Styles. It was the billionth time the Grammys turned her down for the top award.

Beyond those moments, there was more tension and drama on the Ticketmaster site, where Beyoncé fans were hanging in suspense on the waiting list for the Renaissance tour. The commercial for Chex Mix, featuring Sir Mix-A-Lot, also proved to be more intense than the run of the show.

Madonna acknowledged the low energy in the place — “Come on, people. Let’s make some noise. You’re all going to sleep here,” as she took the stage to introduce Sam Smith and Kim Petros’ edgy “Unholy.” They won the award for Pop Duo/Group Performance. Other winners include Styles for Best Pop Vocal Album for “Harry’s House,” Beyoncé for Best R&B Song for “Cuff It” and Kendrick Lamar for Rap Album with “Mr. Morale and big steps.” The Face won Record of the Year with “About Damn Time,” while Bonnie Raitt won Song of the Year, announced by First Lady Jill Biden, for her number “Just Like That.” Jay-Z’s dynamic performance closed out the show, but the opportunity for fireworks didn’t pass.

While live television is risky and challenging, it can also provide unexpected moments where pop and hip-hop thrive. Those adorable mistakes were few and far between on Sunday, except for the number of people who were delayed by Los Angeles traffic, including Beyoncé.

After three years of uncertainty, the Grammys played it too safe, resulting in the show’s biggest failure yet.

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