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All Alone in the Moonlight: The Muddled Memory-Making of the 2011 Grammy Awards

The Muddled Memory-Making of the 2011 Grammys

February 13th, 2011

Tonight, the Grammy Awards opened with an extended retrospective. As a collection of contemporary female vocalists paid tribute to the music of Aretha Franklin, it established that this was a night to reflect on Grammy history. It was a narrative picked up by Miranda Lambert’s performance of “The House That Built Me” later in the show, which she dedicated to those performers who came before (and who appeared on the screens behind her in a nostalgia-tinged multimedia component), and cemented with a “rare performance” from Barbra Streisand and Mick Jagger’s first ever Grammy performance.

However, earlier in the show, Lady Gaga took to the stage to perform her brand new single, “Born this Way.” Although one could claim that this too is a bit of history, given that the song borrows liberally from Madonna’s “Express Yourself,” the song premiered only last week. In another performance, a trio of young performers (Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, and B.O.B.) were introduced by Ryan Seacrest as being the next generation of Grammy legends, albeit in a performance which had a definite tinge of nostalgia given Bruno Mars’ black-and-white, Jackson Five throwback performance of “Grenade.”

It’s no secret that the Grammys have long ago stopped being an “awards show,” having transitioned into a concert event so blatantly that everyone noticed (if you’ll forgive me the inversion of a classic Simpsons line). However, during tonight’s show (and especially given the few hours I spent half watching the non-televised portion of the awards online), I realized the degree to which this shift has seemingly been designed to disguise the fact that the Grammys, more than any other awards show, utterly fails at capturing the last year in its respective medium.

And how, despite some unquestionable success at making the show “memorable,” it sort of confounds the notion of memory altogether.

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And the Winner is…The 2008 Golden Globe Awards LiveBlog

9:00pm: Welcome to the “Golden Globes Winners Special,” which is just a terrible name for this thing. Also of note: someone from NBC is in Nova Scotia (I, for the record, am also in Nova Scotia), which means that nominee Ellen Page is most certainly winning this evening. That’s good to know.

9:01pm: A seriously melodramatic opening here which leads to…the tackiest set ever with Access Hollywood setpieces. That’s…ugly.

9:03pm: It’s now time for analysis straight from the morning talk shows, as the cast of Access Hollywood begin with the nominees for Best Supporting Actress. And, wow, these graphics are awful. It’s Blanchett, Roberts, Ronan (Atonement), Ryan, Swinton – it’s Ryan or Blanchett in this case, methinks.

And the winner is…Cate Blanchett for I’m Not There, a strong precursor for her when she struggled in the critics’ prizes.

9:04pm: Billy Bush just totally said that Cate Blanchett can’t win for playing a man – this commentary is ridiculous. And now Television Supporting Actor, which gets no time for me to write down each candidate. And the winner is…

Jeremy Piven for Entourage? Frak, people, stop giving him awards: I love Piven, I really do, but this is getting ridiculous. Dillon is more noteworthy, and for that matter so is Ted Danson. People need to stop doing it, immediately.

9:06pm: Oh wow, I can’t type this fast: Lead Actress – Drama. Arquette, Close, Driver, Falco, Field, Hunter, Sedgwick. Who’s going to take this one home: it’s Glenn Close for Damages, which is somewhat surprising in a tough category. And we get more commentary regarding these people, which is really offputting…yet fascinating.

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