By Len La Rocca
In a year of event cancelations, the 63rd Grammy Awards gave new meaning to ‘the show must go on.’
Despite a postponement from Jan. 31 to March 14, a move to an outside view of the Staples Center and the diminished glamour typical of the ceremony, this night, refreshingly for many, was centered around the artists.
“They’ll probably never do it again because they want the live audience, but I loved how they made it about the music,” said music reporter and editor at NJ.com Bobby Olivier.
The new-look Grammys featured intimate, yet socially distanced sets reminiscent of the stage layout used in the U.K.’s hit music show “Later… With Jools Holland.”
Harry Styles, Billie Eilish, Black Pumas and HAIM kicked the night off performing “Watermelon Sugar,” “Everything I wanted,” “Colors” and “The Steps,” respectively while watching and supporting their fellow artist from their sets.
The small-scale production allowed for viewers to indulge in the sound rather than be blinded by the bright lights of an award show.
“It felt more musical, festival-esque than anything, though, which might not have been in line with the origins of the ceremony, but I believe it was fitting for a musical event mid-pandemic where people have been deprived of live shows and performances,” said Debra Kate Schafer, an entertainment reporter for Music Daily and a senior journalism major.
Described in the Los Angeles Times as “the best Grammys in memory,” the event gained momentum from the small-scale openings where the life of the performance was entirely in the hands of the musicians.
The segway from small, intimate sets into a night of full-length displays featuring dynamic aesthetics, ambient settings and all-out celebrations presented a sonic timeline for what life has in store as the world slowly returns to normal.
Nevertheless, the present moment was palpabile for those watching from the homes they’ve come to know all too well. The demand for live music that generates an experience couldn’t be greater.
“I think people were just excited to see their favorite artists in a live setting that wasn’t so isolated and artificial as all those months of live-streams,” Olivier said. ”They were excited to see big sets, big performances and big energy.”
Performances like Taylor Swift performing songs off her Album of The Year-winning record “Folklore” atop a mossy, woodland cabin transported viewers into the world she created in her recent era.
Creative control allowed Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak to introduce Silk Sonic in a starry night sky befitting their smooth, elated sound of R&B.
It was a night not only to be remembered, but to celebrate those in memoriam like rock and roll legend Little Richard who passed away last May.
“I adored Bruno Mars’ performances, both as Silk Sonic and his tribute to Little Richard,” Schafer said. “Both had an air of nostalgia that definitely resonated with much of the audience because it reminded fans of a period of time where the world was much simpler and more ‘peace and love.’”
For just an evening, many who tuned in were pleasantly surprised in a time riddled by unpleasant expectations.
“In regard to returning to normal, the Grammys proved that full-scale musical productions are still viable entertainment options,” Schafer said. “The means and methods of watching them might remain abnormal, but the entertainment factor is still there for both the artists and the audience.”
Despite the atypical approach of the 63rd Grammy Awards, music lovers rejoiced in the format: a reaction that has potential to shift the culture of the award show often remiss of critical acclaim.
“It was one of the best Grammys I’ve ever seen,” Olivier said, “but I think it will be remembered as the year they were forced to do something new and came away with a great ceremony and hopefully some lessons learned for the future.”