Grammy nominations highlights: No trophies, but lots of buzz

The now-annual Grammy nomination CBS special is the award-show that isn't. No trophies are handed out, but it plays as a 60-minute teaser for what the Grammys will have to come Jan. 26 when the actual awards take place at the Staples Center. Still, it's not without some award-show-like moments. Here are a few standouts.  

Where's Drake? Neil Portnow seemed puzzled by Drake's eleventh-hour dropout from the lineup and admitted he didn't know what happened. "Artists and their careers, things change.... They had some changes with plans and schedules. It was one of those things that was last-minute. But everybody is big boys and girls and everything was amicable."


Past and present: The Grammy Awards, nominally speaking, are a time for drawing connections between pop's past and present. That was evident Friday when country star Keith Urban and soulful local crooner Miguel gave a rendition of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," a heart-stinging number that deals with loss. The mood stayed dour through the mid-section of the telecast, with LL Cool J giving a brief tribute to Nelson Mandela. "May this brave man rest in peace," said LL Cool J.

Directions instantly shifted when chart favorite Katy Perry appeared on camera via satellite feed from Canada. She performed her hit "Roar," but with a rather lengthy preamble, introducing the song by saying she hopes it gives you the "self-strength you need." Then Perry, in glitter, roared. The song doesn't really do much else, as it's all chorus. If there was a Grammy for best cheerleading anthem, it's "Roar." But alas, there's not.

Tough act to follow: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis called their seven nods mind-blowing, but the pair aren't in a rush to quickly follow-up their Grammy-nominated album, "The Heist."

"There's a lot of pressure, but as an artist you control how much you tap into that pressure," Macklemore said when asked about how the nominations raised the stakes. "I think the biggest mistake a lot of artists make is they feel like they need to immediately remain relevant and push out the first music that comes, and I need to live a little bit of life."

A 'royal' showing: The just-turned-17 Lorde performed her sarcastic takedown of popular culture in "Royals," a live performance that was even more stripped down than the song is on record. Much of the first 30-or-so seconds was essentially a cappella. For a would-be pop star, performing a song that was little more than spacious beats and dead-angry vocals could be considered a brave move. The fact that it mocks much of what the Grammy-nominated pop songs celebrate — excess drink, fancy cars, lots of money — made it feel like something even better: Important.

Some bold "lines": Best moment of the night? That goes to Earth, Wind & Fire bassist Verdine White, who was asked about the elephant in the room: Did the soul legend think Robin Thicke ripped off Marvin Gaye for his Grammy-nominated hit "Blurred Lines" (a song currently at the center of a bitter suit between the composers and Gaye's family)? "No I don't," White said. "Actually, if you listen to the song, they are in a different key."