"Each name lives up to the adjective he or she deserves."
That’s the back-slapping tautology
On Saturday night,
The result is an insider's hang infinitely looser than the actual Grammys. But as Davis' typically overblown shout-out suggests, the party also boasts a nearly comic degree of self-congratulation, and Saturday that vibe inspired a range of attitudes onstage.
For Richie, it was something to savor. Coasting effortlessly through "Easy" and "All Night Long," the pop-soul veteran came on like a convincing tribute to his own good cheer, as though he had no more natural habitat than a Beverly Hills ballroom filled with powerful people.
Ditto Robin Thicke, who performed his 2013 smash "Blurred Lines" with a casual exuberance that gave no sense that he'd been worrying about his lack of a sticky follow-up. Listeners' tastes may be fickle, but here he was in the company of friends.
Doing a greatest-hits medley with help from
Lorde also took an implicit shot at the Hollywood crowd in "Royals," her stark denunciation of pop-star aspiration. But if any of the fantasy-mongers in attendance felt slighted, they didn't show it in their enthusiastic response.
Not so with Cyrus, whose stab at wild-child confrontation in the frisky "#GETITRIGHT" -- by far the raciest number performed Saturday night -- landed with a thud that even the singer could hear.
"I hope y'all are doing better than you look," she said with a welcome splash of impertinence, then added that her next song was one the audience might enjoy more: a relatively conservative take on "Jolene" by Dolly Parton. Cyrus finished her three-song set with "Wrecking Ball," the terrific power ballad absurdly denied even a single Grammy nomination. It drew mild applause here -- a sign that record-industry captains may have grown weary of Cyrus' endless revolt.
You had to assume that was the case, anyway, given their comparatively fevered reaction to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. In their hits "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us," the Seattle rapper and his producer partner were touting their fierce individuality but in a way that felt so safe -- and so aligned with traditional musical values -- as to negate the very spirit of opposition they were describing.
It was the kind of rebellion any corporate honcho could get behind. No wonder they brought the house down.