Maybe it was all the Daft Punk disco energy in the air, but this year's Grammy crowd was its most spirited in years.
Whether it was Keith Urban getting teary during Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" marriage ceremony or Taylor Swift freaking at out at Kendrick Lamar's drum circle with Imagine Dragons, what's usually a semi-formal ceremony turned into an actual dance party inside Staples Center.
In the front rows, Jay Z and Beyonce acted as a kind of litmus test for the night's sets — if they got to their feet, you did your work. Jay rapped along to every word (subbing the bawdy originals for the TV alterations) of Lamar's portion of "m.A.A.d. city" with Imagine Dragons, the show's most unexpectedly rousing set. That collaboration (which is up as an official remix now) got the whole room to its feet in alms to Lamar — a nice consolation prize for missing out in the big rap categories to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Jay gave some priceless reaction shots to the Willie Nelson-Kris Kristofferson-Merle Haggard-Blake Shelton teamup (outlaws recognize other outlaws, it seems). He even managed to forgive Jamie Foxx for his shoutout to Beyonce's sexy pregnancy — possibly because Foxx's demeanor was convincing when he said there were strong herbal supplements backstage.
Across the floor, Swift stole the show in-house with some uninhibited hair tossing and hip-swaying during the Highwaymen medley and, well, just about everything. Everything, that is, except Kacey Musgraves' sleeper-pick win for best country album, which got some conspicuously polite Swiftian clapping and smiles. It was a nice win for Musgraves, whose low-key take on "Follow Your Arrow" had the misfortune of following Lamar and Imagine Dragons.
Kristofferson got the night's best off-camera aside, though, when he grabbed his own wavy locks right at Haggard's line about "We don't let our hair grow long and shaggy/ like the hippies out in San Francisco do" and mouthed "I do!"
Other unanticipated Staples crowdpleasers? Katy Perry doing her best Nordic-satanist routine with the equally evil Juicy J (has she been watching the Knife lately?); Beyonce cracking up at her "surfboard" phallic metaphor during the opener "Drunk In Love"; Carole King and Sara Bareilles going toe-to-toe with nothing but a couple of pianos between them.
A lot of people wondered where the heck Bareilles' album of the year nomination for "The Blessed Unrest" came from. Now they might have to go back and listen again, because one of pop music's finest writers absolutely validated her onstage.
One artist not so pleased with how the telecast went off? Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, who had profane words for the Grammys when his serrated set with Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsay Buckingham got cut off early to go to a commercial.
As expected, it was Beatles-family love-in for much of the night, with the in-house cameras turning often to Paul, Ringo, Yoko and (especially) Sean Lennon with his comely girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl. And as expected, the ministerial powers of Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Queen Latifah managed to turn what might have been a pandering moment into something genuinely tearjerking — just ask Keith Urban, whom the camera caught midsob-of-happiness right at the big finish.
But even Liverpudlian legends didn't get the same in-room raves that accompanied Lorde's several big wins. While inexplicably shut out of a best new artist win (who could possibly have been better or newer?), her song of the year nod and perfectly icy performance of "Royals" got the industry crowd to its feet. It's easy to root for a hit, but the acclaim for Ella Yelich-O'Connor seemed deeper — this crowd knew that the future of pop music will be young, female, digital and searingly savvy. Her endearing acceptance-speech nervousness only helped seal the goodwill.
The clear stars of the room, however, didn't show their faces once. The robots of Daft Punk (who go by Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo under their helmets) were the perfect antidote to all the camera-mugging. Alternately dressed in perfectly dapper black and white tuxes, their obsidian face shields did the hardest job of stardom — reflect energy back onto the songs and collaborators. Even a fritzy microphone on Stevie Wonder couldn't mute the enthusiasm for their era-spanning set, which veered from vocals via producer of the year Pharrell Williams on "Get Lucky" and dipped into incandescent '70s tunes by Wonder and Rodgers.
Their big wins validated a pet Pop & Hiss theory that, by recruiting pretty much every great L.A. session pro to play or work on their record, they earned serious points with a big swath of the Grammy voting population. As evident by the huge crowd onstage for their album of the year win — Nile Rodgers, Paul Williams, Giorgio Moroder, Todd Edwards and the whole engineering team among them — their award was a win for the old ways of making music. Namely: with friends, in a room, playing together and sounding great.
How ironic that it took a leading light of EDM to remind us of that. But somewhere Sunday night, probably just a few blocks from the great Hollywood rooms whgere Daft Punk cut its album of the year, a couple of robots are popping a ton of champagne and getting everyone dancing. It's deserved.