Other head-scratchers included the still-disbanded Led Zeppelin winning the rock album award with "Celebration Day," a live recording of a one-off 2007 reunion gig, and best rock song honors, which went to a similarly inessential tune by
But if many of Sunday's winners adhered all too predictably to Grammy protocol — in which the old-fashioned always trumps new — the all-star concert that surrounded them somehow managed to feel like a reasonable representation of pop music in 2014.
Beyoncé set the bar high with a bold opening performance that was more stripped-down — and far sexier — than the spectacle-hungry Grammys typically lead with. Obscured by fog, the singer moaned her way through "Drunk in Love" (from December's surprise-release "Beyoncé" album) as she writhed on a chair "Flashdance"-style. Halfway through the song, her husband, Jay Z, joined her for his verse — a raunchy, realistic vision of married romance.
Lorde went similarly stark for "Royals," the deadpan electro-pop cut rightfully named song of the year. The teenage New Zealander has made an appealing habit lately of jolting awards shows with her seriousness of purpose, and here she did it again, thrillingly stretching out the negative space in a tune about feeling disconnected from the ambition and glamour enshrined in so many pop hits.
Other strong performances came from
Even the night's ballyhooed collaborations — what the Recording Academy calls "Grammy moments" — fared better than usual. An unwieldy seeming supergroup comprising Dave Grohl, Lindsey Buckingham and members of Nine Inch Nails and
Not every performance was as successful. Keith Urban and
The production also sagged under too many wan piano ballads by the likes of John Legend and Hunter Hayes. True to her nature as a disrupter,
And then there was "Same Love," perhaps the most hyped segment of the show, for which Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were joined not just by Madonna and Queen Latifah but by 33 couples who'd agreed to wed inside Staples Center as the duo played its hit song about the struggle for marriage equality.
Parts of the performance were irrefutably moving. Yet the presentation felt also like it had been designed to quell criticism of the group's polarizing presence. Macklemore failed on that count, but just give him time. The Grammys are sure to have him back.