By Michael O'Connell Posted February 9, 2009, 1:03 PM EST
The Grammys returned last night with another attempt to battle flagging record sales and lack of interest in the show. An abundance of both well-received and odd performances, the apparent dearth of actual awards, and backstage drama are all dominating today's media rundown of music's biggest night.
The New York Times seemed surprised by the show's raucous tone, noting that the 45 percent decline in album sales in the last decade might be expected to put the Grammys in a more plaintive state, but “the biggest annual televised event in music and crucial promotion for the record companies struck a celebratory tone.”
Yet that celebration wasn't so much for the winners. The record number of performances dominated the night, and The Los Angeles Times went as far as to say that “trophy winners were shoved aside to make room for more and more music.” The Washington Post called the move “a cross between an all-star hootenanny and a desperate Hail Mary.”
Stage production hasn't been commonplace at the show in recent years, but Katy Perry managed to pull off the night's most lavish set. The singer descended to the stage in a giant banana-shaped elevator, which charmed, at the very least, Variety. The trade rag wrote that “Katy Perry's bubblegum erotica was showcased charmingly in an 'Alice in Wonderland' take on 'I Kissed a Girl.'”
Variety critic David Sprague was also impressed with some of the “impromptu” performances from presenters. “Producers largely shied away from the customary fish-out-of-water presenter pairings,” he wrote, “instead bringing together duos with palpable connections—like [Al] Green and Duffy, who engaged each other with an affable if off-key impromptu duet on 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.'”
Perhaps the biggest news of all to come out of last night's show was about the performance that didn't happen: Rhianna and Chris Brown pulled out of their key performances after an alleged domestic dispute, which found Brown in jail on Sunday. Producers filled the gap with a last-minute rendition of “Let's Stay Together” featuring Al Green, Justin Timberlake, Keith Urban, and Boys II Men, and the decision to completely ignore the drama. Another Los Angeles Times piece reported that the incident “became a sizzling topic on the red carpet and during commercial breaks, although for viewers watching the CBS broadcast the cancellation was not mentioned."