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Contained in the Grammys’ Surreal Vegas Experiment

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The doorway of the MGM Grand Backyard Area is surrounded by a maze of slot machines, roulette tables, and cocktail lounges. Like moths to a flame, vacationers flock to the flashing lights of video poker machines year-round, with hopes of putting it wealthy.

As “jackpot” indicators flash overhead and ​​“cha-ching!” sounds fill the air, I’ll admit it’s straightforward to get caught up within the pleasure. Each sq. inch of the constructing has been strategically set as much as stimulate guests, protecting them on the on line casino flooring for so long as doable. By design, even when you’ve already misplaced 1000’s of {dollars}, you’re pushed ahead by a misguided sense of optimism that your luck will flip round when you simply place one extra wager.

On Sunday evening, the MGM Grand was residence to an occasion that equally lures us in with shiny lights and lavish pageantry annually. It’s an occasion that continues to churn up annual pleasure, regardless of its historical past of disappointment and unfulfilled potential. For the primary time in historical past, the Grammy Awards got here to Las Vegas. 

The sixty fourth Annual Grammy Awards have been initially scheduled to happen on Jan. 31, 2022, on the Area in Los Angeles, earlier than being rescheduled and relocated attributable to COVID-19 issues. Due to the last-minute change of plans, the awards present and all of the accompanying Grammys weekend events have been thrown collectively in a fraction of the time they often are.

In some situations, the trade’s get together planners rose to the event. Occasions like Warner Music Group’s Sunday evening get together on the Nomad and Gray Goose’s Sound Periods get together with Tinashe made intelligent use of their Vegas environment. Dwelling as much as the hype of the weekend, these have been lavish get-togethers that celebrated their artists, executives, and friends in fashion. At Atlantic Data’ Silk Sonic get together on Saturday evening, Questlove pulled off a celebratory DJ set that stored going till lengthy after midnight, residing as much as each idyllic expectation you would probably have for an extravagant Grammys occasion. Should you ended up at any of those events, the takeaway was clear: main labels are thriving once more (financially) and there’s so much to have a good time. 

There have been different moments, although, the place the collision of the Grammys and Las Vegas tradition was far much less seamless. On the Spotify Greatest New Artist get together, Grammys friends shared an area with 1000’s of Vegas revelers on the Encore Seaside Membership, making a hilarious scenario the place a skinny velvet rope was all that separated suit-wearing executives at a “Grammys brunch” from swimwear-clad school children getting drunk within the pool. There’s nothing that claims “Grammys weekend in Vegas” fairly like middle-aged trade varieties trying to community whereas shirtless partiers of their 20s fistbump to David Guetta remixes just some ft away.

On Sunday night on the principal occasion, the negative effects of last-minute planning have been additionally obvious. A scarcity of clear signage, coupled with employees members giving conflicting instructions, created a chaotic scenario the place friends wandered across the MGM premises till arriving on the similar choke level. Confronted with lots of of offended attendees who had simply been denied entry to the crimson carpet, one bewildered employees member apologized and identified that is is the form of factor that occurs when an enormous occasion is thrown collectively in a rush.

Regardless of the chaos, the Backyard Area did refill in time for the 5 p.m. ceremony, and those that made it to their seats have been handled to a surreal expertise. The Grammys is a made-for-TV occasion, and the entire thing is designed with cameras in thoughts, so every time the present resumes from business break, it’s like a recreation of “The place’s Waldo?” as you attempt to determine which nook of the world that host Trevor Noah has emerged from. In the meantime, a booming voice calls for viewers members to clap and cheer, seconds earlier than every section begins. 

As I watched the Grammys from residence all my life, one thing concerning the glitzy ceremony by no means appeared like a tangible occasion that really existed in the actual world, and whilst I sat within the enviornment and watched with my very own two eyes, the sensation oddly persevered. 

It’s all value it, although, to see issues that don’t find yourself getting captured by the tv cameras, like Lil Nas X playfully waving at performers throughout their songs and Doja Cat sprinting throughout the world flooring to simply accept her award after a poorly timed toilet break. Throughout business breaks, most of the movie star friends seated on the entrance of the stage rise up and begin speaking with one another, resulting in world-colliding moments we often don’t get to see in public (this yr, it appeared like everybody wished to fulfill Jack Harlow).

For as chaotic and over-the-top as this yr’s Grammys events have been, the ceremony itself was comparatively uninteresting. Within the wake of Will Smith’s slap-heard-round-the-world on the Oscars, there was an absence of sudden moments, and the complete run-of-show appeared to be guided by a “let’s play it secure” philosophy. Outdoors of a pair exceptions, like Billie Eilish’s full of life rendition of “Happier Than Ever,” the performances have been largely forgettable (and infrequently awkward, like Woman Gaga’s Tony Bennett tribute and John Legend’s “prayer for peace,” which felt like a pressured try and create a *Grammys second*).

Watching acts like Silk Sonic and Jon Batiste rule the evening, it grew to become apparent the place the priorities of the Academy stand proper now. Artists who faucet into nostalgia and traditionalism are rewarded with probably the most enthusiasm throughout the televised portion of the evening, which is a disgrace contemplating how revolutionary and forward-thinking the remainder of the music trade really is true now. A mirrored image of the instances, the Grammys isn’t. The truth that Jon Batiste received Greatest Album, in a yr that was dominated by artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Doja Cat, Tyler, the Ceator, and Kanye West, is a transparent indicator that the Academy doesn’t have a lot curiosity in rewarding the musicians who’re really shifting the individuals.

A lot of the performances, particularly within the center part of the present, have been completely inoffensive, but additionally devoid of originality or something significantly memorable. The present appeared to take cues from the stiff pageantry of traditionalist Las Vegas residencies, retrofitting itself to its new host metropolis. (My favourite tweet about this yr’s Grammys merely stated, “It’s giving theater child.”) In the midst of Sin Metropolis, there was a noticeable lack of soul.

As Complicated has identified repeatedly, the Academy has traditionally misunderstood Black music, and there have been extra embarrassing moments on Sunday evening, together with the late Virgil Abloh’s legacy being lowered to “hip-hop dressmaker,” SOJA successful Greatest Reggae Album, and the obvious omission of Drakeo the Ruler throughout the in-memoriam part.

There have been some notable moments the place the Grammys acquired it proper, although, giving us a shred of hope that they’ll determine all of it out sometime. For one, Child Keem took residence a well-deserved Grammy for Greatest Rap Efficiency in his hometown. In actual fact, the entire rap awards have been fairly spot-on, together with Tyler, the Creator’s Greatest Rap Album win. For the second Grammys in a row, the rap classes have been noticeably improved from years previous.

Doja Cat and SZA’s win for Greatest Pop Duo Efficiency was one other spotlight. Not solely was “Kiss Me Extra” clearly your best option out of the nominations, Doja’s acceptance speech was a refreshingly human (and unpredictable) second. After making a joke about how she’s by no means taken “such a quick piss” in her complete life, the gravity of the evening settled in and she or he acquired choked up. By way of tears, she stated, “I prefer to downplay a number of shit, however it is a huge deal.”

It’s true. Regardless of all the failings, the Grammys proceed to carry relevance. Within the music trade, there’s worth in bringing everybody collectively and celebrating the yr’s largest and greatest accomplishments. Within the on-demand period of the web, tradition has grow to be extra fractured, and there are much less moments the place everybody really will get collectively and focuses on one factor on the similar time, just like the Grammys. There’s a purpose why artists like Tyler, the Creator dreamed of successful Grammys as a toddler, and why Doja Cat acquired so choked up throughout her acceptance speech. These musicians dedicate their lives to the artwork, they usually deserve an evening stuffed with recognition on the highest degree. 

As a result of there’s a lot potential behind the idea of the Grammys, although, it leaves us much more disillusioned at any time when they fall quick. In concept, the annual occasion is in place to replicate the perfect that the music world has to supply. However in actuality, it typically finally ends up feeling extra just like the duplicate Statue of Liberty on the Vegas Strip—it’s spectacular and glamorous from a distance, however you’ll discover one thing isn’t fairly proper as you get nearer.

As I walked via a maze of gamblers on the way in which again to my lodge on Sunday evening, I noticed a person in his 60s, seated at a Wheel of Fortune slot machine. Bleary-eyed, he stored slapping the “repeat wager” button, again and again. Watching him proceed to chase the glamorous excessive of untapped potential, regardless of the hole and superficial actuality of his environment, I couldn’t assist however take into consideration all of the years that the Grammys have simply missed the mark, just for us to return annually. However hey, at the least it’s an excellent place to get together.


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