Award Show Season 2013: The Grammy's

Hello out there in Award Show Land, it's time for the Grammys! On Sunday night, I was rocking my jammies (yeah, actual PJs) recovering from an incredibly busy week leading up to one of our favorite SEQ events, The Toy of the Year Awards! (for more on that, check out our portfolio.  So, your self-proclaimed Sofa Show Producer was feeling her most judgmental. (Psst: Read my review of Beyonce's Super Bowl halftime show, where I scored her the lowest of the panel. I can be a tough customer)

If you know anything about me from my first entry in this series on the Golden Globes, you know that I always "red carpet" on E!   For anyone interested,  E! has a cool red carpet companion app with tons of special features. The talk of the pre-show was all about new CBS dress code! And check this out... even Ryan Seacrest resorts to his trusty event producer binder! Celebrity planners: They're just like us!  (ha!) I loved this shot of Ryan Seacrest walking in with his event binder, cover page with the Grammy logo. (left)

Full disclosure: I've never actually watched the entire Grammy's broadcast before.  I usually don't even know who half the performers are!  So, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to review the production elements with fresh eyes.  The following is essentially my stream of consciousness as I watched the most risqué and exciting of the award show seasons' soirees:

Up first, Taylor Swift's Cirque Opener:
Looking past how RIDICULOUS this song is (and Taylor's overly-spray-tanned legs), I loved costumes and overall staging of her performance. Was really fun and fresh. Reminded me a lot of the Cirque theme we just employed for the TOTYs, so was nice to see that we were also on the cutting edge!

The Staging
After the first performance was able to get a better idea of the stage design and layout for the show. The way the stage is sectioned into two sides with raising and lowering LED walls (thus, making 2 main stages) for cover is really smart! Also, employing a stage apron (extension) out in front for most of the in-between action was a great way to divert focus in between performances. The satellite stage they used for interstitials in the audience made the flow really interesting. Change of scenery was constant.

The new trend in staging seems to be digital stage design. A bunch of LED panels allows infinite possibilities for looks to match any style of music.  Additional light grid behind the LED panels and filled the space visually to made it look cohesive.  I also liked how they warmed up the look and brought the decor into the HUMUNGOUS Stapes Center by hanging strings of lights above the audience, then onto stage and behind the LED panels.

The Host
LL Cool J was a little wooden at first, and I thought that maybe we were in for a long night. Once he transitioned to his own memories of his Michael Jackson as his "Grammy Moment" it was actually really inspiring and uniting. Thought the scripting worked nicely to set the right mood and brought the somewhat oddly mismatched audience together. Repeating that the night was "our show"was very effective.

Later, and throughout the program, he also did a GREAT job selling to the Twitter audience, calling the show "Hashtag Grammys" and telling us that music was all about communication.  It was nice writing to make that work.

The Graphics
I really loved the red version of the event graphics with the strings of lights, rolling clouds [photo]. I didn't love the same design in the blue/green/purple colors when they used it to back the nominee clips [photo]. The area showing the clips was WAY too small compared to the size of the screen. When the same was used to back the tense moment of all of the nominees waiting to hear the winner, they were also too small and the type looked really weird and squished [photo]. I guess this is to accommodate the SD-TV users out there? They don't deserve nice graphics, Grammys!


Elton John & Ed Sheeran
Their stripped down performance was really interesting and a nice contrast to Taylor's over-the-top opener. Only problem for me was that the audience was weirdly turned around, or we ended up seeing the backs of people's heads in the background of the shot. The placement of the satellite stage was also a little off. Perhaps this was on purpose, or they didn't realize until people were actually in the shot?

Funny Moment:
JLo mentioned the dress code memo, and co-presenter Pit Bull said that she inspired the memo.

"Can we get a better camera shot?" Moment: I did really like the shot of Neil Patrick Harris when he was introducing the FUN. with audience as a backdrop. With people facing the camera, the shot looked much better and made sense. It was nice to see the scale of the room from that vantage point onstage. A unique way to bring the home audience.

I really like the building-block-cityscape behind them with the basic TV fuzz onscreen. They also used groupings of hanging pendant orbs both in the space and onscreen. They came together and formed a raincloud over the band. Then it RAINED!!!!!! I thought this was so unexpected and dramatic. The performance ended with high energy echoed in color changing lights. Was a really cool performance.

Dirks Bentley & Miranda Lambert
Forgettable. The big tree set piece was ok, but felt random. Sound wasn't great on her vocals.
Side note: Odd choice of songs in "Over You". The Voice Season 3 winner Cassadee Pope did it MUCH better.

***I cannot even IMAGINE the hoopla backstage for all these transitions! As soon as the performers exit you see an army of stagehands run in to start the dismantle. It's like a pit crew on a MUCH larger scale!***

Miguel and Wiz Khalifa
Liked the staging of them in the audience and their graphic black and white outfits! AMAZING shot of the two of them in front of the all red stage.

CAUGHT IN THE ACT!  I was really excited when I saw the tree (from the Miranda Lambert performance) SLOWLY lifting out while another performance was going on.  VERY SLOW, but no way to hide that one!
Time Saver alert:  They could have cut literally 30 minutes from the show by getting rid of all the "coming up" before they sent us to commercial.

Mumford and Sons
Really nice staging, all in a row to feature the entire band. Added the extra light piece behind them which was cool, but not over the top.

Justin Timberlake
I thought the JT bandstand stage looked AWESOME! It was really different to broadcast in sepia tone. Was a surprise to see JayZ come from his seat to the stage. Then, the set marquis lifted to show an even bigger band behind it.  Kept the feeling of the era with deco patterns and architecture on the LEDs behind him. One suggestion, he should have used an old-fashioned mic!

At this point, the award just seems extraneous and we're at a kick-ass concert.

Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys
Another really interesting matchup. Used simple but dreamy blue graphics with shooting stars. Their songs worked really nicely as a mash-up. LOVED Alicia playing the drums!!! (check out Faye's recent run-in with Mrs. Keys) I did have some wardrobe malfunction concern with all her "puffy skin" barely covered!

Mikky Ekko & Rihanna
This was a complete departure from the look and feel of the show. The broken stone columns and gray fabric curtain, wasn't flashy at all. Thought that it was a really interesting choice to make herself stand out.

The Black Keys 
Liked that they kept the simple staging with the band and guests, and the awesome black and white gritty chevron graphics onscreen. It fit with their performance and style really nicely.

Kelly Clarkson
Honestly, I wasn't totally clear what she was doing (Lifetime Achievement?), but she sounded great!  Different use of the LEDs with photographs, but they should have kept the title and name onscreen so we knew what was going on!

Bob Marley Tribute
Another super-cool grouping of performers, very unexpected. Loved the BRIGHT colored light poles and matching graphics. And then there was STING! (Was interesting to hear that he was inspired by reggae music, but thinking about it his vocals do have that quality).

"Our introduction to performances are performances" - LL COOL J. Case in point . . .

Mesmerizing. So simple, charming and fun.

Jack White
I thought this was one of the best of the night performance-was. He has great energy onstage. Liked that he brought on an all-woman band, and an all-male band too. Lighting was really bright and energetic to match the costumes and performance.

Hunter Hays
BOR-ING! (*no wonder he didn't win any of the awards he was nominated for)

Carrie Underwood
She again changed the scene, adding a swag curtain and dramatic chandelier to the stage. I was kind underwhelmed, when BOOM! A drawing appeared on her dress. What's going on?!?! Really unexpected use of projection mapping, which was then picked up in the LED screens and made for a really cool scene. The graphics themselves were a little cheesy, she had to stand oddly still in place in order for it to work (even her small sways took her top slightly out of the projection at time). So, it wasn't a 10, but an honorable mention for trying something new!

Jazz Interlude: Dave Brubeck
I thought the photos looked a little cheesy on screen after all the cool colors patterns

Lame Graphics Alert! Really, what's the deal with these guys and their visual slide cues?! [photo]

In Memorium
I was really upset about this part of the show! The graphics looked amateurish and messy [photo] I did like how they did the music along with it though.

Elton John, back again!
Thought this was an amazing ensemble (with Mumford and Sons, etc.) and a fantastic tribute after the more somber In Memorium moment. This photo montage on the screens was really nice and should have just replaced the other part completely.

Frank Ocean
I really wanted to like this performance. Another interesting idea and use of video technology, but it just missed the mark for me. Not only was the song kinda stupid and the vocals not great, but the execution of the live action/video gag just wasn't clean. It seemed like the screen was used to wrap his piano was a totally different color temperature or pixel width or something. Also, seemed like the camera angle was off for TV viewers. Maybe it looked more awesome in person?

LL Cool J
Thought that it was interesting that the last few performances were rather mello, and was wondering what LL Cool J would bring for the closing. He definitely didn't disappoint. His was totally different than any other performance that night. He used the entire stage area and all the screens, using text for a really stylized in-your-face look. The warehouse graphics transformed the look of the stage, and it was vintage LL. Very nice way to end the show and put his stamp on it.

And now a word from our sponsor...REALLY?!?!? I know you want to end on time Grammys, but you're going to put sponsor stuff over the final performance??? That's not ok.

So, all in all, I REALLY enjoyed the Grammys! Will definitely be adding it to my annual award show repertoire from now on. The action-packed show kept me busy furiously taking notes on all the production-related eye-candy.

2 week until The Oscars, y'all! See you then...