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Grammy Review: The Grammys Get Serious While Sam Smith Rules

Sam Smith was the big winner on a night with little surprise and a lot of serious at this year’s 2015 Grammy Awards.
The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Show
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 08: Beyonce performs onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage)Kevin Winter / WireImage

Sam Smith was the big winner on a night with little surprise and a lot of serious at this year’s 2015 Grammy Awards.

Maybe it was fun for those who took home trophies, but for us playing at home the Grammys were slow, slow, slow. In an evening marked by its somberness, the Grammys crept and crawled long as if everyone was ashamed to party in a world so weary.

What made it uber serious? First off, everybody from Usher to Ariana Grande to Sam Smith broke out the power ballads. President Obama dropped in for a PSA addressing domestic violence followed up by Katy Perry singing a moving ballad about her divorce. Pharrell gave a shout out to the “Black Lives Matter” movement with dancers in black hooded sweatshirts, adding solemnity to his sparkly track “Happy.”

The show closed with more seriousness. Beyonce serenaded on “Take My Hand Precious Lord,” as her all-male choir put their hands up in the familiar “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” position, made famous by last year’s protests. Common and John Legend followed with a performance of their Oscar-nominated track “Glory” from the film “Selma,” with its callbacks to the Civil Rights Movement and last year’s unrest in Ferguson.

Some tried to pick up the pace. Classic rock act AC/DC opened the show and Madonna did her #REBELHEART best, dancing with horned men, upping the tempo with her track, “Living for Love,” but those were the outliers.

Kanye West, who performed with Rihanna and Sir Paul McCartney on their new track “FourFiveSeconds,” brought some much needed, self-deprecating levity later in the night when he mock-crashed the mic on alt-rocker Beck after Beck beat out Beyoncé for “Best Album.”

Bringing back memories of much more exciting MTV Awards of yore, Kanye head-faked “pulling a Kanye,” à la his infamous, “I’m-a let you finish” grab on then country star Taylor Swift back in 2009. These antics produced another much needed moment – pop legend Prince’s epic side-eye at Kanye’s gleeful gag.

Beyoncé was the second-to-last performer of the night, opening for Common and Legend’s closing number with “Take My Hand Precious Lord” from the film “Selma.” While she was a show stopper in white, taking everyone to church, her singing the Mahalia Jackson classic was not without controversy. The Grammys allegedly bumped R&B singer Ledisi for the former Sasha Fierce despite Ledisi being the one who actually sings “Precious Lord” on the film’s soundtrack.

If it makes Ledisi fans feel any better, Beyoncé, who was up for six Grammys, got the short-shrift this year. Despite putting out a game-changing, no-promo eponymous hit album, she took home three awards. She and hubby Jay Z won for “Best R&B Performance” and “Best R&B Song” for their smash “Drunk In Love,” and Best Surround Sound Album for "On The Run Tour: Beyonce & Jay-Z."

‘Yoncé’s star was out-shined (for this night at least) by Smith, who performed his award-winning hit “Stay With Me” as a duet with Mary J. Blige.

The British soul singer had a huge night, taking home four awards, including “Best New Song” and “Song of the Year” for “Stay With Me.” It was a nice nod for the star-making track that lost a bit of its glimmer after a court of law found that the “Best New Song” had a distinct lack of newness, being too similar to Tom Petty’s 1989 track “Won’t Back Down.”

Still, a good night overall for him, and a good show if you had insomnia. To paraphrase Hozier’s nominated track “Take Me to Church,” if you recorded 2015’s Grammys you can easily replay it at night so it can “Take You to Sleep.”