The Grammy Awards telecast is like a plastic handle of vodka. The moments of elated bliss are brief, and, well, you know the rest.
When lucky, a music fan watching the Grammys is incensed. "Sam Smith wins again?" "They condemn domestic violence, but look who's in the room?!" "The GWAR singer was left off the "musicians we lost" montage?!?!" But often the true lovers of glam rock, K-pop, cloud rap, death metal, or West African Tuareg blues are left bored, listless, and scrolling through Twitter to find meaning.
Prince showed his exasperation in the middle of the show's third hour, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
"Albums. Remember those?" he said after making his way to the stage to present Album of the Year. "Albums still matter. Like books and black lives, albums still matter." This is a fine sentiment. It's a poetic one that ties up several positive messages into very little screen time.
Prince's countenance said something else altogether, though, as he introduced a category pitting Beyoncé, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Pharrell, and Beck against each other. Perhaps he could already see Kanye West preparing to turn his seat into a launchpad or someone told him about the Target ad featuring Imagine Dragons. Whatever the reason, discomfort was fighting for real estate on the Purple One's still-youthful face.
We know what eventually happened. Beck was announced as the winner, and Kanye stormed the podium and echoed his upstaging of Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV VMAs. When he backed off, a startled Beck even tried to invite him back to say something -- to say anything. (As it turns out, he wasn't joking.)
This unplanned moment was one of the few things in a very expensive night that got pulses up and briefly steered eyes away from iPads. You know, like the music we love. Great art does stem from disruptions -- ones as grandiose as a stage-crashing maneuver, but also as subtle as a wry glance like the one delivered by a diminutive man in orange.
No matter what he was thinking, Prince looked like a lot of us felt on Sunday evening. The quest for connection through music continues. If the Grammys in its bloated, hypocritical state is all we get, we'll still show up. But it doesn't mean we don't deserve something better.
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