Pop Focus: Taylor Swift's 1989 Takes Album Of The Year
The Pop Field for the 58th GRAMMY Awards included nominees who covered an incredible range, both historically and artistically — from legendary figures such as Tony Bennett to exciting contemporary talents such as Best New Artist winner Meghan Trainor, Ellie Goulding and The Weeknd, and from the tender melodies of Ed Sheeran to the funkified drive of Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars.
But it was Taylor Swift who made headlines in earning Album Of The Year for 1989 — making history as the first woman artist to win twice in that category. When Swift took the stage to accept her award, she took a moment to offer encouragement to other young women, remarking that despite any naysayers and undercutters they may face, "Someday, when you get where you’re going, you’ll know that it was you and the people who love you that put you there. That will be the greatest feeling in the world," said Swift.
Swift got the GRAMMY party started too, opening the telecast with a stirring live performance of "Out Of The Woods." Clad in a sparkling black body suit, Swift prowled a set that resembled a fog-shrouded haunted forest, pausing mid-song to welcome viewers to the show. Swift then pumped the energy in Staples Center to a fever pitch as she strode right off the stage and through the crowd to a smaller performance platform, belting out the final chorus of the song as the audience got thoroughly glitter-bombed.
Other artists had big wins to show for their efforts. Sheeran won his first career GRAMMYs, including Song Of The Year for "Thinking Out Loud," an award presented by Stevie Wonder, who got a laugh from the crowd when he opened the winner's envelope and then teased the audience for not being able to read the Braille on it as he could. Ronson and Mars scored Record Of The Year honors for the ubiquitous "Uptown Funk."
The Weeknd, who had seven nominations, took a different approach to his performance slot, appearing in a classic tux to deliver his Best Pop Solo Performance-nominated "Can't Feel My Face" on a bare stage backed with strobing screens, before moving center stage to sing "In The Night" to elegantly understated cello and grand piano accompaniment. Ellie Goulding, another Best Pop Solo Performance nominee, was paired with R&B Field nominee Andra Day for a truly exceptional duet that mashed up Goulding's nominated "Love Me Like You Do" with Day’s nominated "Rise Up." Adele provided yet another memorable GRAMMY Moment with her stark rendition of "All I Ask."
Speaking of GRAMMY Moments, it was Lady Gaga's tribute to David Bowie — which featured a medley of hits such as "Let's Dance," "Ziggy Stardust" and "Fame," among other Bowie classics — that mesmerized the audience. Incorporating experiential Intel technology, the performance was not only a technical marvel, but a fitting homage to the late icon.
Earlier in the day, it was Swift who also got things rolling at the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, with the very first award of the day going to 1989 for Best Pop Vocal Album — a highly competitive category that also included releases from Kelly Clarkson, Florence & The Machine, Ronson, and James Taylor. One of 1989’s producers, Jack Antonoff, accepted the award, with a phone in hand with which he placed a call to Swift, who was still in rehearsals for her GRAMMY-opening performance. Holding the phone up to the podium microphone, Antonoff conveyed the news to Swift, who let loose with a delighted, "We won!"
The rest of the big Pop Field awards were handed out toward the end of the Premiere Ceremony. Sheeran won Best Pop Solo Performance for "Thinking Out Loud" and told the crowd with a smile that after four years of flying his family from Great Britain to Los Angeles for the GRAMMY Awards, he finally had a winning night to celebrate with them. "Uptown Funk" netted the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY for Ronson and Mars.
Bennett collected arguably the Premiere Ceremony's biggest roar of applause and a standing ovation when he took home Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album honors for The Silver Lining: The Songs Of Jerome Kern. Looking impeccably dapper, the 89-year-old Bennett proudly told the crowd he was thrilled to be receiving his 18th GRAMMY. Just before leaving the stage, he waved to the crowd and said, "I love you all. Have a beautiful night tonight."
On this, Music's Biggest Night — and Pop's Biggest Night — that was an easy request to follow through on.
(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis and Elvis: My Best Man.)