Host: Paul Reiser The 37th annual Grammy Awards show got off to a less-than-bombastic start with a live rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s reflective “Streets of Philadelphia.” Wearing on to its conclusion some three hours later, the 25th Grammy telecast was best characterized by its lack of surprise or excitement.
There were no magic moments on the order of those produced in past ceremonies by Bob Dylan, Melissa Etheridge and the team of Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand, and the winners were laughably easy to predict, even for those who had never heard a record before.
However, there were some bright spots, high among them the joint performance of “I Swear” by country singer John Michael Montgomery and R&B group All-4-One, both of whom had recorded hit versions of the Gary Frank and Frank J. Meyers song (Montgomery’s was the original hit, followed by the R&B version).
Placido Domingo’s rendition of “Granada” demonstrated why “3 Tenors in Concert 1994” qualified in the pop album category. The show’s concluding act — Luther Vandross singing Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With” with Crosby, Stills & Nash and a gospel choir led by H.B. Barnum — was a rousing performance that would have started the show in earlier years, where the producers had excitement more in mind.
And if it had started the show, CBS wouldn’t have cut the song off very early to make room for a commercial and rules-reading.
With such Lifetime Achievement Award winners as Peggy Lee and Curtis Mayfield present, air time was instead given to longtime Grammy Awards show executive producer Pierre Cossette, also a winner. (Andy Williams was reportedly scheduled to sing Achievement Award winner Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” a performance that was axed at the last minute).
It was easy to predict winners: for whatever reasons, for the first several presentations, whoever performed won the next category: Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Salt-N-Pepa, Babyface and Mary Chapin Carpenter in order, followed by several others including Boyz II Men and Crow again.
Henry Rollins was the first apparent upset in this cycle, losing to Soundgarden in the heavy metal category.
Boyz II Men picked up the streak in the R&B duo or group category, and had already won for best R&B album. The first total upset was Al Green and Lyle Lovett’s “Funny How Time Slips Away.” They beat Tony Bennett and k.d. lang, who had performed their pop vocal collaboration, “Moonglow.”
In his Grammy debut, Paul Reiser hosted capably. Early on, he explained NARAS’ myriad categories — which include separate awards for “song” and “performance”– and noted that “you can do a wonderful performance of a crappy song (and) still get an award.”
Reiser bowed to songwriters, in particular to the crew who composed Sheryl Crow’s hit. “I’ve driven down Santa Monica Boulevard, I’ve seen the sun come up — I didn’t know there was a song there … It takes a great artist to find the gold in the ordinary.”
Toward the end of the show, a long set-up time for one of the acts forced Reiser to vamp, a task for which he was clearly unprepared.
Show was notably and commendably lacking in technical foul-ups, though it was fun to hear unbilled offstage announcer pronounce Ry Cooder’s name as “Randy Cowder.” Surprisingly, everybody got nominee Me’shell NdegeOcello’s name right.
Recording Academy president Michael Greene made an ovation-gathering, albeit totally predictable, stand in favor of continued government support of forms of music — jazz, blues and classical, for instance. Greene makes one long for speeches by former ASCAP chief Morton Gould, or the MPAA’s Jack Valenti.