On the other hand, the show, hosted by comic Ellen DeGeneres, lacked fire; it was nearly as smooth and sanitary as TLC’s lip-synched performance.
“This is not your father’s Grammys,” DeGeneres announced early on, not entirely accurately. For all of the attempts to contemporize the awards, the winners for the most part showed a decidedly middle-of-the-road bent. The notable exception was four-Grammy winner Alanis Morrisette, whose rendition of “You Oughta Know” had to be beeped for language on the West Coast, though “would she go down on you in a theater” got through. “I can’t imagine going to my parents and singing that song for them,” DeGeneres noted later.
The comic hosted more than capably, especially considering that she’s not generally identifiedwith the music business, a handi-
cap she was quick to disparage, enthusing that “I have been listening to music for about two years now, and I really like a lot of it.” In truth, she was one of the few Grammy hosts ever to give the impression of familiarity with much of the nominated music.
Show was a bit more music-oriented than usual, with general lack of nonmusic acts brought in to (presumably) widen audience, though presenters Andy Garcia, Lisa Kudrow and Tim Allen didn’t seem to have any more idea why they were on hand than the audience did. CBS made no use of potential to showcase its own stars: Surely Angela Lansbury (who has a musical background) would make as much sense as Garcia or Allen.
Show had its moments, but lacked any electrifying sequences like the Stevie Wonder/Coolio duet of “Gangsta’s Paradise” on the recent Billboard awards or even Eddie Vedder’s surprise drop-in on Tuesday’s “Late Show With David Letterman.”
Rapper Coolio almost matched his earlier achievement, rising to the Shrine ceiling via wires and harness at the end of his number. Stevie Wonder’s lifetime achievement award was preceded by a clever tribute in which D’Angelo and Tony Rich sang Wonder’s “Living for the City” and “Superstition” in counterpoint.
Vedder took the typical disdainful rock performer’s attitude, dismissing his band’s award for hard rock performance with “I don’t know what all this means; I don’t think it means anything. My dad would have liked it, that’s why I’m here.”
With the exception of Vedder, nominees were on their best behavior, and even the Pearl Jam front man showed his disrespect quietly. Even rappers, expected to capitalize on their lawless image, held back; Coolio told his fans that “there are no gangsters in paradise,” and 2-Pac (rapper-actor Tupac Shakur) announced “Let’s shock the people,” then introduced original members of ’70s glam-rock band Kiss (about to release an “unplugged” album and embark on reunion tour) in full make-up.