By Greg Kot
Chicago Tribune (TNS)
On a nostalgia-heavy Grammy night generally lacking in surprise, Beck bested heavily favored artists such as Beyonce and Sam Smith for album of the year.
The 57th annual Grammy Awards gave Beck’s “Morning Phase” its highest accolade Sunday, while putting the brakes on the expected coronation of British soul star Smith and pop queen Beyonce.
The unexpected win continued a Grammy tradition of making up for past oversights by awarding a deserving veteran artist for a lesser work. “Morning Phase” is in many ways a lighter knockoff of Beck’s somber “Sea Change” from 2002.
Despite the setback, Smith won four Grammys, including three of the “big four”: best new artist, song of the year and record of the year, for his gospel-tinged hit “Stay With Me.”
“Thanks for breaking my heart … because you won me four Grammys,” Smith said, addressing the lover who inspired many of the melancholy songs on his “In the Lonely Hour” debut album, including “Stay With Me.”
Beyonce won two Grammys, but none in the major categories. She did get the last word though. She performed the Thomas A. Dorsey gospel classic “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” paving the way for a John Legend-Common collaboration on the stirring, new civil rights anthem “Glory.”
As part of the weekend of Grammy ceremonies, Chicago blues giant Buddy Guy received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
It was a night otherwise notable for conservative, even nostalgic presentations. Here are a few of the highs and lows from the nationally televised broadcast from Los Angeles:
Angus Young amped things up instantly with his beleaguered band, AC/DC, which recently lost his brother, Malcolm Young, to dementia. But the rock didn’t stop, not even for a tribute, sentimental or otherwise.
One “loser” and one big winner: “As a former loser” of best new artist, Taylor Swift handed Sam Smith his first big award of the night.
Stiffest performance? Lots of contenders, including a lugubrious “A Little Bit of Your Heart” by Ariana Grande, complete with strings, clunky piano chords and bejeweled ear monitors. And Tom Jones and Jessie J didn’t exactly light it up with their perfunctory tribute to the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. But imagine the barbershop quartet version they could’ve done with the winter-spring duo of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, who “danced cheek to cheek” later with considerably more flair.