Last night’s Grammy Awards ceremony was possibly the most awkward product to come out of the music industry since, well, last year’s terrible John Mayer “Jolene” tribute at the Grammys. The inevitable red-carpet polling about Whitney Houston’s death ranged from cringe-worthy to outright ghoulish, and the range of impromptu supergroups was baffling, disturbing, and eccentric, to say the least. From Bon Iver’s mumbled acceptance speech to Brian Wilson’s never-wished-for collaboration with Maroon 5 and Foster the People, the whole night was full of moments that made music lovers scratch our heads and wonder whether the entire show had been pasted together from various YouTube mash-ups. And yet, we could have probably guessed that this ceremony would be bizarre as soon as we glimpsed Nicki Minaj on the red carpet with a fake pope. We count down the weirdest moments of the 2012 Grammys, after the jump.
12. Skrillex wins before the telecast even starts: While the celebrities were still pouring from limo to red carpet to seat, EDM producer Skrillex cleaned up, winning for Best Dance Recording, Best Dance/Electronica Album, and Best Remixed Recording. The side-mulleted DJ delivered a series of meandering speeches and managed to wander in the wrong direction onstage. Plus, Deadmau5 wore a shirt with Skrillex’s phone number written on it above the message “u mad bro?”
11. Gaga is barely there: After last year’s over-the-top space-egg entrance, we were hoping for some Gaga antics in our lives. Parachute drop? Fired out of a cannon? Update to the meat dress made of live chickens? But this year, Lady Gaga was missing from the stage and red carpet, visible only when the camera cut to her awkwardly shimmying to the Glen Campbell tribute. And hey, the net-veil-over-the-face-plus-scepter look was positively demure by Gaga standards. What could be happening at the Haus of Gaga?
10. Victor Cruz’s salsa: The Giants have many virtues, but they’re about as far away from the music industry as you can get. What were Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz even doing at the Grammys? It was a little awkward until Cruz demonstrated his salsa dance, and then it got seriously weird, coupled with Manningham’s unbelievably flat delivery of the teleprompter lines. I mean, was Christina Aguilera really that busy?
9. Adele has “Lil Bit of Snot”: This year’s Grammys were Adele’s without question, and she managed to make her way through two award acceptances and a house-burner of a performance without breaking down. But when 21 won Album of the Year, the British songstress broke down. It had to be the first time in television history that an award recipient apologized for “a little bit of snot.” But yeah, that and her pronunciation of “thank” as “fank” leaned more towards adorable than upsetting.
8. McCartney, Grohl, and Springsteen: Somewhere deep in the Recording Academy’s lair, there must have been a dude who decided that double — no, triple! — the appearances from the Grammys’ favored ones would make the show extra-special. Springsteen’s opening number killed it, McCartney’s Valentine’s Day tribute was a little lounge singer-y, and Dave Grohl had already played twice that night with the Foo Fighters. But did that stop the three from combining to play Beatles covers at the end of the night? No. It was one of the weirdest supergroups since Gogmagog, made still more insane by LL Cool J’s introduction of the outro performance by his “homie,” Sir Paul McCartney.
7. The Foo Fighters’ “Indie Cred”: The always-bubbly, vaguely alt-rock Jack Black introduced round one of the Dave Grohl festival, explaining that the group was performing outside of the Staples Center instead of on the Grammys main stage in order to preserve their “indie cred.” Which, yes, since when did the Fighters have anything resembling indie cred? And since Bon Iver consented to enter the arena, if not actually play, did that damage his reputation somehow? Unlikely.
6. Brian Wilson, Maroon 5, and Foster the People: In a supergroup vocal combination that exactly no one was demanding, the reunited Beach Boys, featuring a predictably zoned-out Brian Wilson and a weird, bespangled Mike Love, performed alongside both Maroon 5 and Foster the People. Maroon 5 were bad enough — Adam Levine’s high notes veered just short of painful — but poor Mark Foster was so nervous, he looked like he was about to barf all over the theremin in the middle of his set.
5. Bruno Mars: Well, I think it’s safe to say that no one has introduced a doo-wop number at the Grammys before by yelling, “Get off your rich asses!” Touché, Mr. Mars.
4. The Foo Fighters, Deadmau5, David Guetta, Chris Brown (again), and Lil Wayne: The night was undoubtedly haunted by the recent death of Whitney Houston, but the rest of the montage of performers lost in the past year was equally affecting. Except, who forgot Don Cornelius? Oh, never fear. Questlove is here to shout-out to the Soul Train impresario. And how will we pay him tribute? By crapping together one of the most ill-conceived song mash-ups imaginable, featuring a move from Lil Wayne, David Guetta, and (ugh) Chris Brown in a pit full of glow sticks over to Deadmau5, and finally to Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters (who else?). James Brown just turned over in his grave.
3. Bon Iver’s acceptance speech: Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood introduce the Best New Artist Award with a slick showpiece duet of “It Had to Be You,” one of those glossy, razzle-dazzle Grammy moments that the Academy pimps endlessly the following year. And then Bon Iver wins the award and arrives onstage looking like a high-school English teacher who just barely managed to find shoes dressy enough for the occasion, and then delivers a speech that begins with “um” and pretty much encapsulates the essence of discomfort. Tony Bennett looks mildly insulted, and countless J. Cole fans take to Twitter to demand, “Who the fuck is Bonnie Bear?”
2. Nick Minaj goes Exorcist: Nicki Minaj took two parts Gaga, one part Madonna, and one part Dan Brown-style conspiracy theory, mixed it, and turned it into a performance that was barely comprehensible. There was a reference to The Exorcist and then, suddenly, fake popes and a chorus of monks singing bits of “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and what looked like a levitation. Safe to say that she stole the “least explicable, most elaborate” song award away from Katy Perry.
1. Chris Brown’s award and Taylor Swift’s “Mean”: Chris Brown’s inclusion in the Grammys was many bad things, but the least comfortable moment of the night had to be when Brown accepted the R&B album and then Taylor Swift quickly launched into a rendition of her song “Mean.” We only hope it was aimed squarely at him.