The 55th Annual Grammy Awards took place Sunday evening at the Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles. Staples is a massive stadium - it is where the Lakers, Clippers and Kings play. Countless concerts use the venue too (Beyonce in June, anyone?), but on Sunday, the Grammys took over and it was an intimate affair. Cozy, actually. Frank Sinatra and big band music played softly over the speakers and guests milled around in everything from Oscar-like gowns to Vegas showgirl sparkles. After many an email over the course of February, I was able to secure a ticket inside the event to see what music's biggest and baddest night is all about and there are 10 things that you probably don't know about the Grammys.
1. It feels like you're back in high school: Remember those all-school assemblies or times when everyone piled into the gymnasium or school auditorium and the principal had a microphone and asked everyone to please sit down and stop talking? That's kind of what the Grammys are like. Some dude had a mic and he was kind of making small talk while he waited for everyone to take their seats, chit chatting about when we go live and anyone in the front rows really need to get their butts in their seats because this is a live broadcast. It was all so casual and familiar - a sort of summer camp gathering before the talent show. He even handed the mic to teacher's pet Justin Timberlake at one point who said "Get loud tonight!" and then the 10-second count down began and poof! We're live.
2. No alcohol allowed: Maybe I'm just used to being at the Staples Center for Clippers games or other events, but usually you can't walk five steps without finding some beer, wine, hard liquor for sale. Not at the Grammys. All the bars in the foyer and lobby were closed and everyone was stone cold sober.
3. People are starving: No food or drinks were allowed inside the actual event so men in suits and ties and women dressed to the nines stood in small corners and perched at condiment stations, literally shoving hot dogs and hand-made sushi rolls (so LA) in their faces. Why was everyone so hungry? Especially since, if you note #2 in this list, there was no alcohol to blame for the massive quantities of food everyone was consuming at record speed outside the Grammy doors. Maybe it was the four hours for which they knew we would be sitting that incited such voracious appetites in the guests, but it looked pretty weird to see people dressed for the Grammys leaning next to old ketchup containers and eating like the apocalypse was coming.
4. Social media is, like, really important: I should have kept a tally of how many times host LL Cool J announced the audience that Twitter exists! And it's important! And make sure you're hash tagging this and that and hey, did you know there's this social media thing called Twitter? The irony being, of course, that there is absolutely no service in the Staples Center and any tweet that one might be creative enough to compose while watching the Grammys received an error message and would not send. Not to mention, all the thousands of cell phones in the room drained everyone's iPhone battery and we had to put our devices on airplane mode just to keep some juice in the phone for later. A total fail.
5. There are no grand exits: You'd think that when Alicia Keys and Maroon 5 or Justin Timberlake finished their kick-ass performances, they would catwalk off the stage like the mega pop stars that they are. But this just doesn't happen. The Grammys cut to commercial after most of the live performances, and the musicians just kind of stand there, quite awkwardly, while the audience claps and then they kind of glance at each other and mosey off the stage like it's a dress rehearsal.
6. Fun. loves rain. And Lena Dunham: Indie pop band fun. (with their 6 Grammy nominations and wins for Best Song of the Year and Best New Artist), really love the rain. Their live performance might have looked on television like there was simulated water pouring down from the ceiling, but there really was like a ton of rain slamming down on them, wetting their t-shirts and making them look overall pretty badass. Oh and "Girls" superstar Lena Dunham, who is dating guitarist Jack Antonoff really knows how to steal the show because wearing bright canary yellow and sitting on the aisle was definitely a conscious choice, and we love her for it.
7. Everyone fucking loves Bob Marley: Reggae god Bob Marley would have turned 68 years old last week and the Grammys decided to honor the man with an incredible tribute that included Bruno Mars, a still-sexy Sting and Rihanna in an amazing crop top outfit. The stage was lit up with the traditional Jamaican red, yellow and greens and brightly flashing images of a smiling Marley. The crowd could not have been more into it. Maybe this year, Coachella should follow up their Tupac hologram with an entire set dedicated to Bob Marley because the energy in the room was electric and everyone, including Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Jay Z, Frank Ocean and everyone in between was grinning ear to ear and swaying their bodies like they were on a Jamaican booze cruise.
8. Everything looks better on TV: Watching the Grammys from your sofa makes it look like a magical glamorous night of live performances and A-list Hollywood stars giving out awards (Johnny Depp really mumbles and we couldn't hear a word he said). But what really happens inside the Grammy awards is while an artist performs on one half the gigantic stage, they are setting up on the other half so that they can keep the show moving. This includes mopping up the aforementioned rainstorm that fun. required or sweeping red confetti off stage from Taylor Swift's cirque du soleil inspired "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" performance. You try to watch the half of the stage that's being occupied by Jack White or Rihanna, but it's fun to see the magic of television unfolding before your eyes as each new set was transformed for the next act.
9. Frank Ocean doesn't translate on TV: The surprise of the night was turning iPhones back on and seeing Frank Ocean get slammed on the internet for his Grammy debut performance. People moaned that he was off-key and seemed "bored." Frank Ocean's performance was amazing and the set design was one of the coolest of the night. He wasn't bored, he was in the zone. Also, he wears yellow really, really well.
10. Dropping hints: In the minutes leading up to the live broadcast, the "school principal" (a producer on the show? I don't even know who he was) started talking about the beautiful lights that were strung across the room and that they were inspired by Mumford & Sons' recent show at LA's Hollywood Bowl. He gushed on and on about how great the band is, and how the lights at the Bowl were just so beautiful, and that they wanted to take a page from their book and recreate the same design for the Grammys. He sort of had a huge crush on the band and wouldn't stop talking about them. Cut to the end of the show - Mumford & Sons wins one of the most prestigious awards, Album of the Year. Voila!