The 57th Grammy Awards ceremony, or at least what little we get to see of it every year on television, has long been a fountainhead of pomp.
Stripped ages ago of any real artistic merit that would make it as reflective of contemporary music as, say the Academy Awards are of film, the Grammy telecast exists today as a pageant. It doesn't just award commercial music. The televised evening portion of the ceremony exists essentially as a commercial unto itself. The artists of the moment sing their current (and presumably nominated) hits while those with any kind of history play to promote their newest record which often has nada to do with the Awards at hand.
So what can we expect from the performers slated for tonight's Grammy telecast? Well, pop sensation Sam Smith is on tap. It's a likely bet he will sing the record- and song-of-the-year nominated Stay With Me , the tune that made headlines last month for its sudden addition of a fourth songwriter — namely, Tom Petty, whose I Won't Back Down supplied Stay With Me with its chorus melody.
There is producer turned pop star Pharrell Williams. Wonder what song he'll perform. Actually, Lady Gaga and the ageless Tony Bennett seem the most inviting acts on the performance bill. But Madonna? AC/DC? Interesting for fans, no doubt. But both are simply hawking new records that have no association with this year's Grammy field at all.
Then again, when record-of-the-year choice comes down to such paper thin pop as Sia's Chandelier, Taylor Swift's Shake It Off, Iggy Azalea's Fancy, Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass and Smith's quasi-appropriated Stay With Me, you start understanding the need for the wall-to-wall performances.
There are a few ripples of genuine interest in the mainstay categories, like Beck's contemplative Morning Phase for album of the year (where it will most assuredly lose to Beyonce's Beyonce), the Bennett-Gaga collaboration Cheek to Cheek (a likely runaway for best traditional pop-vocal album) and a field for best rock album that includes Beck, Petty, U2, The Black Keys and Ryan Adams (where U2, for once, is the weak link).
Otherwise, the Grammy telecast will likely possess the same calculated flash of Katy Perry's Super Bowl carnival set or, worse still, the MTV Video Music Awards, the ultimate empty calorie awards show.
But all is not lost. If you have the afternoon free, log on to Grammy.com/live at 3:30 p.m. Sunday and check out the ceremony that honors all the other Grammy categories: blues, Americana, jazz and the like with a pack of scheduled performers and presenters that will include Rosanne Cash, the renegade string band Old Crow Medicine Show and jazz giant Joe Lovano.
Keep your eyes out for a few former Lexingtonians during the webcast, too. Dobro giant Jerry Douglas is up for Best Folk Album (Three Wishes, his collaborative instrumental record with Rob Ickes and the late Mike Auldridge), best bluegrass album (the Flatt & Scruggs tribute The Earls of Leicester) and best American roots performance (for a cover of Laura Nyro's And When I Die with Billy Childs and Alison Krauss). Country-roots songster Sturgill Simpson and his Metamodern Sounds in Country Music are entries in a very crowded but intriguing field for Americana album of the year (with Cash, Keb' Mo', John Hiatt and Nickel Creek). Finally, Justin Craig is part of a local contingency of artists that helped bring Hedwig and the Angry Inch to life on Broadway — hence his nomination for best musical theater album along with fellow Lexingtonian and composer Stephen Trask.
So watch the prime-time telecast for all the empty glamour and the grim reminders of just how disposable modern pop music — or rather the bankable marquee pop the Grammys almost exclusively favor — has become.
But if you want the bigger picture, go to the smaller screen of your computer and check out the rest of the contemporary musical universe and Lexington's increasingly vital place in it.