Soon after, another female colleague tosses a cup of water in the bully’s face. I was amazed by the episode—I found it to be amazingly realistic, amazingly awkward, amazingly embarrassing, everything but amazingly funny. But after going through David’s cringe-inducing, failure of a journey, David Brent: Life on the Road soft-pedals the ending. The band realizes they’ve over-stated what a jerk David is, and besides, they’ve got some good stories: they have a drink with him for free. His old-fashioned stabs at relevance—radio, battle of the bands, a publicist— almost seem to be the show’s idea of reasonable gambits. He wants to be famous. David Brent: Life on the Road begins relatively gently, which is to say, with a David so puffed up on himself and the prospect of another shot at fame that he almost seems to deserve the failures coming his way. In an interview with the New York Times last weekend, Gervais said of David Brent, “He wants validation. Gone is the well-calibrated balance of The Office, wherein laughing at David was simultaneously punching up and punching down, replaced by a David so down on his luck that chuckling at him is akin to scoffing at a really irritating version of Job. Now it’s insatiable.” I was expecting, then, for David Brent to encounter some of today’s narcissists. Maudlin and unrealistic, it’s also a lot less funny than what came before. He’s no longer the boss, and, now “the world is worse.” She chastises David’s nemesis for being such a bully. While all of this is excruciating, it does feel real enough: David would be an abject failure on the road, despised by everyone he encountered, even though he’s just a loser, not an evildoer. David caps it all off with a fortune-cookie lesson: “I can live without being a success, but I couldn’t have lived without trying.” Shortly thereafter one of his nice female colleagues expresses interest in David and he walks off frame with a date. Gervais’ performance was so exact that David was instantly recognizable as a quasi-unbearable bully and occasionally pitiable loser who doesn’t understand that his only chance of acceptance is hiding out in the banality of nice. The tour is an abject failure. The Office was a scathing, furious send-up of the hollow desires undergirding reality TV, still a relatively new phenomenon when the show premiered in 2001, and it did not go gentle on those involved. He was the ordinary guy on the cusp of getting his 15 minutes of fame. I was at a screening of The Office Christmas Special, the series’ finale. The first time I saw the British The Office, it was with an audience, a group of seemingly normal people I became convinced were sociopaths. The tour manager begs David to stop spending money and tells him they’re friends, just to make him feel better. He’s singing mortifying if well-intentioned songs (“Please don’t make fun of the disabled” and “Black people aren’t lazy/black people aren’t crazy/ and dwarves aren’t babies” are two sample lyrics), while refusing to let Dom Johnson play any of his own stuff, but making him dress up like a Native American to cameo on a song David wrote about their nobility. Since The Office aired, Gervais has made Extras and the saccharine-fest Derek, the vibe of which takes over this series at its rushed ending, in which David’s journey is given sentimental meaning. Is it funny to watch a wounded kitten get pounded on because it has a strange meow? As with tragedies, so with David Brent: there is such a thing as laughing too soon. He’s going broke to pay their salaries, and they’ll only have a drink with him if he pays them by the hour. David was a despot: laughing at him was what he deserved. He’s paying for a tour bus he can’t ride in, because the band hates him so much. And yet each time David Brent let loose one of his nerve-shearing giggles, I sucked in my breath, and everyone around me laughed hysterically. There he is, making racially insensitive jokes with the one colleague who really likes him, and then bringing the rapper Dom Johnson (Doc Brown) by the office just to prove to HR he has black friends. I was barely familiar with David Brent, Gareth, Tim, Dawn and the other employees of Wernham Hogg, and even less familiar with the show’s cringey tone. His desperation to be cool, to be seen, to be recognized, to be famous perverted a basically decent idiot into an engine of humiliation, unleashed daily on underlings whose only defense against their excruciating boss was a deadpan stare. Laughter seems like it could be on the horizon. He’s a narcissist, but we see that, actually, he’s an old-fashioned narcissist. No one comes, when they do, they leave. Worst of all, underneath his bluster, David knows it’s going badly: he calls his one friend and explains what an abject failure the tour is, before making him promise not to tell anyone, even though the call is already on speaker phone. Fourteen years later, David Brent is back in David Brent: Life on the Road, which premieres on Netflix this Friday. There David is telling the studio producer whom he uses for his “demos” (really Dom’s) that he’ll pay him double whatever he makes to go on tour, only to discover double is way more than he can afford. In time, I too became one of these sociopaths, but it took extended exposure. David has decided to raid his pension to pursue his dreams of becoming a rock star, and the financially and emotionally disastrous tour he embarks upon constitutes the movie’s plot. (I was thinking particularly of the episode of Atlanta where Paper Boi runs into snapchatting, instagramming brand whirlwind Zan) but he never does. He can’t compete with today’s narcissists. Social media is never mentioned and we never see any young performers out-faming the fame-hungry David. Following the events of The Office, David suffered a nervous breakdown, attempted suicide, and went on Prozac, but is now more or less on stable ground; he’s a salesman at Lavichem, a toiletry supply company, where he sells Tampons and is barely put up with by his colleagues. Ricky Gervais’s David was a buffoon longing to be a big man. David goes on a radio station to promote the tour and is ridiculed for having been famous and forgotten as one of the original docu-soap stars. But now fame is different. (He’s too abashed to change his mind.) He visits the therapist he’s been seeing since his breakdown and when she asks him what happens if the tour doesn’t go as planned, if it fails, he’s too embarrassed in front of the cameras to reckon with this honestly, only digging himself deeper into his fantasy. A stop at a college campus has him playing on “shite night.” He gets a tattoo to be cool, but faints in the middle, and so is stuck with the half-word “Berk” on his bicep. His female colleagues rally around him: one tells the camera, tearing up, that she worries about him doing another reality show. And then it all really goes downhill.
A new supercut of every Oscar winner for Visual Effects, compiled by Burger Fiction, thus works as a gorgeous, fascinating journey through film history, with Best Picture winners like Ben-Hur and Forrest Gump placed right alongside niche fare and superhero blockbusters. It’s where Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, Donner’s original Superman, and the recent films of Christopher Nolan—to take just a few examples—have managed to find some awards success. There’s a remarkable line of winners from the ’70s, particularly—featuring King Kong, Star Wars, Superman, and Alien back to back—that showcases classic cinema at its most visually audacious. In 2013, Gravity emerged as the lowest-budget victor in 10 years—and that was before last year’s champ, Ex Machina, became the lowest-budget champ, in real dollars, in more than 50 years. Since the turn of the century, we’ve seen the Academy prioritize bid budgets over the boundlessness of imagination. Looking ahead to this month’s Oscars, then, it’s worth wondering: Might a surprise out-of-the-box winner—say an animated movie like Kubo and the Two Strings—walk away with the prize? The Academy Award for Best Visual Effects tends to recognize movies that the Oscars otherwise overlook: the sci-fi epics, the technological breakthroughs, the big-budget extravaganzas. But as the final stretch of this supercut indicates, we’re seeing a welcome shift toward more inventive, if financially scaled-back, productions once again.
He engaged me in friendly chatter, but instead of answering honestly, I was vague. Turns out, they don’t, really. People would recommend a great TV show for late nights, promise to send an article on something I was hoping to write about, or simply nod compassionately. Now, a year later, I can see that he hoped he wouldn’t have to bring it up, that instead I’d do that for him and then he could simply offer a sorry and be on his way. I don’t think they have any clue how much this really means to us. A friend who works at a bakery made a chocolate cake, another emailed a list of books about loss that had helped her, a third invited me to visit in L.A. It’s an acknowledgment of what you’re going through that doesn’t force you to do too much heavy-lifting. I’ve shelved the book for now, but when one of those awful middle-of-the-night calls comes through, I’ll pull it out again. They detail a bunch pulled from interviews and then ask the reader to consider whether these gestures (grouped by family member, friends, co-workers, strangers) took a lot of time or money, required “an impressive grasp of human psychology” or detailed information on the situation at hand. That’s what I’m getting at. The lengthily titled and newly released There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love addresses exactly that—how to not mess up when people need you most. I’d say they’re pretty qualified. Dr. Having consumed his piece of banana-cream pie, he suited up to leave, but not before turning to me one more time and saying, “By the way, I’m so sorry about your brother.”
I ate my own piece of pie furiously, going over all the things I wished I’d responded with instead of “thanks.” Why didn’t you just say that in the first place so I didn’t have to pretend to be fine? In the week after Mark died, we got so much food that everyone who visited was required to take a least a dozen bagels home with them. We received flowers, foods, and handwritten notes. I’ve felt most lonely after reaching that society-sanctioned point where unbearable grief is supposed to transform into positive healing and wisdom. Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell. This article originally appeared in the Cut. But given the year I’ve just had, I was curious to see what kind of advice they offered. Nothing felt right. But “how are you, today?” was a different thing entirely. Now I know who is on my A-team, whom I can text about celebrity gossip when I need a break, whom I can call sobbing in the middle of the night, and who will surprise me by hanging up my brother’s list of favorite movies in her first apartment. And yet how people ought to handle death or devastating news among their friends or family members is way less discussed. Their goal is to get readers past paralysis, uncertainty, and awkwardness to effective compassion. The bell on the door had already jangled shut behind me when I heard my name. One element that really resonated with me was the authors’ call for specificity. I could be brutally honest (“my life is completely ruined” often followed by an embarrassed laugh), go vague (“doing okay” with a bit of a wince), or dodge entirely (“fine-thanks-how-are-you?” said as quickly as possible). Making me engage in small talk when you know my brother died less than three weeks ago is cruel and unusual punishment. Crowe lost her only parent to mental illness at 21. For example, the Epidemiologist non-listener “asks a lot of clarifying, fact-based questions before learning how someone is feeling” while the Sage “gives wise perspective and advice…when it wasn’t asked for” and the Optimist “always offers a bright-sided perspective.” The book also provides useful answers to questions like “When should I reach out?” “How do I bring it up later without making it weird?” and “Is calling even appropriate anymore?”
The section called “Please Help Me Not Be a Disaster” is probably most useful on a day-to-day basis. Alive, mostly. People just don’t know what to do with death, I’ve often heard in the year and change since my brother died. There’s No Good Card for This starts with two epigraphs. When people asked that, I found myself answering easily: I’d mention trouble sleeping, I’d talk about stumbling back into work, or share something about my brother that had come up during the day. A blurb from Sheryl Sandberg? There was no way to elegantly extract myself from the otherwise-empty café and so I offered a lukewarm “hey” to a college classmate I hadn’t seen in a year or two. The illustrated guide “What Kind of Non-Listener Are You?” is a real jolt to all of us who pride ourselves on our listening skills. Turns out, it’s pretty helpful. In turn, these more tangible answers gave the asker a better foothold. What’s worse than friends who mess up is those who just disappear. I consider myself extremely lucky. A few weeks may not seem like a long time in the real world, but in grief-land every day felt endless, every hour a mix of sadness, rage, confusion, and pain. That kind of continued support really means a lot. I’d dragged myself to hell (Soho a few days before Christmas) and after a few hours of urgent yet aimless shopping, I stopped at a pie place to refuel. To know the specific ways people were and are still touched by his life has been one of the most precious gifts I’ve received in the wake of Mark’s death. The former has a doctorate in social welfare and teaches social work; the latter, who also illustrated the book, is the creator of Empathy Cards (“greeting cards for relationships we actually have”), which feature sentiments like “Please let me be the first to punch the next person that tells you everything happens for a reason” and “When life gives you lemons I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friend who died of lemons.” Both authors have had cancer; Dr. Let me know if there’s anything I can do?” attributed to “most of us, most of the time.” By the book’s end, you may not be up to Austen level, but you can definitely do better than that second epigraph, which, let’s be honest, is often a first instinct. I really do get it, I was once on the other side fretting over my every word. It’s nice to be reminded of the way he was alive and continues to impact those of us left in the wake of his death. The book offers the you-can-do-it assurance of a self-help title—but with real examples, illustrated breakdowns, and a little bit of etiquette advice, you get the sense that you actually can do it. A few weeks later, one of my brother Robert’s friends dropped off a homemade meal. It’s the kind of book that, in the past, I might have picked up in some nice-smelling boutiques and groaned. But relaying to people that your brother is dead or has recently died is a massive undertaking, one I didn’t want to deal with at an expensive pie shop, in Soho, a few days before Christmas. His friends have compiled photos, scanned letters they got from Mark, shared memories, and continue to stay in touch. So, write down the date and remember to note anniversaries, even if it’s just a text that says, “Whether today is just another day or a particularly hard one, I’m here for you.” I get that people are hesitant to share how they’re memorializing someone in the wake of what they perceive to be the bigger grief of family members, but whenever I’ve heard about how friends or near-strangers were observing Mark’s death, I felt nothing but gratitude. The bottom line is that it’s better to do than do nothing, and There’s No Good Card For This helps by providing ways to do better. And just because somebody died, you don’t need to sanitize them. See also: Queer Sex Is Not Resistance—or at Least, Not Resistance Enough The book is written by Dr. “Often, our first instinct is to help solve the problem,” the authors write, before adding, “This approach works very well if someone loses their iPhone. Yick. As someone who hates the word “awesome,” this is a book I’d usually be skeptical of. I love to hear stories about Mark, especially when they show who he was as a person; fallible and funny, stubborn as hell and incredibly sweet. Three different people sent artisanal butter, because, well, my family really likes butter. By then the cabinets were mostly empty and we were subsisting on takeout. Another piece of advice I’d give to those trying to support someone grieving is that specificity doesn’t matter only when it comes to offers of help. One thing I’ll remember going forward is to make sure I’m supporting people beyond the initial bad news. and when, over breakfast, I mentioned how much I love horses, tracked down a rescue horse we could go feed dinner that very evening. If you haven’t recently experienced devastating news or a significant loss, it may seem unnecessary to learn how to listen. As for those who didn’t show up, it’s really hard to rebuild a friendship when you know someone wasn’t able to be there for you when you needed them the most. People want to be helpful, but they also don’t want to mess up. Not up to too much, I told him. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do” is really different from “I can pick up the kids every day this week” or “Happy to come over Saturday and do laundry!” I don’t have kids and I didn’t need any laundry help, since I wore the same thing every day for weeks on end, but it’s much easier to take someone up on a specific offer than a general one. Visualization exercises? I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature.” The second is “Uhh … wow. It really doesn’t work if someone suffers a major loss.”
The pair go through seemingly obvious advice—avoid asking “how are you?” 20 seconds after someone is diagnosed with a brain tumor—but also provide less-obvious nuance. I still feel extremely grateful for the friend who offered her parent’s HBO GO password and also those who made stumbling, awkward apologies about Mark’s death. Home for the holidays, I said. The first is Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey, “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. Crowe and McDowell repeatedly emphasize how valuable the smallest of gestures can be. But, I often found that when people were supposedly listening to me, they were really just crafting their response. A lot of people have messaged or emailed me to say “I’m thinking about Mark,” but when someone shared a particular memory, it meant one hundred times more. Empathy tips? For example, the power of asking “how are you, today?” Even when it was well intentioned, I grew to hate people asking me how I was.
I wonder what other phrases and words will emerge next?”
That’s a question that is already engaging some linguists. It was originally “spunk-faced shitgibbon,” a phrase I used in a 1988 column in
New Musical Express and have put in most of my writing since. (He believes he may have uncharitably called Charlie Chaplin a “bowler-hatted shitgibbon” in a column for Select some time in the ’90s.)
As luck would have it, the Norwegian programmer Lars Magne Ingebrigtsen scanned some of the old Quantick/Wells columns, among other NME articles from 1989-90. But I needed to confirm Quantick’s claim with some hard evidence. And Quantick’s memory is a bit hazy. His website includes 16 scans of the columns, which went by many names, sometimes changing week to week: “Culture Vulture,” “Smiley Vulture,” “Ride The Lizard,” “Ride The Puffin,” “New Puffin on the Block,” and “A Clockwork Puffin.” (“The puffin obsession was to do with Björk’s old band The Sugarcubes admitting to Steven that they had eaten puffin,” Quantick told me.)
Plowing through the scans, I finally found a smoking gun in a column from the Jan. In a 2009 oral history for the Quietus (published soon after Wells died of lymphoma), Quantick recalls how Iannucci hired them: “Armando saw some comic articles by Steven Wells and me in the NME and, perhaps assuming we were 17-year-old glueheads, asked us to write for him. The British writer David Quantick dropped this bomb:
Hi, I wrote the
Veep line. PS I’m not Scottish and have nothing to do with bootlegging. (Even if Quantick was the originator, Wells clearly enjoyed using it too for years to come: In a 2006 column for Philadelphia Weekly, Wells had this to say about controversial gun ornaments from Urban Outfitters: “Aren’t there like real guns you mewling shitgibbons could get all excited about, ya?”) Some enterprising researcher may be able to dig up even earlier examples of shitgibbon from ’88 or ’89, but it may require a trip to a place like the British Library that has a complete NME archive. Smith of the Fall in the year 2000. “It’s bizarre and a very odd journey for a very silly word. I think he was a bit upset when we turned out to be very old.” Quantick contributed to the radio show’s TV spinoff, The Day Today, as well as to Iannucci’s later political satires: The Thick Of It, and, of course, Veep. In an article last Thursday, I looked at the rise of the colorful Trumpian epithet shitgibbon. In it, Quantick and Wells imagine Morrissey of the Smiths (nickname: the Mozzer) and Mark E. Some have assumed it must be Scottish, since the June insult came at the height of backlash against Trump’s visit to Scotland, where he was lambasted for his tonedeaf comments about the Brexit vote. That caught the attention of Armando Iannucci, who snapped them up to write for Chris Morris’ radio news parody On The Hour in the early ’90s. Unfortunately, his old columns with Wells do not appear to be currently available in any public digitized archive (though databases like Rock’s Back Pages and Proquest offer some coverage of NME). (Morrissey and Smith were frequent targets of the writers’ sardonic barbs.)
’Tis the Mozzer and Mark E Smith! Along with metrical concerns, Jones notes how vowels often repeat in such words, as in dickbiscuit, craprabbit, and spunkpuffin. “I only remember the line because Steven, who was a hard to please cowriter, liked it,” he told me via email. My fellow word sleuth Hugo van Kemenade found examples as early as 2000 in Usenet forum posts about bootlegging in the British music scene, where shitgibbon was deployed against ungrateful traders of copied music. The word first hit it big last June when Donald Trump was called a “tiny fingered, Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon” on Twitter, and then made an even bigger splash last week when Pennsylvania state senator Daylin Leach called the president a “fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon.” But where did this exquisite creation come from, originally? But that tweet actually came from an Englishman, one who goes by MetalOllie on Twitter (and will only reveal that his first name is Darren due to online death threats). Clearly, shitgibbon and its kin will provide scholarly fodder for years to come. Yes, in the year 2000, Sir Morrissey del Manc and Shitgibbon Smith will be tired old buckers, fit for the scrapheap ever since some student
NME reader got to see their poetry part of the English GCSE and finished so-called “serious rock” for, in the words of Alice Cooper, “EVAH!”
So that seals shitgibbon for Quantick and Wells. More than a decade later, it got a boost from an early episode of HBO’s Veep in 2012, wherein the character Sen. Quantick’s claim immediately rang true. Meanwhile, Jamie Reilly, director of the Memory, Concepts, Cognition Laboratory at Temple University, has been working with colleagues on a research project analyzing people’s judgments of such novel profanities. 13, 1990 issue of NME. Andrew Doyle calls a rival a “gold-plated fucking shitgibbon.”
And there the hunt might have remained, if not for a comment on my original post on the Strong Language blog. He and his fellow journalist/comedian Steven Wells got their start writing for NME, and for a few years they collaborated on a satirical, somewhat stream-of-consciousness column for the magazine. I asked Quantick what he thought of his coinage’s new life in the age of Trump. Taylor Jones, a graduate student in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania, wrote a post on his Language Jones blog that considers how shitgibbon fits an emerging pattern for obscene insults like douchewaffle, turdweasel, and jizztrumpet, all of which consist of a monosyllablic expletive plus a trochee (a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable). He recalls that once he hit upon “spunk-faced shitgibbon” in 1988 or so, he continued to recycle shitgibbon in writing for other outlets. “I’m surprised and delighted that a word I made up in the 1980s to insult British indie rock stars has resurfaced in the context of 21st century US politics and the shitgibbon in the White House,” he said.
Panic! Donny Eat World? Let’s just hope it’s not Fall Out Man. From the floppy haircut obscuring one eye to the shift from adenoidal vocals to a strangled yell when Trump tweets “FAKE NEWS,” emo Trump takes a modestly clever idea and hits it out of the park. Donald Trump’s tweets have gotten him compared to everything from a mental patient to an angry child (and also, you know, Hitler). Now we just need a name for his nonexistent band. Now, they’ve been set to music by the crew at Super Deluxe, and the results are pretty spectacular. But if you listened to a lot of emo in the early ’00s, the mixture of petulant lashing-out and barely veiled self-hatred may seem especially familiar. at the White House?
Everyone but Grammy voters is singing Beyoncé’s praises, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is getting in on the action. A new teaser for the Netflix series’ third season shows Titus Andromedon (Titus Burgess) donning a flouncy, canary yellow dress and taking a baseball bat to a parked car, while singing a not-quite-actionable pastiche of Bey’s “Hold Up.” The target of his “Lemonading?”: construction-worker boyfriend Michael, who has evidently done him wrong in a manner befitting a concept album and accompying hour-length film. The new season ofUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt premieres May 19.
John Legend and Cynthia Erivo took to the stage on Sunday night at the Grammy Awards for the show’s In Memoriam segment—and left the audience wanting more. Erivo had previously won the Tony Award for Lead Actress for her role as Celie, and has recently been announced as the lead in the upcoming Harriet Tubman biopic, Harriet. However, that cover was far too brief, so you’ll want to give the full duet, which Legend shared online, a proper listen:
With 10 wins and many more nominations of his own, Legend is a Grammys regular. He’s not done with awards season yet, either: He’ll be performing both of La La Land’s Best Song nominees, “City of Stars” and “Audition,” at the Oscars later this month. The pair sang a simple cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” accompanied sparely on the piano by Legend, to bookend a montage of clips of musicians who died over the past year, including Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Prince, Phife Dawg, and more. Erivo joined the Grammy winners circle herself on Sunday with her first-ever Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album as part of the cast of Broadway’s The Color Purple. Curiously, though he plays a supporting role, Legend actually doesn’t sing either of those songs in the film; he’s taking over for Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.
Whether you and your person have a natural rhythm in the kitchen, or struggle for power, or you’ve never considered cooking together before, I can recommend side-by-side cooking as a great unifier. None of this came naturally to us (see the water balloon moments above). Slosh a little neutral oil in each pan and start your steaks (and your stopwatch). But last year, newly engaged, Mike and I broke the curse. (Optional but fun) Toward the end, drop in a knob of butter, some sliced shallots, and thyme sprigs and, tipping the pans, spoon it all over the steaks to baste them. J. More from Food52: A $10-Dollar Meal For When You’re Convinced You Have "Nothing" to Make Come, Let’s Climb This Skyscraping Cinnamon Bread to the Moon The Smartest (Hands-Off, Get-Ahead) Snow Day Activity This Recipe Will Make You Rethink the Way You Sear Steak 14 Impressive (But Not Hard!) Valentine’s Day Desserts The Unlikely Origins of the Most Iconic "American" Cake Pan I only hope I can be as gracious about his passions, even though I might never truly understand what envelopes have to do with the ambient electronic music he makes. We made our favorite speed-luxury dinner—together. There were no more relationship questions—we had a wedding to plan, to hell with fancy restaurants. He keeps me company and tells me jokes, grinds the pepper while I wrestle with the chicken, and lets me teach him, too. Mike calls these “Splats.”
Pile arugula on two plates. Kenji López-Alt’s Butter-Basted, Pan-Seared Thick-Cut Steaks Recipe Serves 2 with leftovers for tacos and sandwiches
2 large bone-in T-bone or ribeye steaks (see Kenji’s note below)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (60ml) vegetable or canola oil
6 tablespoons (45g) unsalted butter
12 sprigs thyme or rosemary (optional)
1 cup finely sliced shallots (about 2 large; optional)
See the full recipe on Food52. When the steaks are looking nice and browned and hit 125° F on an instant-read thermometer (or are done in whatever way you want to check them, poking or even cutting to peek), move them to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. Heat two pans, salt your steaks liberally,* and get the stop watch setting on your phone ready. We stayed in. Ours has evolved, like the rest of our ten-years-and-some romance, in beautiful ways I didn’t see coming. Even though I’m the only one who really obsesses over food, I learn new perspectives on cooking from him all the time (like the best eggs are fried so much hotter than you think they should be, and beers can be opened with just about anything). But steak is good. Anything à la minute is ideal, especially if it’s something that one person alone would have to cook in batches—omelettes, smash-burgers, crispy-skinned fish, slabs of cauliflower. Here’s the formula for our perfect speed-luxury dinner, based on recipes from my two bosses, Merrill and Amanda. We had to work to get good at it. Crisp them up in the steak-y juices left in the pans. *Or salt them 40 minutes or more ahead for a dry brine to make them even juicier and more flavorful, if not doing the speed-luxury version. This post originally appeared in Genius Recipes from Food52. If you don’t have two matching pans, so what? If one steak is perfectly cooked and the other less so, give the good one to your partner and reap the points. Compare how stainless cooks versus cast iron. On the ten Valentine’s Days leading up to our wedding, year by year, I became a little bit more of a monster. Every couple has their own methods of maneuvering in the kitchen. It never fails to be delicious, dirties very few dishes, and takes about 30 minutes all told—especially when you work together. It doesn’t have to be steak. And not just together, but literally side-by-side, flipping steaks every 30 seconds like ice dancers, the way I always do now, thanks to J. And every damn time I did, it was over a $60 plate of steak, with a waiter skulking nearby. Squash the boiled potatoes into funny, flattened shapes about 1/2-inch-thick. You’re completely in sync as you watch a timer and flip every 30 seconds. Serve with Splats. Boil some little potatoes. Shower the piles with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Shave Parmesan all over the top with a vegetable peeler. Slice the steak and lay it on top, then pour any juices over. The cocktail of work nights and wine, mixed with the pressures of Valentine’s Days past and larger relationship questions hanging in the air started to turn me into an unrecognizable version of myself: a water balloon overfilled with emotion and a half-bottle of Prosecco, ready to pop. Flip every 30 seconds, like ice dancers. Kenji López-Alt’s technique over at Serious Eats, which I included in the book version of Genius Recipes. Or share it—you’ll have too much steak anyway—and save the leftovers for side-by-side tacos or sandwiches tomorrow. Your adrenaline surges together.
(As a film, Lemonade even lost to a movie about the Beatles, directed by Happy Days’ Ron Howard. This is something I want for every child of every race, and I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes. Similarly, Twenty One Pilots’ no-pants appearance made them seem like they’d misread the invitation and thought they were at the VMAs. The problem is what wins. Not so with music. Shall we never speak of that Bee Gees karaoke, supposed tribute again? Other Grammy Notes
The good-news story was Chance the Rapper, who won Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, and Best Rap Performance, despite having the Grammy no-no word rapper right there in his name. His choice to wear a Prince Halloween costume and attempt a showily second-rate Prince guitar solo (on a Prince symbol–shaped guitar) was at once preening and off-puttingly necrophiliac, like the best-ever wedding band you never would book. Mic issues resurfaced soon after in Lady Gaga’s campy ’80s-video-vixen duet with Metallica (“Metalligaga,” as the interwebs had it), in which poor old James Hetfield’s mic wasn’t even on. It was a boss move, and more power to her, except that it made the lugubriously solemn, gothy arrangement of Michael’s joyfully profane “Fastlove” she was saddled with seem even more torturously dragged out. I liked his pratfalling self-deprecation, until that happened. Resist!”
Hillary Clinton loyalist Katy Perry in turn wore a “Persist” armband (referencing the viral slam by Republicans against Elizabeth Warren this week) and a white pantsuit, with a hairstyle you could interpret as a solidarity nod to Kesha. But the “mommy” line was still too presumptively intimate and invasive on Adele’s part. So again, Grammys, please, stop putting people in these positions. Consider Sunday afternoon, during the pre-show part of the Grammys that most people never see (but when the lion’s share of the awards are given). Even when it was trying to do the opposite. I winced, not for the last time in the day. At least LL Cool J has been liberated from his own hurried-hosting-years jive. He won five times as many last night. Can “Thank you, Miranda” please be the new “Bye, Felicia”—for patronizing, exploitive, establishment jerks? Worst, most self-serving political speech of the evening. But that would have been a hard, ungrateful-seeming, and, as far as I know, unprecedented act. The morning after, here is my public entreaty to the voters of the Grammys: Please, please, please, stop doing this to Adele. Likewise, host James Corden’s sub–Dr. Because of course it did.)
This wasn’t a problem just because of racial dynamics in a moment when the new White House administration and its “alt-right” (i.e., white supremacist) supporters are dragging America back into its vilest vortices. Without that imbalance, it might not seem so obligatory for you all to be so directly political right now. Beyoncé knew it, too: She seized that Urban Contemporary telecast moment, still wearing her golden-sun-goddess costume from her epic multimedia performance minutes before, reading from a matching gold-embossed card, to give an address that might have been the most measured, grown-up, and thoughtful political speech in awards-show history (at least by a celebrity, not a documentary filmmaker at the Oscars):
Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to beautifully capture the profundity of deep Southern culture. We all experience pain and loss, and often we become inaudible. Seuss white-man-raps, um, thing at the top? But with that cultural skew, almost every second that it was less outspoken, the Grammys broadcast seemed like an effort to subdue and distract. The horns and backing vocals reinforced the idea represented by Chance, of the gospel/soul roots of American music in general, from a country point of view, just as Beyoncé’s duet with the Dixie Chicks did at the Country Music Association awards in November. Adele called Beyoncé “the artist of my life” and spoke about how much Lemonade meant—especially, she unfortunately added, to “my black friends,” which only sharpened the awkwardness by invoking a rusty trope white people use to distance themselves from racism. Otherwise, senior citizens still will exercise a de facto veto in the big categories. And that’s down to the demographics of the voting body, as well as the faster-changing nature of music culture. To confront issues that make us uncomfortable. For “Music’s Biggest Night,” the Grammys’ sound standards are damned shoddy. Everyone knew this year’s Grammys were a showdown between Beyoncé’s rapturously received April visual and aural album and British belter Adele’s sales record–setting 25, from late 2015 (which through no fault of her own now feels a lifetime ago). Which is far too hedged for the current political mood. When you over-reward them, they end up wearing the shame of your collective racial blinders. Adele’s attempt to pay tribute to George Michael was cursed by technical issues that made her stop, bleep!, and start again, determined not to repeat the microphone-and-monitor foul-ups that hobbled her last year, especially in Michael’s memory. Comedian Margaret Cho, hosting, reacted to a powerful performance from the Alberta-based First Nation group Northern Cree together with Mexican singer Carla Morrison by praising the diversity of the music-industry awards: Casting side-eye on the Oscars, Cho predicted that no one ever would see the Twitter hashtag #GrammySoWhite. Where Adele stumbles over herself to make amends for you. No one will remember them, except maybe Neil Diamond. Adele knew it, too. While the Grammys are a sucker for a feel-good gospel choir at the drop of any broad-brimmed hat, Chance’s raps put his redemption songs directly in the context and service of today’s life-and-death struggles in Chicago. Even as she reminded us of other abusive chains. Well, there was Laverne Cox. But when she got the album prize, she said, tearfully and earnestly, “I can’t possibly accept this.” Although then she did. By putting Urban Contemporary—in which the other nominees were worthy but relatively obscure—in the live telecast, the Grammy producers were making sure Beyoncé would get a speech on TV, even in an Adele sweep. And the Grammys’ grasp on reality, if any, will get flimsier and flimsier. And it is necessary. And where Frank Ocean, who put out one (or two) of last year’s most-praised releases, doesn’t even bother to submit for nomination, because he doesn’t believe you have any credibility. If they really didn’t know, partly blame the Grammys: During his lifetime, the original Starman only won one little gramophone, for a half-assed music video, aside from a couple of late, hall-of-fame kinda things. Dynamic and passionate like nothing else on that stage, not only did guest Busta Rhymes sarcastically congratulate the “unsuccessful Muslim ban” of “President Agent Orange,” and not only did a parade of multiculturally-dressed immigrant stand-ins take the stage during the “you must go” section of “We the People,” but Q-Tip capped it by shouting, “Resist! Knowing the Grammys, I found it obvious she was speaking too soon. But when they told the origin story behind it, about watching the Grammys in their skivvies together years back in Ohio, they conveyed some sweetly irreverent post-emo spunk that means something to a lot of white kids who may never, ever watch the Grammys. I assume people were getting fired at that point, permanently? Adele beat Beyoncé every time. I’m aware that the music academy makes efforts at recruiting more diverse young members, though Ocean’s stance demonstrates the barriers there. Positions where Rihanna and Beyoncé smile through gritted teeth or sparkly flasks. It was hard to tell if the Chainsmokers dudes were sure who David Bowie was, when they helped award him one of his many posthumous rock prizes, or if they were just in a hurry to get another Jägermeister. Resist! Between Adele as George Michael and Mars as Prince, one wants to ask, where were the queers (or at least the queer of spirit) Sunday night? For the Grammys, a more ruthless approach to grandfathering-out would be necessary. Plus, everyone was relieved the bro hit-makers the Chainsmokers didn’t blindside him for Best New Artist. “Thank you, Miranda”—Grammys president Neil Portnow dismissing a random “America the Beautiful”-playing trumpet soloist, amid his half-baked testimony to American music and unity that then morphed into a WTF complaint about specific music-business copyright legislation. And have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent, and capable. That is: If you really won’t be motivated by a deeper awareness, fairness, and responsibility for, in particular, black lives and culture, the motherlode of American popular music, arguably the major reason most of you have careers … Well, maybe you bunch of graying palefaces (from which I don’t exempt my middle-aging white self) might at least have pity on Adele and the other white artists you sometimes-justifiably love. (He might have liked a Daft Punk dark-imperial-emperor cape and mask of his own.) It was a step in Tesfaye trying to shake off his exaggeratedly creepy image. (The closest I can recall is Marlon Brando turning down his Oscar for The Godfather in 1973 for political reasons, but he didn’t do it in person— he sent a Native American woman in his stead.) Even Kanye West, who’s so often anarchically acted as the racial subtext–exposing conscience of awards shows (including this year, by not showing up), has never done it, though he, too, has said from the stage that awards he’d won rightfully belonged to others. #NoDAPL!” It was like she crashed the place with nonshowbiz feelings, in a happy way that made me want to believe the abusive family chain has been broken. RIP. Overall, despite the “Hello” singer’s well-meaningness, despite her gesture being much braver than Macklemore’s after-the-fact apology, her speech will go down as more white tone-deafness—which, for someone whose fantastic ear is her calling card, is sourly ironic. (See my in-depth explainer on Twenty One Pilots for peeved grown folks.)
J-Lo quoted Toni Morrison early on, which may have led us all to expect a more interesting night. And Monday morning, the tag is everywhere. The two were competing for Album, Record (as in singular recording), and Song (as in best songwriting) of the Year, all the high-profile prizes except Best New Artist. Just as poor Adele did Sunday night, by winning. It’s a problem because—as is almost always the case in these faceoffs—Adele’s album, as finely wrought as it is, is simply not the vital bundle of energies and innovations that Lemonade is. But old duffers have home studios. (It was perhaps less obvious to her as a Brit than it might be to an American.)
Adele also said she wished Beyoncé could be her “mommy,” having just mentioned how hard she found it herself to be a mother and that she did not love her own dad (fairly remarkable things for an awards-show honoree to say, reminding us why people love Adele’s frankness). After the furor over whitewashed nominations in 2016, the Oscars made much-needed reforms. If memories of a minor Beck album beating Beyoncé’s industry-changing one in the 2015 ceremonies or of the milquetoast Macklemore taking best rap record from the fiery Kendrick Lamar in 2014 (and then cringingly apologizing via Instagram) weren’t fresh enough warnings, another pre-show gesture was a mammoth tip: One of the few prizes left unawarded was Best Urban Contemporary Album, the academy’s euphemism for forward-looking R&B and a category Beyoncé’s Lemonade was a lock to win. There’s already a rule that you have to have worked on a release in some capacity in the past five years. Morris Day and the Time were nostalgically superb in the Prince tribute segment, even if the cameras cut far too often to big rows of white Grammy-goers bopping half-heartedly about. The vets brought, as hip-hop usually does, the only full-throated protest to the night. But no one will ever, ever think of those few minutes again. His win was huge for independent artists: Even though his Coloring Book was channeled through Apple Music, he chose not to mention it and shout out his starting point, SoundCloud, instead, the night’s only acknowledgment of the bottom-up side of the streaming-music revolution. Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris says, “We could use this energy at the next pipeline protest! How to fix it? I don’t hate Sheeran, since how could you, but still. He had his moments. And by extension, America’s. (Too bad the young country ass-kickers Maren Morris—who mainly benefited by being matched with pop-soul stalwart Alicia Keys on stage—and Kelsea Ballerini, who suffered by being paired thematically with Danish millennial-mope band Lukas Graham, had to lose in the process.)
Aside from Beyoncé’s technicolor tone poem for black motherhood, the biggest performance highlight was from A Tribe Called Quest. It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty, so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror—first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House, and the Grammys—and see themselves. And the Grammys already do better at the nomination stage than the Oscars do. No doubt because she didn’t know what else to do. Bruno Mars in turn was great without actually being any good. ATCQ, could you please hold some training sessions? Likewise, Ed Sheeran’s turn as a one-man band eking out his trade on the corner stage of a douchey surf bar? My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that would give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness, and our history. Music manifestly doesn’t have to be dissident to be great music. Which is the Grammys’ current pattern: use black performers to draw viewers but bypass them for the main awards. She was genuflecting to Beyoncé’s instantly iconic pregnancy with twins, the theme of Bey’s show-stopping, gravity-defying, mythopoeic-African-matrilineal, performance-art set of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles” earlier in the show (touchingly introduced by her own mom, Tina Knowles). She graciously accepted her accolades until near the end of the evening. However, without Jones, the mostly white Dap Kings do seem rather like a theme-park version of soul. He was so much more charming with his own much-worse material, and there have been so many finer Prince tributes by now. The Oscars have decided to rule out people who haven’t produced work in a decade or more, which can help because Hollywood is such a big machine—even in the digital age, it’s dicey to make movies on your own. (You could even call Coloring Book the first mixtape ever to win an album prize.)
Chance’s moment was also big for gospel music, that wellspring of rock, soul, country, and more: Chance sang “How Great” and “All We Got” with gospel-category winner Kirk Franklin and guest Tamela Mann, among others. Who called out to her “gender nonbinary peeps”(!) and to Supreme Court trans teen petitioner Gavin Grimm in the course of introducing Gaga and Metallica. The Beyoncés and Frank Oceans will go on being also-rans, and the industry’s Becks, Adeles, and Taylor Swifts will go on being tainted winners. Nashville sorta-maverick Sturgill Simpson, who was bruited about as a potential (and, despite his real talent, even more retrograde) spoiler who could take the Album of the Year Grammy from both Adele and Beyoncé, did a fine set with the Dap Kings (the band behind the late Sharon Jones). Still, Perry’s performance of “Chained to the Rhythm,” about the perils of a complacent “bubble” of awareness (symbolized by a suburban picket fence that rotated around to display mirrored spikes and Skip Marley and a projection of the Constitution), was way too overthought—in the same mushy middle zone of only-protest-if-you-want-it-to-be that Gaga brought to her Super Bowl halftime show. Maybe Adele should have stepped down from the stage and handed the statuette to Beyoncé directly in her seat. Daft Punk and the Weeknd, in their Fortress of Solitude, weren’t bad on Starboy’s best song, “I Feel It Coming,” at least given Abel Tesfaye’s general stage stiffness. And then the Grammys went on flagrantly to repeat its mistakes.
Behold Trump retiring upstairs at 6:30 p.m. At night he scrolls through Twitter and polls his counselors: “Which of you shall we say dost love us most?”
When the story was first published, Trump erupted in wounded rage. He is rigid. He is petty and exacting, obsessed with praise and with his reflection on TV. When he is not hungrily contemplating his own jewelry, Denethor is consumed by envy of Gandalf and a concomitant desire for renown. The vain king engaged in hollow self-flattery while his empire buckles under him. He is the capricious, brooding monarch ensconced in melancholy. In Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush’s piece, titled “Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles,” a new, damning media caricature of the president emerges. But instead he has Bannon, a cable addiction, and what looks, at least to humanities students across the country, suspiciously like a looming tragedy of his own making. “They have gotten it wrong for two years, and now are making up stories & sources!” Spicer chimed in to protest that Trump doesn’t even own a bathrobe. Perhaps Trump’s isolation explains his mania for the pomp and glamor of the Oval Office. And in a recent, exhaustively reported New York Times story pooling light onto the White House after dark, he evokes a figure immediately recognizable from the mists of cultural tradition: a petulant, lonely, tyrannical king. His family lives apart; a lone advisor haunts the winter of his discontent. Trump, they report, eagerly inspected a catalog of 17 window covering options before selecting golden drapes to replace Obama’s scarlet curtains. The president, a man “of flexible ideology but fixed habits,” sits “cloistered in the White House” with “little access to his fans and supporters.” He “feels increasingly pinched by the pressures of the job and the constant presence of protests.” He struggles to concentrate on policy memos.
But as astonishing as it is to see the extent to which Trump maps onto a literary type, it’s equally fascinating to watch the paper of record lean in to a characterization more familiar to most of us from our high school English classes. That England’s paragon of vengeful senility has found a kindred spirit in the White House of 2017 doesn’t just prove “the excellent foppery of the world.” It implies that Americans should read more Shakespeare. Perhaps what Trump really needs is a fool who will tell him the truth. His private personality seems exactly aligned with the impetuous, sour narcissism he exhibits in public. But such outbursts from Trump and his lieutenant (“Sirrah, the whip!”) only proved the article’s point. He banishes Kent on a whim, much as Trump exiled Corey Lewandowski when the fortunes of his campaign seemed to falter. One of the uncanniest revelations of this document is that Trump, like those lonely canonical despots, cannot turn himself off. He’s strikingly archetypal: the consummate narcissist, the consummate chauvinist, the consummate unscrupulous businessman. “My ratings MUCH BETTER. The 19th century poet William Morris, for instance, could have been scripting Trump in his didactic epic “The Earthly Paradise.” Morris describes “a certain king blinded by pride” whose tantrums “kept many a lord awake.” Though nominally married, “at the dais must he sit alone.” He lies “wakeful when yet low was the sun” (tweeting about Alicia Machado’s sex tapes, perhaps?) and “[counts] up his royal titles one by one … thinking much of things that he had done” (like, say, winning 47.2 percent of the popular vote in Wisconsin?). Or picture Denethor of Gondor, the querulous ruler gone to seed in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of J.R.R. Denethor vs. (He claimed the hangings belonged to FDR; they belonged to Bill Clinton.) Smitten with its majesty, he has instructed his staff “to schedule as many televised events in [the Oval Office] as possible.”
Trump often seems to defy comprehension. Like any number of hubristic antiheroes from Greek drama, he appears helpless to escape the maledictions of his own nature. “The Grey Wizard a TOTAL LOSER,” one imagines him shouting, wily restraint temporarily cast aside. Like George III in Hamilton, he loves to act the mad entertainer and to indulge his inner child. The lavish décor, Haberman and Thrush write, “validates him as a serious person” and provides “an image-burnishing backdrop” to his restlessness. to “recharge, vent, and intermittently use Twitter.” Save for one longtime aide, he is “almost always by himself”; Melania and Barron have chosen to remain in New York City. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Lear disowns Cordelia because the pageantry of filial flattery means more to him than actual love. Trump also takes the twilight hours to page through press clips with communications director Sean Spicer, “marking the ones he does not like with a big arrow in black Sharpie.”
Could the portrait get any bleaker? Possible variations on the theme for the future almost write themselves: Like Henry VIII in Wolf Hall, Trump is a leader driven by appetite (and enabled by ambitious yes-men), readily uprooting the norms of his station. But 2,000 years after Agamemnon, and 400 after Lear, we know the man in this NYT article. “The failing @nytimes writes total fiction concerning me,” he tweeted. Gandalf AN EASY D!!!”
But of course, the closest analogue for Trump is Lear himself—peevish, wrathful, blinded by self-regard, abandoned by the family members he hasn’t pushed away, outwardly vaunting and inwardly feeble. There he lurks, “watching television in his bathrobe,” and often “offering a bitter play-by-play of critics like CNN’s Don Lemon” when they mock him on cable news. If most people behave like people, Trump behaves like some sort of rudimentary silhouette cut from the cloth of literature or myth.
“Billions will be spent on a wall that won’t work to prevent a crime wave that isn’t happening, while refugees sit in dangerous situations to prevent Bowling Green-style massacres that never took place.”
“The press is going to be a key element to sort out fact from fiction, and they are under attack,” Oliver noted. Though the show’s main segment is usually dedicated to complex policy issues like school segregation or the opioid epidemic, Oliver spent his first episode of the new season addressing a more immediate crisis: the “pathological liar” in the White House. “Where are his lies coming from? “Donald Trump lies is clearly not a fresh observation,” Oliver admitted, but he did come up with four useful questions to analyze Trump’s apparent total disconnect from reality. Why do so many people believe him?” asked Oliver. Last Week Tonight has been off the air since just after the presidential election, and during his return on Sunday night, host John Oliver had a lot of ground to cover. And last, but most important: “What can we possibly do about it?”
“Trump sees something that jibes with his worldview, doesn’t check it, half-remembers it, and then passes it on,” Oliver explained, “at which point it takes on a life of its own and appears to validate itself.” It doesn’t that help when Trump isn’t just making things up, he’s getting his news from unreliable sources like Breitbart and conspiracy theory hub InfoWars—which can have serious consequences for the nation. But with the Trump administration decrying every critical outlet as “fake news,” it’s going to be difficult to drag the country back to reality. You know, just in case you’re the kind of person who needs that information. (It’s a strategy that was also recently used by a veterans group, who aired a commercial during Trump’s preferred hate-watch, Saturday Night Live, to oppose his Muslim ban and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.)
The first ad that Oliver will run this morning during Fox & Friends, New Day, and Morning Joe features a folksy cowboy promoting pain medication—and explaining the nuclear triad, the Geneva convention, and the unemployment rate. Fortunately, Oliver has a plan to target the source of the unending flow of misinformation, by running informational ads during morning shows that we already know Trump watches.
“What the fuck does she have to do to win Album of the Year?”
But Beyoncé still made a lot of noise on Grammy night, giving an astonishingly staged performance while in the late stages of pregnancy and dropping a brand-new single the moment the broadcast was over. Beyoncé getting shut out of the Grammys’ top awards left even Adele, who won Album, Song, and Record of the Year aghast.“I thought it was her year,” Adele said backstage after sweeping the major categories, leaving Bey with only Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video (for “Formation”). “Came in ’97, been winning 20 years, boy.”
Although Beyoncé is the most-nominated female artist in Grammys history, it’s tough to crow about that when she’s repeatedly been shut out of the top categories, especially in a song recorded before last night’s results were announced. “All of this winning, I been losing my mind,” she sings. She’ll have to console herself with being one of the most influential artists on the planet instead. DJ Khaled’s “Shining,” released exclusively to Tidal but available for free streaming, features both Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the first time they’ve performed on the same song since 2013’s “Drunk in Love,” and though Grammy wrap-ups are focusing on Beyoncé’s losses, the song is all about her wins. Fortunately, her husband can fill in there, dropping references to his “21 Grammys” and “12 albums, all platinum” while taking a sidelong shot at Drake and talking about “buying European trucks for the twin babies.”
So yeah, there’s still some space left in Beyoncé’s trophy cabinet.
In the most powerful performance of a night full of powerful performances, A Tribe Called Quest was joined by Anderson Paak, Consequence, and Busta Rhymes on the Grammys stage for a performance that was at once a highlight from their Grammy-nominated new album, a tribute to dearly departed member Phife Dawg, and a gesture of resistance aimed directly at President Donald J. Integrated seamlessly into the performance of their song “We the People”—itself a fierce denunciation of fear and intolerance—the performance made for the kind of genuinely moving political statement that awards shows all too rarely provide, as the group used their platform to bring Muslims onstage as a visible reminder of the very real victims of these actions. Trump. And while brief statements of unity were sprinkled throughout the evening, the song’s devastating hook (written in the voice of a very Trump-esque hatemonger) brought all these messages together:
All you black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go
The final word of the performance, delivered with black-power salutes in the air, surely would have made Phife Dawg proud: “Resist.” Busta directly saluted Trump as “President Agent Orange” before “congratulating” him on his unsuccessful Muslim ban (a subject that’s very personal to Tribe members Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, who are both Muslim).
The proud Chicagoan won three Grammys including Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance, and Rap Album of the Year for his gospel-rap masterpiece Coloring Book, which became the first streaming-exclusive to ever win a Grammy. And to top it all off, he gave one of the best and most inspiring performances of the night, a medley of highlights from the critically acclaimed mixtape, including “How Great,” “Blessings,” and “All We Got.”
Like Beyoncé earlier in the evening, Chance aimed to bring out divine energy, backed by a joyous gospel choir and accompanied by rousing vocalist Tamela Mann and gospel superstar Kirk Franklin. If there were still some people watching the Grammy Awards last night who didn’t know who Chance was before, they definitely know him now. The 2017 Grammys marked a major breakthrough for 23-year-old Chance the Rapper. And per usual, he showed off his his dexterous lyricism and passionate vocals.
Adele’s speech may have been contradictory, since she first said she could not accept the award but then wound up accepting it anyway, but she did at the very least manage to seize the moment of her triumph and turn it into a Beyoncé tribute. Adele’s full Album of the Year acceptance speech is below:
As you can see, it took an army to make me strong and willing again to do it. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You move my soul every single day. And you have done for nearly 17 years,” said Adele to her visibly pregnant competitor. “I adore you, and I want you to be my mum, all right?”
But when a shocked Adele was called onstage again to accept the award for Album of the Year, this time for 25, her praise for Beyoncé went even further: “I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humbled and very grateful and gracious, but the artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album for me, the Lemonade album, was so monumental.”
Adele isn’t the first Grammy winner to feel another nominee was more deserving—Macklemore famously publicized his apology text to Kendrick Lamar after winning Best Rap Album at the 2014 Grammys in what was widely considered an upset. We all got to see another side of you that you don’t always let us see, and we appreciate that. And all us artists adore you. You are our light. And the way that you make me and my friends feel—the way you make my black friends feel—is empowering, and you make them stand up for themselves. And I love you. I always have. Adele (who was even sporting what appeared to be a lemon-shaped pin on her dress) had already offered Bey quite a bit of praise moments earlier while accepting Record of the Year, which she won for “Hello” over Beyoncé’s “Formation.” “My idol is Queen Bey, and I adore you. But tonight winning this feels kind of full-circle and like I’m coming back to myself. But I can’t possibly accept this award, and I’m very humbled and very grateful and gracious, but the artist of my life is Beyoncé, and this album for me, the
Lemonade album, was so monumental, and so well thought-out and so beautiful and soul-bearing. Five years ago, when I was last here, I was pregnant, and I didn’t know. And I was awarded that shortly after, I found out shortly after, which was the biggest blessing of my life. And in my pregnancy, and through becoming a mother, I lost a lot of myself. I struggled and I still do struggle being a mum. It’s really hard. The biggest story of Sunday night’s Grammys was the contest between Adele and Beyoncé, with both artists going head-to-head in three of the night’s four major categories. And I always will. Agreements, I appreciate it. The Academy, I love you, my manager, my husband, and my son. You’re the only reason I do it. Thank you so much. Thank you very much to everybody. In the end, it was Adele who took home the awards for all three—but not without pulling something of a Kanye during her Album of the Year acceptance speech, using it as a way to give Beyoncé credit for her momentous visual album, Lemonade.
contract. He wasn’t going to reinterpret Prince’s song or put his own spin on it: It was more like a performance by the world’s most accomplished tribute band. First, Morris Day and the Time took the stage to perform “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” just the way they did onscreen in 1984’s Purple Rain—right down to the belt-grabbing back-and-forth dance movies and the bit where Day combs his hair in a mirror mid-song. We heard Prince’s own voice, doing a cut-down version of the fire-and-brimstone intro to “Let’s Go Crazy,” and the baton passed to Bruno Mars, done up in a ruffled shirt and a sequined purple jacket for the occasion. Then the stage fell dark except for the glow of the symbol that briefly replaced Prince’s name at the end of his Warner Bros. It was just close enough to remind you how great the real thing was. As Variety critic Daniel Fienberg quipped on Twitter, Mars might have been “concocted in a laboratory” for just such an occasion, and he didn’t disappointed—unless you were looking for something deeper than a fluid and highly professional facsimile. (Something like, for instance, D’Angelo’s garment-rending take on “Sometimes It Snows in April” on The Tonight Show last year, or Janelle Monae’s shape-shifting medley from the BET Awards.) Mars and his band hit every mark and every note, and they had the audience, from Beyoncé to Paul Williams, on their feet. The Grammys had a lot of dead legends to pay homage to this year, and the tributes took several forms: Adele slowed down (and restarted) “Fastlove” for George Michael; a Tribe Called Quest stood silent to let Phife Dawg’s recording take his verse on “We the People.” For Prince, the Grammys played it straight.
(If anything, this performance raises the legitimate question: Does Diamond himself know all of the words by heart?)
Fortunately, all was forgiven upon the impromptu arrival of Blue Ivy. a little overwrought. It was … Anyone could’ve guessed that James Corden would bring “Carpool Karaoke” to the Grammys, but pulling together John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, Faith Hill, and a comical quantity of other A-listers to sing “Sweet Caroline” in a cardboard-cutout car? She joined in the fun midway alongside Corden, showing off her marvelously tiny pink suit, just as the viral-made spectacle of it all was becoming a bit too much to bear. The stunt made Ellen’s infamous Oscars selfie look subtle while, more productively, proving once and for all that even some of the most famous singers in the world can’t remember the lyrics to Neil Diamond’s karaoke-bar classic. Evidently, her presence is enough to make even the thirstiest of awards-show stunts seem pretty charming.
She began with some vivid visuals reminiscent of her 2011 performance at the American Music Awards, with a projection of multiple Beyoncés (and Blue Ivies), and soon, the real, very pregnant diva appeared, singing Lemonade ballads “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles,” flanked by dancers and Inception-like reclining wooden chairs. At the Grammy Awards Sunday evening, she appeared looking typically divine, adorned with goddesslike imagery and many, many more flower arrangements. The answer was yes—because it’s Beyoncé, and she is a legend who defies nature—and now we have a better sense of what that Coachella performance might look like. It was beautiful, majestic, and every bit as Beyoncé as one would expect. And of course, through it all, the twins were already killing it from the womb: After the initial shock that Queen B is currently incubating not one, but two babies, wore off, the first thing many fans wondered was: Is she going to show up to headline Coachella in April? Beyoncé appeared to channel a hodgepodge of religious iconography—including multi-armed deities and Renaissance art.
(That last one went to Jonathan Barnbrook, the album’s art director; the engineering award was shared with co-engineers Tom Elmhirst, Kevin Killen, and Tony Visconti, and mastering engineer Joe LaPorta.) This is great news for other brilliant musicians who’ve been luckless at the Grammys; they no longer have to wonder what it would take to get the attention of the Recording Academy. Over the course of his decades-long career, David Bowie earned critical and popular acclaim for his extraordinary songwriting, singing, and performance. What he didn’t earn was a Grammy—at least not for his music. (He won in 1985 for Best Video, Short Form, and was given a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2006.) Sunday night, more than a year after his death, Bowie finally achieved Grammy Justice, winning every category in which he he was nominated for his last album, Blackstar. That’s five Grammys: Best Alternative Music Album; Best Rock Performance; Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical; Best Rock Song; and Best Recording Package. Here’s “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean,” the music video that won David Bowie his first and, until Sunday night, only Grammy:
“But this is too important.”
And so Adele took “Fastlove” once again from the top, smoothly going through Michael’s lyrics as she fought back tears. Adele had already opened the Grammys with her multi-nominated song “Hello,” but her biggest performance of the night, certainly, was her tribute to pop legend George Michael. Her downtempo performance of Michael’s 1996 single “Fastlove,” with an orchestral arrangement from Hans Zimmer, was abruptly cut short, however, after she paused, swore into the microphone, and asked the show’s producers to give her a complete do-over. I know it’s live TV,” she said for all to hear. “I’m sorry. The circumstances—Adele’s stumble, Zimmer’s oddly mournful arrangement—made for a strange tribute, one that soon drew more attention to the person giving it than to the person receiving it. And her palpable desire to do the icon justice provided a very human reminder of how large his legacy looms. (The audience cheering Adele on didn’t help in that regard.) Nonetheless, Adele’s sensitive rendition did justice to Michael’s soulful spirit, songwriting chops, and vocal skills.