Miranda Lambert’s hard-driving “Little Red Wagon,” Eric Church’s reflective “Give Me Back My Hometown” and Brandy Clark’s stunning collaboration with Dwight Yoakam on “Hold My Hand” brought country music to mainstream America during Sunday night’s (Feb. 8) Grammy Awards show.
Lambert, whose Platinum was named best country album, was dressed in tight black pants, a black top and high-heeled boots to deliver her performance amid pyrotechnics and flashing lights. “Little Red Wagon,” the third single from Platinum, has already roared to No. 25 on Billboard’s country airplay chart just six weeks after its release.
After singing, “And I play guitar, and I go on the road,” CBS-TV bleeped the next line, “And I do all the s**t you wanna do,” perhaps giving Lambert bragging rights for being censored on one of the world’s most important music awards shows.
Country, of course, was just a small part of the Grammy show at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Following a performance by pop singer Usher that featured a harpist, Church took the stage and promptly brought the Grammy audience back to earth. Introduced by Keith Urban — who noted that Church’s wife Katherine was ready to give birth to the couple’s second child any minute — Church delivered a passionate version of his hit “Give Me Back My Hometown.”
With his full band back on the job after the stomach flu forced him to perform a concert in Salt Lake City alone, Church stood half-sideways at the microphone, looking tough in his trademark aviator sunglasses and black jacket.
A black-and-white video played behind the sneering singer, showing scenes of angry crowds and conflict zones around the world, giving the country song’s lyrics some international heft and added intensity.
As the camera panned away from Church, it landed on a small stage in the middle of the audience designed to resemble the famous center circle of the stage at the Grand Ole Opry.
Standing by themselves in the circle were Clark and Yoakam, and the pair eased their way in to Clark’s “Hold My Hand,” a soft love song about running into your current lover’s ex.
With Yoakam playing gracious sideman, Clark’s pleading ballad was a perfect change of pace, and her delicate voice came through smooth and inviting against his hard twang.
During rehearsals for the show, Yoakam joked he was worried about ruining Clark’s first big Grammy moment, saying “I told them, ‘Don’t hire a lead singer to sing harmony. It could be a disaster!’”
His fears were way off base, though, as their performance showed Clark to be the brilliant songwriter and sweet singer that many in Nashville have known for a long time.
Clark and Yoakam were just one of the many collaborations during the telecast. Others included Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney on “Four Five Seconds” (the first single from her upcoming album), Tom Jones and Jessie J on “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (a tribute to songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil), Beck and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Hozier and Annie Lennox, Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani and Ed Sheeran with Herbie Hancock, John Mayer, Questlove and Jeff Lynne’s ELO.