I know it’s old news, and Grantland does a pretty good job recapping this, but can we talk about Prince at the Grammys for a minute? First, in all honesty, I think they teased his appearance in just the right way. There’s really no great reason to watch an awards show. You’ll see all the recaps online instantly. Everything is recorded forever on the internet, so there are no once-in-a-lifetime viewing moments you need to fret over.
But Prince. He manages his image so well that I truly believe that anytime I see Prince could be the last time I see Prince. He could reveal that construction has finally finished on his under-the-Rocky-Mountains bunker. He could tell us that his new jam is a Tibetan monastery accessible only by specially-bred zebra llamas. He could announce that all future transmissions will originate from the IPS – the International Prince Station, a fully-self-reliant sub-orbital space venture between himself, Richard Branson and Elon Musk. With Prince, all things are possible.
Now, as thrilling as it was to see him perform with Beyonce a few years ago at the Grammys (which wasn’t as thrilling as his Superbowl halftime performance where he willed it to rain during Purple Rain, which still wasn’t as great as his performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame All-Star Jam of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps), I had a sneaking suspicion that he wasn’t going to perform. And as the first hour of the Grammys dragged on, I think they made some announcement that, yes, he would be a presenter.
Just a presenter. But, by the time he appeared, what a presenter. Most award show presenters walk up, fumble a weak joke, stumble over 5 names and appear not to have the strength to tear open an envelope. As Prince is announced, it’s like that part 2/3 of the way through The Devil Went Down To Georgia where the protagonist implores to Fiddlin’ Satan “Lemme show ya how it’s done.”
First – his choice of apparel and accessories. 1 – sequined hoodie, worn HOOD UP. Eat your heart out, Black Swan. 2 – a bare-chest-backed necklace that appeared to be either Cybertronian in origin or cast from the newly-excavated Merlin’s Stonehenge Boutique. 3 – Blue-blocker sunglasses endorsed by the AARP’s Survive the Drive: Seniors Behind The Wheel initiative. 4 – a Wonka-inspired, super-villain-approved white cane.
That alone would have been enough. He stands still for 10 seconds, the curtains close and we move on with the show. Audience – satisfied. But, luckily for us, he’s actually going through with the presentation. As he pauses, mid-strut to take in his applause, it’s clear we’re watching the master at work. No guitar, no all-female band, no Beyonce. He walks straight to the mic and, with 9 words (“These are the nominees for Record of the Year.”) crushes any and every other musical performance the show had planned. After paying a compliment whose sincerity will forever be in question, he announces that Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” has won.
So powerful is Prince’s camera-loved mojo that while the winners are taking 5 seconds to walk to the stage, the producers cut back to watch Prince stand there alone onstage for approximately 4.5 of those seconds. Now, somehow, things get even more amazing. Prince’s cosmic popularity gravity has gone full supernova, enveloping everything in its immediate vicinity.
The first person Gotye thanks: Prince. The second person Gotye thanks: someone named Years Spent Listening To Prince’s Music. Cue round 3 of rampant Prince-based applause. Mild applause for Gotye as he thanks everyone who makes music and everyone who listens to music (way to go out on a limb, buddy. Who will you thank next? Polarizing figures like “Hanging out with friends” and “eating pizza”?). Singer Kimbra then thanks Gotye in a necessary-evil sort of way and then yells, deliriously, “AND THANK YOU TO PRINCE!” Round 4 of Prince applause!
Four. Rounds. Of. Applause. For. A. Presenter.
If anyone every takes me up on that idea about an awards show honoring awards shows, consider Prince auto-nominated for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement. Hopefully he’ll be able to accept via Tibetan monastery satellite.