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53rd annual Grammy nominations special: Katy Perry opens the show, and Cee Lo, Ray LaMontagne are among song of the year nominees

December 1, 2010 |  7:25 pm

  KATY_PERRY_LAT_3_6__ The now-annual televised Grammy news conference opened with a conundrum. Staged at downtown's L.A. Live, Katy Perry performed in a low-cut silvery dress and wore a Christmas tree top on her head. The performance was staged in front of L.A. Live's Christmas tree of lights, a metallic structure that looks more like a weapon than anything festive. Yet it is uniquely Los Angeles. For a city with paved parks, a steel Christmas tree seems just about right.

But the question: Which creation was more manufactured? The pop tart vessel that is Perry, or the foreboding L.A. Live Christmas tree behind her? Her performance of "California Gurls" left it a toss-up. Perry and crew were postcard pretty, but it doesn't celebrate anything other than West Coast vapidness. Perry sings with gusto, but the of-so-perfect arrangements don't suit her sometimes wobbly voice.

Inside Club Nokia, Bruno Mars performed his "Just the Way You Are," a cut that's all mush and no substance. Yet Mars' talents were recognized moments later when song of the year noms were announced. They were as follows:

Category: Song of the year

The nominees: 
"Beg Steal Or Borrow" — Ray LaMontagne, songwriter (Ray LaMontagne And The Pariah Dogs)
"... You" — Cee Lo Green, Philip Lawrence & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Cee Lo Green)
"The House That Built Me" —Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
"Love the Way You Lie" — Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey & Marshall Mathers, songwriters (Eminem Featuring Rihanna)
"Need You Now" — Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)

The good:  Bravo for recognizing Cee Lo Green and his hit "Forget You," a song that had a more profane title in its original incarnation. Yet it's a gleeful tale of bitterness, and Cee Lo has a blast with it, turning it into a charming pop tune. Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me" is a thing of beauty, showing off her range as a country vocalist. Ray LaMontagne, though a little too-middle-of-the-word for this writer, is a songwriter in the classical mold.

The bad: Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" was inescapable, sure, but it's the weak link here. The act's breakthrough hit, it's pleasant-enough adult pop, but voters showed they can dig beyond the hits by recognizing LaMontagne, and the trend should have continued. Likewise, "Love the Way You Lie" is all manufactured drama, and though Kanye West's "Power" wasn't submitted, songs like Janelle Monae's "Tightrope" don't telegraph its emotions so obviously. At least, however, Train wasn't nominated.

-- Todd Martens


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53rd annual Grammy nominations special: Katy Perry opens the show, and Cee Lo, Ray LaMontagne are among song of the year nominees

Photo: Katy Perry. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times