Lady Gaga Pours Some Sugar On It at Collaboration-Crammed Grammy Nominations Show

Chris Willman
Stop The Presses!

The Grammy nominations telecast continues to be the best awards show on television - by virtue of clocking in at an hour. Brevity is the soul of kudo-casts, right? But what of actual highlights, you ask? One of the top moments belonged to Lady Gaga. And if you tuned out before the end of the show, and imagine that we're talking about her skeletally themed opening rendition of "Marry the Night," then you probably think we've been smoking some of her cremated ashes.

No, we're not referring to that first production number, which managed to be too busy and too dark - never the best combination when you're trying to make something coherent on live television. Rather, it was Gaga's closing duet of her (grammatically incorrect country ballad "You and I" with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles that brought down the show as well as the hour.

Nettles and Gaga are both incorrigible showboats, but in the case of "You and Me" - er, sorry, have it your way, Gaga, "You and I" - the two divas managed to build each other up, not cancel each other out. If they ever take their duo act out on the road like the couple of swells they are, look out. (We just wish Nettles had gone for the empty-eye-socket look, too... coward.)

For once on one of these Grammy nominations shows, which usually have tended toward rushed-through and perfunctory, there was serious competition for the highlights reel. That's because, as good as Gaga and Nettles were, the combination of Usher and Valerie Simpson might've been even better.

Their medley paid dual homage to recently deceased legends Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber, and although it was over in almost as lickety-split a fashion as everything else on this blink-and-you'll-miss-it show, Usher made you want to buy his upcoming album of cover songs right now. What, there isn't one? Let's remedy that.

There was yet a third collaborative highlight, with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's Melle Mel and Scorpio earning a tribute without even having to expire, as they were joined on "The Message" by Common, Lupe Fiasco, and LL Cool J. It was the latter music-and-TV titan who got the most screen time in the collaboration, gotten you thinking: Being host does have its privileges.

Then again, maybe LL got the extra time because he had to cover the parts originally reserved for Rick Ross, who was announced for the "Message" number but mysteriously MIA when airtime came around. Maybe the producers bounced Rick Ross because they weren't sure CBS audiences were ready to see that much cleavage?

The pairing of Jason Aldean and Ludacris on the former's ground-breaking country-rap smash "Dirt Road Anthem" might've seemed more inspired if we hadn't seen the same pairing do the same song at the CMT Awards back in June.

It seemed courageous of CBS to put on two country performances in a row, but between Ludacris' guest spot on the Aldean song and the fact that the Band Perry's winsome "Independence" morphed (as it always does in their live shows) into a cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'," the producers must have figured no one in the audience could be complain too channel-changingly of hillbilly fatigue.

Of course there were no rock acts on the show, which was to be expected in this day and age, since you can only trot the Foo Fighters out so many times as the token guitar-wielding act.

Rumors that Van Halen would appear to promote their upcoming studio album and tour proved to be just that -- even though those rumors were fostered by the Grammy folks themselves, when they earlier teased that the show would feature "a special, live announcement from a truly iconic group regarding their historic band reunion" and even tweeted hints involving Van Halen song titles.

It's probably just as well. The last time David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen appeared on an awards show together to announce a reunion, back at the MTV Awards in 1996, they got into a fight backstage, and it took another 11 years for the warring parties to actually make up enough to go on tour. With that infamous incident providing such an ominous precedent, Van Halen fans are probably ecstatic that this particular appearance didn't pan out.