The Grammy Awards ceremony isn't really about the awards anymore.
The producers have basically said as much as they've steered the televised show away from actually giving out Grammys -- and making the audience endure the often annoying acceptance speeches -- and toward giving maximum airtime to the star-studded musical performances.
The trick has definitely clicked with the public, with recent Grammy telecasts garnering robust ratings.
Yes, the pop band fun. had a huge night during the 55th annual Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, winning both best new artist and best song. And Mumford & Sons walked away -- some might say "stole" -- the album of the year category with their inferior offering "Babel." Yet, those things didn't seem nearly as important as Bruno Mars and Sting paying tribute to Bob Marley (with Marley offspring Damian and Ziggy) or Justin Timberlake breaking a long musical hiatus with a performance that also featured Jay-Z.
In all, it was another entertaining year for the Grammys. Here are some of the highlights and low points of the show:
SWIFT START: Remember when Taylor Swift was country? Now, she's a full-on pop diva, ready to compete with Britney, Madonna and Lady Gaga in the realm of glamor and glitz. It's definitely working for her. She opened the Grammy Awards ceremony in fine fashion, with a high-concept production of her hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" that was more Cirque du Soleil than Country & Western.
JUSTIN TIME: Justin Timberlake's long-awaited return to the stage was kind of a dud. It was high on concept, low on originality. He went with a '60s retro-soul production, partially broadcast in black and white -- which is about as novel a Grammy idea as pairing Elton John with an artist who's actually still making good music. More troubling was the music itself. The two songs performed -- "Pusher Love Girl" and "Suit & Tie" -- were about as memorable as Timberlake's voice-over work in "Yogi Bear." Even the guest appearance by Jay-Z didn't help matters (much).
ED AND ELTON: Fellow Brits Ed Sheeran and Elton John are separated by a mere 44 years. (Elton is the older of the two, in case you're wondering.) Yet, they harmonized quite nicely on Sheeran's Grammy-nominated smash hit "The A Team." It wasn't, of course, as memorable as the Elton-meets-Eminem Grammy moment in 2001, but it was definitely better than the Elton-Gaga collaboration in 2010.
CALL ME NEVER: Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" -- arguably the most perfectly crafted pop hit of recent years -- was shut out at the Grammys. First, it lost to the fun.'s "We Are Young" for song of the year. That was expected. Yet, there's no way it should've lost in the best pop solo performance category to Adele's "Set Fire to the Rain," a live take on a song that was originally released in mid-2011.
THE WORD: We hold these truths to be self-evident:
1. Putting Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys on the same stage does not make listening to the former any easier.
2. Putting Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys on the same stage does make listening to the latter harder.
THE "WHAT'S SHE WEARING" AWARD: CBS made headlines last week when it sent word to Grammy participants to keep their attire in good taste. If Jennifer Lopez got the memo, she sure didn't pay a lot of attention to it. She showed up to present an award dressed (barely) in a skimpy little number cut to reveal the entirety of her impressive right leg. It was fun to watch the faces in the crowd as J. Lo walked out -- especially the men's faces. Anybody else notice how Jay-Z (sitting next to wife Beyoncé) suddenly felt it was necessary to loosen his collar? Busted! (Kelly Rowland's and Katy Perry's outfits were also quite, um, noteworthy.)
KEITH RICHARDS STILL LOOKS GREAT: What? That wasn't Keith up there introducing Mumford & Sons? It was Johnny Depp? Never mind.
THAT'S SO 2012: Adele, who dominated last year's Grammy Awards by winning six trophies, managed to grab the spotlight again by winning best pop solo performance for "Set Fire to the Rain" over more timely and relevant offerings by Carly Rae Jepsen and Kelly Clarkson. Personally, I think that Grammy voters simply forget what year it was.
HEAVY "WEIGHT": The best all-star performance of the night was a tribute to Levon Helm, the former Band member who died in April. It was an absolute tour-de-force version of "The Weight," highlighted by the powerhouse vocals of Mavis Staples and Brittany Howard, of Alabama Shakes.
BEST "OLD" ARTIST: The band fun. has been around for years, releasing its first album in 2009. Yet, Grammy voters still found it a suitable choice for best new artist over the far-more-deserving Frank Ocean. Next year, I'm predicting that Tony Bennett will walk away with the award.
Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic.
To see fashion and performance slideshows, and for more Grammys coverage, go to www.mercurynews.com/entertainment.