Anna Kendrick Serenades Shirley MacLaine & 6 Other Must-See Moments from the Kennedy Center Honors
In the past, the Kennedy Center Honors, an awards ceremony honoring artists' lifetime achievements, was something of must-see TV thanks to the addition of a few major names to its honoree list: David Letterman in '12, Meryl Streep in '11, Oprah back in '10, etc. We all tuned in each year to see some of the country's biggest celebrities get recognized, roasted, and even serenaded for their work, usually by their equally famous friends. And with guests like the Obamas hanging out in the audience, the Honors tend to draw in a fairly big crowd. Not this year, though. The 2013 Honors, which honored Shirley MacLaine, Billy Joel, Herbie Hancock, Martina Arroyo, and Carlos Santana, was held on Dec. 8 and broadcasted on Sunday, Dec. 29, unfortunately failed to draw many viewers.
It seemed more people chose to watch a repeat of The Middle than tune in to see Anna Kendrick serenade Shirley MacLaine. Blame it on the Sunday night timeslot, or the post-Christmas/pre-New Years date, or the fact that (sorry, Shirley) none of the honorees were huge names, but this year's Honors flew far, far under the radar. Still, if you were one of the many who chose to watch repeats of New Girl instead of the ceremony, you really missed out; while not the most exciting show in years, the 2013 Kennedy Center Honors had its fair share of must-watch moments. Highlights, below:
1. Anna Kendrick Serenading Shirley MacLaine
You thought we were kidding about that Anna Kendrick singing to Shirley MacLaine thing before, right? Nope. To honor the legendary actress, Kendrick, later joined by Sutton Foster and more top performers, took to the stage to perform a medley of tunes about MacLaine's career. As Pitch Perfect fans and anyone who's ever turned on a radio know, Kendrick, in addition to being a fantastic actress, is a pretty great singer, so her performance last night was a major highlight of the show. Plus, MacLaine-focused lyrics like "she's been upstairs at Downton, and down on her luck" were bound to make anyone smile.
2. All The Music Honoring Carlos Santana
How do you pay proper tribute to one of the greatest musicians of all time? By having other incredible musicians on hand to perform songs inspired by the honoree. During the portion of the night honoring Carlos Santana, a 14-piece band, whose members included Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello and Alice Cooper's Orianthi Panagaris, performed songs in the style of the guitarist. Santana-loved musicians Buddy Guy, Steve Winwood, and Sheila E. all joined the stage later on, making the first tribute of the night a particularly memorable one.
3. Bill O'Reilly Introducing Herbie Hancock
For this line, and this line only: "I know, I'm surprised too."
4. Snoop Dogg's Fist Bump With John Kerry
Sure, Snoop Dogg gave a great performance honoring Herbie Hancock during the show ("Gin and Juice" was involved), but the best moment of the rapper's appearance at the Honors came during the after party, when he was caught fist-bumping Secretary of State John Kerry. As you do.
5. Sonia Sotomayor's Introduction of Martina Arroyo
Arroyo, an opera singer, is perhaps the least known of this year's Kennedy Center Honorees, but within the music world, she's a giant. Her lasting influence was emphasized in her introduction by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who explained that Arroyo is a "diva," in the definition of the word that means “an opera singer that took us to another world.” Following Sotomayor's speech was a video tribute that showcased some of the best moments of the singer's career, including duets with Luciano Pavarotti and appearances on The Tonight Show, as well as a medley of songs from the Arroyo-starring Aida, but it was the Justice's words that clearly meant the most to the opera singer.
6. Rufus Wainwright's Performance of "New York State of Mind"
While perhaps not as energetic a performance as Snoop Dogg's or Anna Kendrick's, songwriter Rufus Wainwright's Billy Joel-honoring rendition of "New York State of Mind" was possibly the best musical moment of the night. Gorgeous and piano-heavy, Wainwright's version of the Joel's most classic song was a show-stopper. His following performance of "Piano Man," which featured Tony Bennett, Don Henley, and a huge backing chorus, was also fantastic, but it was "New York" that made the tribute truly special.
7. Garth Brooks' Tribute to Billy Joel
Wainwright, Henley, and Bennett's tributes to Joel were all wonderful, but but the real highlight of Joel's honor was the performance by Garth Brooks. The country superstar's passionate take on some of Joel's biggest hits, like "Allentown" and "Only the Good Die Young," was unique, unexpected, and one of the night's best moments.