DJ Al Walser salutes the world at the Grammys pre-telecast at Staples Center… (Joe Klamar / AFP/Getty Images )
More than the occasion-free Bob Marley tribute; more than Goth Taylor Swift in the opening number; for me the highlight of spectacle at the 2013 Grammys was Al Walser in a spacesuit.
The Liechtenstein-raised producer's Grammy nomination (alas, Skrillex beat him in the dance recording category) was the most curious story in the run-up to Sunday's ceremony. Watching Walser stand to let other Staples attendees squeeze past his interstellar bulk reminded me of how big a deal the Grammys are to anybody not already in the pop firmament.
There he was, on the red carpet detailing how his interstellar getup was a metaphor for how being from one of the world's smallest countries meant feeling like you were from space. There he was, a few rows in front of me in the mid-range-nosebleed seats, trying to maneuver through Staples Center aisles in a suit meant for literal moonwalking. He was in there for a few sweaty hours, and I wondered whether he felt that his outfit was a better idea in theory than in practice -- but it was definitely the sartorial choice of the night.
FULL COVERAGE: Grammy Awards 2013
Who knows? Maybe Walser will uncork a major EDM hit that will capitalize on his moment in the Grammy lights. But in all likelihood, this was the biggest night in his musical life, one that required no more handshaking or ballot-pleading or finding out a guerrilla-mission way to belong.
He was a nominee, he had a ticket to the ceremony, he walked the red carpet with his lovely wife, and for the night of Feb. 10, he was treated as a pop sensation like any other. It's hard to imagine a permanent place for him in the pantheon of Grammy superstars. But then, does anyone expect that of Hunter Hayes either?
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The Grammys are about coming to a consensus in pop, but from my view inside Staples, there were a lot of small-scale aspirations and fantasies and dreams that got let down or validated in varying measures. Despite what some artists will tell you, no one is too cool to be above the acknowledgment of their peers -- even if only the small sliver who ticked your name in an undervoted dance category.
He may surprise us, but all signs suggest that Al Walser will have a tough road to that Grammy stage again -- especially as rule changes for dance categories might quell his outsider lobbying tactics. Yet as much as his nomination raised questions about how the Grammys vote on dance music, I was actually kind of touched to see an aspirant artist get a shot at having what was obviously the best night of his life -- an occasion that clearly warranted a spacesuit.
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