I know the Grammy Awards took place more than a week ago and you’re weren’t even that interested in them when they happened. But I have liveblogged these awards since 2003 (with a few skipped years, but only one or two), and anyway feel some obligation to be a conduit of information about music. This year, I was on a train and in a car on my way to Bloomington, Indiana (“sunny and beautiful Bloomington, Indiana”) when the awards took place; I DVRd the show and only now have time to catch up. Here’s what I think:
Last night, I had a chance to watch the first two hours of Whitney Houston’s funeral, which was mega sad. There was, excepting the obvious culprits (Clive Davis, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton–I’m looking at you), a remarkable lack of irony–a true sincerity–despite the gamesmanship that could go on for the cameras.
The opening of the Grammy’s, with host LL Cool J (yes, I’m one of the Ladies that Love him), struck me in the same way–the tone was sincere and direct, and a relief from the insincerity that characterizes this era of entertainment. I am writing this right before pressing play on Chris Brown, so there’s no doubt irony will strike back, but it is nice to have a moment where the joy musicians and fans take in music, and the gratitude they feel for one another, shines through.
As an aside, I want to say that I’m also awfully sad to lose Whitney. I’m exactly the right age to have her music at the core of my pop sensibility, and she was just–no matter what age you are–an astoundingly bright talent and so her death is an equally dark tragedy. I am also getting to the age where my friends are starting to suffer from age and disease, and so death from addiction seems especially unnecessary and cruel.
The Etta James “Sunday Kinda Love” tribute is worth finding on youtube, if only so that you remember Bonnie Raitt has a fantastically soulful and beautiful voice, and it is remarkably alike Alicia Keys’s, who accompanied her (or the reverse). It is a lovely prelude to the Best Pop Solo award, which had four female nominees (Bruno Mars was the only man). We do such violence to female pop stars, and not just the kind Chris Brown practices. Just look at how strong the discourse is around their sexuality–Madonna (Lana Del Rey, Adele) and Whore (Madonna…now also a “cradle robber” and a “MILF”, Lady Gaga). We should be glad any smart, talented woman goes into pop.
I maintain that the exile of Foo Fighters to the tent stage outside the Grammy venue is one of many pieces of evidence that they’re a grunge heritage act, rather than being interesting. Dave Grohl seems like the kind of guy who would do a Project 365 taking solely pictures of his own testicles.
Mad props to all these artists who are singing (not lip synching). Especially you, Rihanna. I know your backup track is hella loud and if you hadn’t sung over it we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, but you did, and I love you for it. Also, your dancers are much better than Chris Brown’s. Also, please stop secretly dating him.
It should have been important that the Beach Boys had their 50th anniversary reunion at this year’s Grammys.* The Beach Boys wrote genius pop–so elemental to the pop idiom that they’re easily overlooked or–worse–seamlessly integrated in the vanilla crap on oldies stations.** But the good robots in the Grammy mothership screwed the pooch by using Maroon 5 as the intro/combo band. Adam Levine had to concentrate so hard to stay on pitch during “Surfer Girl” that it looked like he was having an embolism. Foster the People has the musical credibility and aggressive awkwardness that make a good fit for “Wouldn’t it be nice” (plus, some of them wore the blue and white striped shirts) but the lead singer struggled with pitch and projection and at the end of the day, is profoundly boring.
Speaking of retirement: Paul McCartney. Dear Paul. Sir Paul. Your song–particularly because of the intended? warbly delivery–is a reasonable option for a James Bond film’s romantic interlude, but little else (the minor key transitions–right?). Amazingly, Diana Krall was willing to play piano for your performance, and nothing else. Why do you use her up? Clear the stage, Paul. Guests and fish.
God damn, I wish they hadn’t used the “thanks to Grammy Lifetime Award winner Gil Scott-Heron, the revolution IS being televised” joke. Now another generation of people will misunderstand his meaning. The best I can say about it is that I’ll have a job in the morning clearing that up for students.
While Adele’s voice is a phenomenal instrument and she’s capable of giving an amazing performance, I thought her rendition of “Rolling in the Deep” was a little weak. Amazing, considering her recent vocal surgery, but weaker than what she’s done in the past. But you’d never know this if you only listened to the post-performance applause. [N.B.: Students, this paragraph is a good example of one that needs to be revised so that the thesis sentence falls at the start of the paragraph, rather than its end. Can you see how it reads as if I am criticizing the woman who is undoubtedly among the most talented to take the stage this evening? It wouldn't seem that way if I opened with the idea that the audience is applauding her year's achievements, rather than her performance tonight.]
Following the Glen Campbell tribute with a Tony Bennett duet is the dreariest of all possible choices. Especially since he’s introing Best New Artist.
Note to agents: Booking Lil’ Wayne on the “electronic music” stage draws to our attention his unfortunate resemblance to Lil’ Jon. Not to throw shade on Lil’ Jon, but he’s picking through the trash in the back, stuffing airplane bottles of liquor down his shorts and and his pimp cup is missing a few fake rubies.
I hereby vow to boycott the Grammys next year if Foo Fighters and Chris Brown are again the ONLY artists double-booked. If we have to hear an act more than once, can we choose people that aren’t intolerably awful? I am sitting here clawing at my ears. By the way: juicy irony that right after his acceptance speech in which he basically criticizes studio/electronic artists as hacks, Dave Grohl plays the electronica tent. See? He’s a dick.
Nicki Minaj’s exorcism morality play is the stuff EMP papers are made of. For.
Oh, great. They double booked Paul McCartney. Sometimes, I think they’re plotting against me.
Well, that’s 2012. A little different than other years. Older, wiser. Shorter.
* People who know me know my typical joke in this situation is, “Who’s got cancer?” The sad truth is that artists hoist 50th reunion tours only when someone in the band is in profoundly dire financial trouble. I hope that’s not so, but let’s get real–these guys deserve to be retired.
**This reminds me: one of my book-related posts needs to be a piece on “forgotten” pieces–stuff that gets shut out of Traditionalist genres.