The Grammy Issue
Let’s start with the host, Stephen Colbert who was too stiff for this kind of show, and his attempts at being a cheerleader for the music business were painful to watch. He did however manage to get in a couple of zingers, when he kicked off the first presentation by saying, “Now let’s give each other awards.” His tweak of Jay Z, when he pulled out his iPad and ask Z whether or not he’d gotten one in his goodie bag was fun to the point that Z himself had to laugh. The whole night was the Beyonce/Jay Z celebration. Beyoncethat woman has some thighs on her damn!came out with this militarythemed big production number that included a quote from Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know,” before Beyonce got on her knees and swung her hair in a move that had to be seen to be believed.
Of course Beyonce looked like Garbo compared to Pink’s FlashdancemeetsCirque du Soleil meets a high class strip joint. If you didn’t see it, there’s no way to describe it. Load up the Youtube.com version and see for yourself. It involved her being basically nude, suspended from bandages from the roof and then spinning around while singing and then being dunked in water and twirling as the drops flew. It was the night’s weirdest moment. But hey, if you lack talent never fear: the Grammys aren’t about music, they’re about pageant and spectacle. And censorship. And young fresh faces like Taylor Swift who could not sing harmony with the great Stevie Nicks to save her life. Swift is too scrubbed clean to watch. Really, I cannot watch her and her 19yearold blonde tresses, although I will give her credit for performing with a low key Americana band rather than in some big shiny production number.
As for censorship, at first I assumed the B grade technogeeks at CBS were merely fucking up the audio portion of the show, but then it dawned on me that the audio drop outs were deliberate and someone’s hot little finger was hovering over the bleep button which in this case was merely silence, no actual bleep. So pitiful. There should be a real version that’s carried on cable so those for whom “FAMILY VALUES” are a synonym for RANK HYPOCRISY can watch it with all the big bad words left in. And how does Pink get to parade around in a nude leotard and every other word of Eminem’s rhyming was cut? So weird.
Before this entire post is swamped with negativity let me mention that few and far between scraps of reality and real music that somehow slipped into last night’s idiocy. It was good to hear and see Jeff Beck if only for a few minutes. Leon Russell and Waddy Wachtel also both made very welcome appearances as sidemen. My dear friend Ken Weinstein and his publicity/management agency, Big Hassle Media, got a wonderful and welldeserved shout out on national television from Kings of Leon when they won, Record of the Year. Congrats Ken!! And KOL!!! First time I heard it, I knew, “Use Somebody” was the kind of solid, hooky, tune that would push them to a higher level. Sometimes the Grammys, yes, even the Grammys, manage a wonderful surprise or two and this year it came in the form of the very inspired pairing of Alice Cooper and Katy Perry to present Best Rock Album and the performing duo of two of my least favorite artists (or most favorite objects of scorn) Mary J, Blige and Andrea Bocelli, both of whom seriously sang their asses off on “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Brought on to pump his musical movie, Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges actually mentioned Louis Armstrong’s name which I considered a major moral victory of sorts considering that fact that half the “artists” in the arena have never I’m sure heard a Pops cut even though they are “stars.” The Grammys very slight connection to the past was maintained with the In Memorium montage when artists like Jim Dickinson, Stephen Bruton, Jay Bennett, Vic Chestnut, Les Paul and Sam Butera were honored along with famed Living Presence record producer Wilma Cozart Fine
My favorite moment of all though was when Wyclef Jean offhandedly commented that “even if there ain’t no more record companies,” and a ripple of nervous laughter echoed across the arena. All the glam masked the hard truth that the record biz is in serious trouble. And in case you weren’t aware who sells records these days and who doesn’t, the performers and the awards given live told the tale. Country music and Hip Hop sell and so were featured. Classical music and Jazz no longer pull their weight in sales and so get no presence at the Grammys. Even rock was marginalized. Seeing Bon Jovi, the night’s “big” rock act, submit to being forced to play “Living on a Prayer” because fans chose it from three possibilities up for a vote on CBS.com was pathetic.
Audio gear heads got a special nod this year when during the Black Eyed Peas much bleeped performance, the stage was filled with robots clad in bookshelfsized speakers that had been sawed in half and spray painted metallic silver. That and a commercial from Harmon International were the only signs that audiophiles even exist.