The Grammy Awards are an elaborate affair designed to highlight the year’s best in music. This year’s awards show was a jumbled mess that was firing on one cylinder at a time, never quite reaching its pinnacle. It was an absolute failure in so many ways, although some areas hit, so let’s look at the 5 stories that I think the Grammy Awards and the public need to note for the future.
5. Awaking the (Literally or Musically) Dead
I understand the idea behind offering so many awards for lifetime achievement, but it drags down an actual awards show. If they’re that committed to honouring like 12 of them, it would be in their best interesting to do it all at once, as opposed to being spread throughout the show. It gave it a constant feeling of trying to mine the past, as if there wasn’t enough content this year to draw from. Instead of a 4-song tribute to The Eagles and…I don’t even remember the other group, how about working in performances by people like Nelly Furtado? And, if you are going to recognize someone, for the love of all things good don’t let Rascal Flatts cover their songs. They absolutely murdered Hotel California, it made my head spin. And, while the robe placement was a classy touch, Christina Aguilera doing the James Brown tribute was downright bizarre. It just dragged down the show more than it needed to.
4. The Chris Brown and Carrie Underwood generation
Well, according to the Grammys, these are the only young artists worth noting at this point. After James Blunt got absolutely hammered in big categories (Backlash for the song’s success, likely), it was left to these two to be shoved down our throats by the Academy. Underwood performed as part of the “country” medley (Please note: The Eagles, much like Tom Cochrane, are not “country,” so both Disney/Pixar and the Grammys should pick a band that isn’t), and then won Best New Artist for herself as well as picking up Best Female Country Performance. Brown performed as part of an R&B Showcase, and then did a dance tribute to James Brown before the aforementioned robe presentation. These two were pegged as the stars of the future (On this note, my favourite joke of the evening: As two small kids start performing with Chris Brown…”He really IS the next Michael Jackson!”), and I wonder to what degree that will be the case. I hate to see them get the spotlight over someone like Nelly Furtado, who had a much bigger impact on pop culture this year.
3. The Lack of a Host
They may be obnoxious, or distracting, or have too many lame jokes, but a host provides a sense of rhythm and organization that an Awards show sometimes needs. While some people need no introduction (Like Prince just walking on stage without warning), others do, and not just from some annoucer. Ellen Degeneres (Hosting this year’s Oscars) was sitting right in front, I’m sure Portia wouldn’t have minded if she got up to host on short notice. I think it would unify the show, plus it would dramatically cut back on gift bag costs. Also, there could have been someone to point out how bloody vindictive Mary J. Blige was against her haters. I wanted to throw things at her.
2. Song Selection
So, you had a lot of good artists performing tonight. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce, Gnarls Barkley…and yet this doesn’t guaranteed a good performance. The RHCP chose Snow (Hey Oh!), a song I absolutely adore but also one that is rather slow; a lot of confetti dropped to look like snow at the end does not a good performance make. They had Beyonce singing Listen, which is a good Oscar push but a lousy selection of song. Gnarls did the expected Crazy, but they always sing the song slowly live which is growing more and more frustrating as we continue (as well as it was sung). Timberlake, along with the Dixie Chicks, had the write song, but even then only Timberlake’s performance felt like a sort of event. Something like Prince and Beyonce was able to basically cement Beyonce’s solo career, but what did any of these performances do? Timberlake got the stage twice, the second time with 19-year old Robin Troup who won the My Grammy Moment contest, but it still didn’t come across as career changing. Where was the spectacle? Everything was just too low key. And don’t even get me started on the R&B segment, although Lionel Ritchie playing Hello made me and the Elder infinitely pleased (There was definitely some “!! HELLO?!” messages back and forth).
1. The Police and the Problem of Momentum
I won’t get into how the middle of Roxanne was a bit of a mess, or how the reunion of the Police really wasn’t that exciting since we’ve been hearing Sting sing these songs forever anyways. Instead, I want to talk about its role in this award show. The Police got one performance of one song. The Country Retrospective got 4. The Police were placed first, with little or no hype. We heard how many notes about the stupid Grammy contest? If you have a much-talked about reunion of a band that is still fondly remembered, you don’t open the show with it! You hype it up, build towards it, maybe even place it at its end. Did Sting have a stipulation where he had to get to bed at a certain time? It was a sheer non-event, a strangely average performance that did absolutely nothing to better the awards show. If I had been watching just for the Police, I would have switched the channel at that point. And that’s not how you start an Awards show.
Now, despite all of this, there were good moments as well. I loved the idea of Quentin Tarantino presenting with Tony Bennett, and the David Spade/Rihanna pairing was ridiculous by any standard (The comparison to Bowie/Iman made me chuckle). Al Gore presenting, Scarlett Johannsson presenting…there was some half decent stuff in there. The winners themselves weren’t a huge surprise (Chicks Sweep is momentous, but not shocking), but the bigger failure was that the Awards show never seemed to sum up or represent the last year in music. It was about a reuniting band, a dozen lifetime achievement awards, and the history of R&B. I don’t think Chris Brown, JT and Carrie Underwood properly represent the year in music (And neither does that hack John Mayer, sorry folks).