The Grammys. “Sasha Fierce” wasn’t quite fierce enough? The Groogrux King should drink Big Whiskey with the Kings of Leon, since royalty belongs together? Let’s begin with some historical perspective on the meaning with which other winners have imbued this esteemed award. What can you say about the Grammys? “The race goes to the swift,” as in Taylor Swift?
We could quote one of this year’s nominees for Best New Artist, Silversur Pickups frontman Brian Aubert who said of the group’s nomination before they lost to the Zac Brown Band, “Does it really matter to us? No. Absolutely not.” (As quoted on www.spinner.com/2010/01/27/grammys-backlash/?ncid=webmaild12)
Some observations on the night’s program: I can’t get the image of Pink clad only in thin strips of fabric dangling from the ceiling out of my mind, especially when she finished her set dripping wet. (Did Tony Bennett ever have to do this to earn his Grammys?) Keith Urban, backstage later, said, of Pink, “She was killer.” He did not mean this literally, but he could have. Me? I was fearful that her sling would break and she’d literally be killed, falling from that height. [Hey! It happened to Ann Margret in Vegas. Look it up! Of course, in the redhead’s case, she didn’t get killed, but she did have to have her jaw wired shut for months, after she fell off a giant moon prop.]
I was more impressed with Dave Matthews singing “You and Me Together” after being introduced by Adam Sandler. Dave’s album this year, “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King” is his best since “Under the Table and Dreaming,” IMHO. Dave agrees that it is his best, but he lost the Album of the Year award to Taylor Swift’s “Fearless,” which did nothing for my faith in the Grammys and leads me to yet another www.spinner.com quote (see above), this time from 50 Cent who, in 2009, after being nominated 13 times, “Man, f*** the Grammys! I couldn’t care less about the Grammy awards.”
Early in the evening, the front page of AOL was buzzing about the opening number that featured Lady Gaga singing her hit “Poker Face”, wearing sparkly green wings and sparkly green spikey boot shoes and a long blonde wig, with purple eye-shadow. After that, she was paired with Elton John, who wore a glittery mask. Each had black stuff all over their faces. (I prefer Elton in full-on duck costume and I’ll lend them both a washcloth…or Pink can provide some water for the soiled singers.)
Stephen Colbert won for Best Comedy Album of the year at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards for his Christmas album, and said he was there to celebrate “our most precious right: the right of celebrities to congratulate one another.” He got in a dig at “Glee” and then said to his teen-aged daughter (in the audience), “Have a good time, Honey. Stay away from Katy Perry.”
Taylor Swift won for Best Country Album for “Fearless,” which was not a surprise. She said, “I want to thank my record label for letting me write every song on my album” and likened her win to “an impossible dream.” Taylor always looks great. She sometimes does not sound as great, and that was the case when she and Stevie Nicks teamed up. Off-key is the kind description.
Beyonce put on quite a production number, backed up by dark-uniformed male dancers (she was wearing a black short flouncy skirt with a bustier top. On CBS’ “Sixty Minutes,” which preceded the Grammys, we learned that Beyonce began performing at age 9. Beyonce said, “Once I saw the Jackson 5 and Michael Jackson, I said, ‘Oh, my God.’ And I wanted to do that all day, every day.” Beyonce made $80 million dollars last year and was on 200 magazine covers, according to “Sixty Minutes.” She has performed in 12 countries and has given 110 sold out performances in countries like Korea, India, Egypt and Japan. I can see why she wants to “do that all day, every day.” [Later in the evening she would win a Grammy for her song “Put a Ring On It.”]
Seal announced Leonard Cohen as the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award. Before the night was over, others that would be awarded went to luminaries like Honey Boy Edwards, who (m) I did not know, and Andre Previn, whom I did know. (One-time husband to Mia Farrow).
Let’s hear a quote from another former nominee back in 1996, when he was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performer. Eddie Veddor (“Pearl Jam”) said, at that time, “I don’t know what this award is. I don’t think this means anything.” (www.spinner.com/2010/01/27/grammys-backlash/?ncid=webmaild12.)
“Kings of Leon”—whose CD “Use Somebody” is in my car right now, (along with the Dave Matthews aforementioned album) won for Best Record of the Year and gave one of the most refreshing acceptance speeches, saying, “We’re all a little drunk, but we’re happy drunk.” They proceeded to thank God, their family, RCA, their producers and “whoever else I forgot, I’ll buy you shots afterward.” Humorously, another member of the band stepped up to the microphone to speak, but was cut off. Backstage, one happy band member said, “We’re getting’ my mom wasted.” [Sounds like the Kings of Leon have their priorities straight: drink a lot.] The Nashville group also expressed the feeling that their success abroad is finally translating to success in their homeland.
Robert Downey, Jr., came out and gave another of his impromptu riffs. He’s becoming famous for them. This time, he said, “Thank God I’m here to attach some dignity and classical fare to what is otherwise this garish undertaking.” That remark led to Jamie Foxx, wearing boots and a military jacket, (with Slash on guitar), a little hit of faux opera, and his singing (with others).
I enjoyed Ringo Starr and Norah Jones coming out together and Ringo saying, “Thank you, Norah, for being shorter than me.” They announced a Lifetime Achievement Award for Bobby Darin and the camera quickly cut to son Dodd Darin, Darin’s son with former blonde movie starlet Sandra Dee. (Subject of a “Grease” song with the lyrics, “Look at me; I’m Sandra Dee.”)
Katie Perry and Alice Cooper came out and announced a Trustees Award for Florence Greenburn, whom I did not know. (What, exactly, is the distinction between a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Trustees Award?) Green Day then were announced as Grammy winners for “21st Century Breakdown.” I liked “American Idiot,” and, right about now, the title seemed apropos.
Why did Chris O’Donnell intro the Zac Brown Band? Weird. Only thing weirder was a visibly heavier Quentin Tarantino’s appearance later in the evening screaming “Hip-Hop is forever!” Ryan Seacrest introduced Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks singing a duet that was off-key. “You Belong with Me,” nominated for Record of the Year. Gack.
Lionel Richie introduced the 3-D extravaganza tribute to Michael Jackson, which featured Usher, Carrie Underwood, Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson and Smokey Robinson singing, after which Paris and Prince Jackson accepted an award “for Daddy.” Jackson created the 3-D video for “Earth Song,” his ballad about environmentalism.
When Bon Jovi —much touted as performers in the early stages of the evening—finally came out to sing 3 songs, one of which, “Livin’ on a Prayer,” had been selected by computer voters, and the band was announced as having given 2,600 concerts to 34 million fans, I was struck, again, by how the band seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of groups. “They don’t get no respect.” Although the mosh pit below them was enthusiastically dancing and waving their hands in the air, the audience of their peers, as a whole, sat on their collective hands. This group can’t win for losing. Of course, they’re still laughing all the way to the bank, and I’ll still go to see them July 30th in Chicago (for the second or third time).
It was interesting that a win for “Run This Town,” which was executive produced by Kanye West and featured Jay Z and Rihanna, was handed only to Jay Z and Rihanna , as Kanye was not in the house. (Taylor Swift: you can breathe easy.)
A tribute to stars who died this year, similar to that at the Academy Awards, gave me these names I knew: Mary Travers of “Peter, Paul, and Mary;” Koko Taylor, Chicago’s lady who sang the blues; Louis Bellson, Moline (Illinois’) drummer well-known for his marriage to Pearl Bailey; Dan Seals; Teddy Pendergrass; Adam Goldstein, aka DJ AM; Stephen Bruton, who wrote many of the songs in “Crazy Heart,” collaborating with T Bone Burnett; composer Maurice Jarre; Arthur Ferrante of the piano duo Ferrante & Teicher; Ellie Greenwich, the composer of sixties hits; Al Martino, who played an Italian singer much like himself in “The Godfather;” and Les Paul, whose fender guitar is legendary. There were many more, but, for me, these were the ones that I knew.
The program ran long. It ended abruptly and unceremoniously, leaving me to wonder, after Taylor Swift was announced as the Grammy winner of Album of the Year for “Fearless” whatever had possessed Toby Keith to say recently, “The Grammys don’t respect country.” (www.spinner.com). (Keith was nominated as Male Country Vocal Performer of the Year in 2006.)