Grammy Breakdown (FULL)

14 02 2012

In Brief:  3.5 hours, 17 performances, 9 awards.  6 Whitney comments, 2 Whitney clips, 1 Whitney song tribute.

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards aired last night on CBS, hosted by musician/actor LL Cool J.  He did little more than introduce the presenters.

Fan favorite Bruce Springsteen, accompanied by the E Street Band, opened with “We Take Care of Our Own.”  They played tight, it was a good note to begin the show on…   Well, it was until LL Cool J brought everybody back down by immediately starting in about Whitney Houston.

The second performance of the night was nominee Bruno Mars and his Doo-Wop Hooligans.  The best part of his appearance was when he said for everyone “to get off your rich asses!”
The Grammys are known as the informal awards show of the season, anything can happen. Mars is quickly making a name for himself as an innovative and exciting artist, but this performance was predictable! The flashing lights, kitchy gold outfits and throwback choreography will not land the hooligans on top of any memorable lists for this year.

Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt — an interesting duo — shared the stage briefly to pay tribute to two fallen female icons, Etta James & Whitney Houston, with a rendition of “Sunday Kind of Love.”  The pair lead in to the first award of the night: Best Pop Solo, which ultimately went to Adele for “Someone Like You,” her second smash single off 21. The other contenders for this category included Lady Gaga for “You and I,” Bruno Mars for the uber popular “Grenade,” Katy Perry for “Firework,” and P!NK, who was not in attendance, for “F**kin’ Perfect.”

Chris Brown took the stage for the fourth performance of the evening, if you can call it that.  The beleagured wannabe-Michael Jackson was TOTALLY LIPSYNCHING.   My brother (14) was watching with me, and as soon as Brown was introduced he said, “Oh, the Beater.”  No doubt similar sentiments echoed from homes across the viewing nation.

Fergie, who was dressed in one of her tackiest ensembles yet,  took the stage with an underenthused Marc Anthony to present the second trophy of the night, for Best Rap Album.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but, luckily the award went to Kanye West for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and he was not in attendance. Therefore we were not subjected to an idiotic acceptance speech riddled with reminders of his self-assured genius and the gift that it is for us to get to listen to him.


One of the highlights of the evening, for me, came in the form of Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean reprising their duet single “Don’t You Wanna Stay.”  Aldean always wears a hat that covers half his faaaace! Clarkson was dressed well in a black Grecian gown, accented with sparkly bondage straps.  These two have sung together several times now, and it only gets better!

Then… the moment my brother and I had been waiting for!
Jack Black rambled on about indie cred, how often it’s lost by attending/being honored at the Grammys, and something about the artistry being stolen at the door only to be “sold out back to Bon Iver.”
Under a cloudy LA evening, the tent outside the Staples Center was packed with people eager to have their faces rocked off, something the Foo Fighters always deliver on.  They played “Walk” off thier latest record, Wasting Light.

The second pairing of the night came in the form of a three-song medley from Rihanna and Coldplay.  Rihanna opened with “We Found Love,” surrounded by about two dozen dancers in various levels of undress. Then Chris Martin appeared, and the two sang their duet “Princess of China,”  before Martin finally broke off with the rest of his London mates for “Paradise.”

The third golden gramophone of the night went to the Foo Fighters for “Walk.”  Frontman and founder Dave Grohl gave the speech for their Best Rock Performance win; he was well spoken and topically appropriate. That’s so important– and obviously it was appreciated by the crowd because he got a standing ovation!

The only appearance talked about as much as, but not more than, Adele’s comeback was the 50 Year Reunion of the Beach Boys– which also featured Maroon 5 and Foster the People.  It was low energy and failed to evoke any rich feeling of nostalgia due to the steady 20-something average age of the noms.  Additionally, the remaining Beach Boys who appeared were dressed for BINGO, not a CELEBRATION.

16-time Grammy recipient Stevie Wonder introduced another oldie-but-goodie performer: Sir Paul McCartney. Accompanying the former Beatle on his new single “My Valentine” was legendary Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh (upon seeing whom my brother squealed like a 10-year-old girl does at Justin Bieber) and pianist Diana Krall.

The fourth and arguably most controversial award of the night, for Best R&B Album, went to Chris Brown.
Up against R. Kelly, El DeBarge, Ledisi and Kelly Price, the kid we sometimes hate to love but always love to hate feigned graciousness and stumbled through his thank-yous.
Personally, I deleted any songs of his I had the day news broke of his violence toward then-girlfriend Rihanna… which was two years ago almost to the day of this ceremony. I think it is BULLSHIT that the Recording Academy or the voting audience award this spoiled petulant child with ANYTHING. He has done less than nothing to make strides to redeem himself. He constantly seeks attention in negative ways and refuses to publically take any formal responsibility for what he did.   If I were Neil Portnow, I would have banned him for life.

The tenth performer of the night was usual award show darling, Miss Taylor Swift. She sang “Mean” off her hugely successful Speak Now album.  (The single that won praise in the Best Country Solo* and Best Country Song categories.)
I love her, she is a brilliant lyricist, but I am a little tired of her for two reasons; 1) OMG. If you’ve always wanted to be a country star, DO NOT try to manipulate the markets and release TWO versions of your songs. If you’re good enough to crossover, you will! Shania and Faith never did thaaaat;  2) When you finish singing and everyone stands up to clap, wipe that stupid doe-y surprised look off your face! Staying humble is one thing, and good for you for knowing how lucky  you are… but after all the money and attention and awards, you know we like you. Say “thanks” and wave like everyone else who’s happy to be there.

*This arguably should have gone to Carrie Underwood for “Mama’s Song” which was a stunningly beautiful track.

One of the biggies, Song of the Year, was awarded next, and went to Adele! “Rolling In The Deep” was everywhere this year, and she was genuinely moved by the response to it.  When you can tell the artist is really grateful, it makes it all the more fun to watch. I never liked seeing someone who thought they deserved to win something, win it.

A blue-haired Katy Perry broke it down with a high-flying performance of “Extra Terrestrial” …which lead into the debut of another number: “Part Of Me.”  Girlfriend looked PISSED the whole time, but it is defnitely going to be a smash. She may not be the best singer out there, but she is a great entertainer who is honest with her work.

Shifting genres from the pop performance by Perry, attention was paid to a country trio Lady Antebellum, who won for Best Country Album (Own The Night).  I don’t like them, they’re stuff is kind of catchy but nothing super special.



It was a hard act to follow but somebody had to do it, it was only 10:0 after all.

The Band Perry and Blake Shelton paid tribute to Lifetime Achievement recipient Glen Campbell, before he joined them onstage for a joyful rendition of the classic “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

Another country star came out with the incomprable Tony Bennett for a version of “It Had to Be You” — currently featured on his album Duets II.
They then gave out the award for Best New Artist: which did NOT go to Nicki Minaj! HA HA HA!  The incredibly deep indie rocker Bon Iver took the prize.  He thanked the fans, saying it was a “sweet hookup.”

The highly anticipated ‘In Memorium’ segment of the show was extensive, eliciting “Wow, a lot of people died this year,” from my brother. “I don’t like Jennifer Hudson,” he added before running downstairs for a drink.

The one-time American Idol contestant and longtime Whitney Houston admirer tearfully made her way through “I Will Always Love You.”

So as not to disrespect the somberness of the main hall, the commercial break resumed back outdoors in the tent where the Foo Fighters performed earlier.
The “Grammy Dance Party” of sorts commenced– with Chris Brown lookin like early Run DMC/Ice-T/Sir Mix-a-Lot. It was ridiculous. And he most certainly was using AutoTune in his mic. DJ David Guetta spun for the first part of the ‘party,’ while Brown sing-talked and danced alongside rapper Lil Wayne who looked like he just woke up and rolled of his tour bus.

On the opposite side of the tent, the Foo Fighters started in with “Rope.”  With Deadmau5′ help it got a remix treatment about halfway through.

Things got to an all-time low level of weird with a short play acted out by Nicki Minaj. “The Exorcism of Roman” was such a mess. Minaj was trying way to hard to be memorable, and now she will be for the wrong reasons.  I think the she-rapper was going for some Lady Gaga “Paparazzi”-level performance art, but there was just so much going on and you couldn’t totally understand her. And the blatant religious imagery that wasn’t really defined as good or bad in the scene, would make Sinead O’Connor ask “What the hell do you think you’re doing here?”

The final two award categories to be televised, as there are over two dozen actually given out, were Record of the Year and Album of the Year… which both went to ADELE.
The beautiful Brit was so gracious and cute and in awe of the response to her work, she cried as she told the audience “It’s been a life changing year.”

The finale was, in no uncertain terms, an Epic. Musical. Moment.  For the men on stage, for the viewers in the theater, and fans watching from home.
Sir Paul McCartney reemerged on the grand stage to (appropriately) play the Beatles “The End” with the help of Joe Walsh, Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen.  Yeah, I’m serious. It was a freaking fantastic way to end the night, with all these incredible musicians jamming out.


No No No, Another Musical Icon Lost

25 07 2011

Undeniably talented but plagued by her addictions, the five-time Grammy winner became the latest member of the 27 Club Saturday.

The British-born singer Amy Winehouse, a waif of a woman with an enormous voice,  was found dead early on July 23, allegedly by her long-time bodyguard Ray Grange. The London Ambulance Service responded to her home address in Camden Square. 

Many initial reports of the incident claimed Winehouse had reverted to old behaviors and died by overdose. However, a preliminary investigation by London police revealed no paraphernalia to be in the home.

Reportedly in treatment as recently as June, with the Priory Clinic, another item of speculation circulating is that the termination of Winehouse’s rocky relationship with director Reg Traviss played a part in her final fall off the wagon. It is said that after many efforts to turn Amy’s life around, Traviss realized he couldn’t help her help herself, and he ended their year-long romance.

Authorities confirmed the presence of alcohol, fueling theories that Winehouse drank herself to death.

No official cause of death has been announced, pending a post-mortem examination (autopsy) scheduled for sometime Monday.  Her mother Janis has expressed obvious saddness, but also admitted to a lingering intuition that she would outlive her only daughter — quoted on PerezHilton as saying  “it was only a matter of time.”

Has Lady Gaga Peaked?

24 04 2011

I suppose there have been several red flags in the short career of Stefani Germanotta, known the world over as Lady Gaga.  But who could have known that the outrageous fashions and manic lyrics were just expressions of a deeper, much more complex series of issues with herself, organized religion, and society as a whole.

With her latest single, “Judas,” drawing controversy before it’s even officially released, Gaga’s “Born This Way” continues to dominate the charts and our airwaves.

Personally, I was let down by “Born This Way.”  After months upon months of buzz for the title track of her junior effort, and a convoluted premiere at the Grammy’s in late February (see below), I was underwhelmed by the presentation. The music itself was not nearly as layered and technical as some of her other work, and the lyrics — which are fairly profound and topical — get lost in the showiness she has to maintain.

The question of whether Gaga has taken her affection for the maven of envelope-pushing, Madonna, a little far and (inadvertently?) copied the 1989 hit “Express Yourself.”  Comparisons of the two songs have been popping up for months, online and in print, and someone finally had the balls to ask the new Queen of Pop what she thought of the implications.

I totally understand the concept of a creative process, and I respect Gaga for putting herself out there. But there is definitely a line between what is (performance) art and what is publically marketable; if Stefani Germanotta loses the understanding and appreciation of consumers with her ranting and higher-than-thou attitude, she loses what makes her Gaga.

I’ve listened to both songs several times over, and I hear more than a few similarities… basically “Born This Way” is jut a faster pace than “Express Yourself” but the underlaying notes are the saaaame! 

<<Click Here to Listen for Yourself!>>

Gaga saying that she hears no overlap, considers no comparison, is like Vanilla Ice saying he didn’t rip off Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure” for his one-hit wonder “Ice Ice Baby” in 1990. 

It’s obvious to everyone else, but some people just have to live in denial. The idea that their own success has piggybacked off the hard work of others is infathomable.

I consider this the crossroads in Gaga’s career, if she keeps up this ridiculous behavior and clings to the idea that her ‘Little Monsters’ will support every single thing she does or says, she will ascend to the level of nonsensical jabbering previously displayed by Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Prince. They have all maintained consistent fan followings, and continue to cash in on events, but they are arguably no where near the level of fame and talent they used to be.

Lady Gaga is set to appear as the musical guest on this season’s finale of Saturday Night Live (May 21), so in the event that she rips up a picture of the Pope — ala Sinead O’Connor — don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Taylor Swift

26 01 2011

 Taylor Swift.  If you haven’t heard of her by now, you have either been in a coma, a POW, or a hermit in the Granite Mountains.

The 21-year-old country-pop crossover star has been a best-selling artist three years over; Her self-titled debut album went four-times platinum in the US, while her sophomore effort “Fearless” was certified platinum six times. “Fearless” is still on the Billboard Top 200 (#82) after an astonishing 114 weeks on the chart.

Swift’s latest “Speak Now” is holding strong at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 after 12 weeks on the charts.

This Nashville-transplant has surpassed the success she dreamt of in her childhood- winning 10 BMI awards, 8 Billboard awards, and 4 Grammy’s since 2007.

It was revealed recently, in the January 3 issue of Women’s Wear Daily, that despite her mass-appeal and hordes of fans from 8 to 80, a Taylor magazine cover will not move nearly as fast as one of her singles.  Copies of Elle, Glamour, and Marie Claire had some of the year’s lowest circulation (up to 60k fewer sold than average!) when Swift graced their cover.

My first thought is, why pay between $3.95 and $6.99 for a magazine when Swift sings you her secrets on every album? $14.99 for a CD at Target gives you as much or more insight to her life than any interview.

Avid 16-year-old fan Emily Marshall reacted to the WWD declaration with shrill disagreement.  Marshall says she is more likely to buy a magazine with Taylor Swift on the cover because “a lot of times in interviews she actually explains her songs,” putting speculation and individual interpretation to rest.
Lyrically Swift is in a league of her own, but she has not yet made herself the kind of “quote machine” that Lady Gaga has become.

I have to wonder, as her songs get a little edgier (“Better Than Revenge”) and it becomes clear Swift is no mousey wallflower, will people clamor for copies of magazines she is featured in the way they line up at WalMart the night before her records come out?