So, I braved the NYC elements (it’s 17 degrees over there), hopped on a plane West, checked into my hotel and cleared up some work so I could be back in my hotel room to view the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in their entirety. Considering I shut it off before it even finished, color me a little underwhelmed by a show (and a voting committee) that has gotten better than they were, but still leads all award shows in WTF decisions?
First of all, I was a little upset by what didn’t happen at the show. A rumored Michael Jackson performance commemorating the 25th Anniversary of “Thriller” didn’t happen (presumably because Michael refused to perform unless he received some kind of award), and an expected fireworks fest between Aretha Franklin & Mary J. Blige didn’t happen due to Mary somehow not appearing on the show (despite wearing two Grammys last night). Not sure what happened, but it’s possible Aretha (who’s back to looking like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day float after losing a pretty decent amount of weight) ate her.
The highlights were expected. No one that I didn’t expect to wow me already wowed me. Those “wow” moments? Kanye West’s futuristic performance of “Stronger” with Daft Punk followed by an emotional performance of “Hey Mama” that proved dude could potentially have a singing career as well, and Amy Winehouse’s excellent medley of “You Know I’m No Good” and the now completely ironic “Rehab”. Both also had the best acceptance speeches of the night. Winehouse was quite overwhelmed (and bringing her parents on stage with her was a nice touch), and West was deservedly surly as he started to get played off the stage in the middle of his speech. Vince Gill and Prince also provided chuckles (Prince DOES have a sense of humor) with subtle knocks on Kanye and Sinatra, respectively.
Everything else was just kind of standard and boring, honestly. I hereby pronounce a future ban on all Beatles tribute unless John and George come back from the dead. I hereby pronounce a moratorium on ANY performances of “No One” by Alicia Keys (who performed the same song on the VMAs in September and the AMAs in November). I fell asleep during the performance by Lang Lang and Herbie Hancock. Musical virtuosity is great, folks. Now try to give us some excitement, k?
While it was nice to see The Time together, I grinned at the irony of the band playing the instruments on “Jungle Love”, a song that no Time member (except guitarist Jesse Johnson and Morris Day) played on individually. Not to mention the fact that I thought Morris and co-performer Rihanna had no chemistry whatsoever. Ditto for Beyonce and 69-year old Tina Turner, although Tina surprised me by performing with the energy of a woman 1/3 her age.
My personal biggest offense was this. Since the Grammys appeared on tape delay here at West, I decided to fight temptation and not check any news sites for a winners list. Curiosity got the best of me and I finally broke down and went to cnn.com, where I saw a picture of Herbie Hancock’s grinning mug accompanied by the words “Album Of The Year”. Don’t get me wrong, I dig Herbie Hancock. Although I’ve only heard parts of the winning album, “River” (a Joni Mitchell tribute), I don’t think it’s bad. Besides, how can you be mad at someone who played with Miles Davis? Still, though, in light of excellent albums by West and Winehouse being nominated, the night’s major prize went to the height of fuddy-duddyness, highlighting a problem that’s been Grammy’s Achilles heel for as long as I can remember.
If you want to bring this show into the 21st century and resonate with music listeners today, it might be time to stop making this show a back-slapping fest for record executives and older artists (especially in light of slumping music sales), and figure out some way to get the voting and nominating committees a little more in step with the times.
I had high hopes for this show, but in the end, the Grammys turned out to be just another tired award show, and this year’s show was one of the most boring ones I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.