Re: The Grammy Awards

I don't watch the Grammys, the Oscars, or the Emmys, because, frankly, I know what I like in terms of music and movies. My tastes are probably not as refined as, say, Sasha Frere-Jones, or any serious film critic. You'd find a lot of guilty pleasures in my music and movie collection, but I don't need someone to confirm with me that I have good taste (or don't, as the case may be).
Years past, I may have watched the opening of these award ceremonies simply to look at the dresses worn by the likes of J.Lo or Angelina. But to be honest, after Lopez's "can-you-see-my-pubes-in-this-dress? dress, everyone seems to be terrified of doing anything exciting with their moment on the red carpet.
We went from this:

Jennifer Lopez in Versace Source:   

To this:
Hilary Swank in Guy Laroche. Source:

Now, I'm not saying that either of these ladies looks ill dressed. I'm just saying that there doesn't seem to be much point in oogling designer gowns if no risks are being taken. By the way, Lady Gaga does not count in this discusion. She takes risks, but she has never made the ultimate challenge of looking tasteful while doing it. I attribute this to her guido roots.
Moving on: 
Apparently the 54th Grammy Award Ceremony had little to draw me back into the fold. I know this because I didn't watch it and then read SFJ's review of it (see above link). Keep in mind I think this music reviewer is sometimes too snobby for his own good (in fact, that's most of his reviews), but there was a lot that I had to agree with.

1. Kanye West reportedly not attending is, perhaps, the most lucid decision I have ever seen a rap artist make. There may be some day in the distant future when the oligarchs who bestow these little gold figurines upon deserving souls realise that awarding all the awards you can in a sub-genre is not the same as as just giving that lofty accolade: Best Album. Now, this could have gone either way: Kanye could have attended, and accepted his consolation prizes with ill grace. He could have been a total ass and begun the process of stewing in his own bitter sense of injustice. Or he could have a good night, away from all the fuss, maybe sending out a subtle message that he doesn't really give a shit about the Grammys and knows who really loves him.

2. Case in Point: The Foo Fighters. There was a time when they were actually pretty decent. Now Dave Grohl is just one of the most angry individuals I've ever seen. It comes across in the music, and in his personality. At this point, giving his band awards just seems like appeasement. I can understand if some people feel this music speaks to them, that they can relate to it. But I think it is undeserving of an award.  In the early days it seemed like this band had some humanity, some sense of humor. And then they were relentlessly dismissed by mainstream media (does anyone else remember Dave literally begging the audience of TRL to vote for his video one year?). So I can understand the bitterness he must be feeling. Performers like Britney Spears, or Lady Gaga, or Katy Perry constantly get the attention, and we all know that they're not actually that talented. They can put on a good show, but strip off the Lobster sunglasses or the gummy bear dress and you don't have much to go with. 
That being said one needs to chanel that anger into a better focus. Adele has anger, Beyonce can get angry, The Rolling Stones had some fury in their day, and managed to hone it into music that knocked our socks off. They helped us tap into our own sources of passion and transported us from the present, for 3 minutes and 17 seconds to a different time and a different place. Foo Fighters doesn't really do that. But I'm a little worried that if not awarded something they might burn the building to the ground.

3. It is unfair, I believe, to expect Jennifer Hudson do a passing imitation of Whitney Houston, last minute, with one of her hardest songs. Jennifer is quite talented, but, there will never be another Whitney. Perhaps it would have been kinder to ask Jennifer to sing one of her own songs as though she were singing to Whitney. I suppose what people expect, when listening to a tribute, is that they're going to get an exact replica of the song. If that's the truth, then just put on The Bodyguard and close your eyes. 

4. The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of its Parts. Never is this rule more true than when it comes to the Beatles. Together they were tremendous. I know, I know, not everyone worships at the altar of the Liverpuddlians. But even skeptics have to admit the huge effect the Beatles have had on the world and on music over all. 

The Fab Four. Source:
On their own, not so much. 


I realise I don't know Paul McCartney personally, but I am so sick and tired of him. His singles were never really that great and his personality made me a little queasy. When he decided to try and change the credits from "Lennon/ McCartney" to "McCartney/Lennon"  I was officially done. None of the solo albums produced by former Beatles can compare to Abbey Road or Rubber Soul. Paul might be one of the most charismatic Beatles and therefore one of the most outgoing, but let's not forget at this point he's also one of two surviving Beatles. Is this why we let him bore us and/or slightly embarrass us? And I'm not trying to speak for popular culture at large. I get that you might adore Paul and all his age-inappropriate boyish charm. I don't and it's my blog so there.
5. Chris Brown. This is a tricky subject. Is it right to recognise a person's musical talent when that person is also acknowledged  to be an abusive douche bag? Do they have anything to do with each other? I pose this question while thinking of other artists like Ray Charles (one could make the case that he mentally abused his wife, if not the vows he took, by sleeping around, and that doesn't even address his drug abuse); Michael Jackson (I don't think I need to explain the case with him); Sammy Davis Jr. who made a whole persona of being unpleasant; or Robert Johnson, that almost mythic god of the blues who reportedly sold his soul to the devil in exchange for wicked guitar skills. He also fathered numerous children, mostly out of wedlock, abandoned many many women he was married to when they got sick, all in the name of being an itinerant musician and then wrote mostly about beating other women because of how they did him wrong. Probably the biggest example of this conundrum I can think of, though, is Ike Turner. 

Nowadays, Ike Turner is most famous for being Tina Turner's abusive husband and propelling her to absolute musical genius with songs like "What's Love Got to Do With It?" But probably my mother, and others of her generation, knew him as a very talented man. Had the biopic, also called "What's Love Got to Do With It?" never been made, we would probably still think of him as the genius who picked Tina out of a crowd and polished her into star. Now his name is synonymous, IMO, with black eyes on a woman's face.
Is this fair to the music? He made some really catchy songs, and probably would have been a shoe-in for some hall of fame had his dirty little secret not come out. Does this mean that we have to stop listening to them?
I honestly don't know. On the one hand battery and assault certainly can't be awarded, though awarding someone for being a talented musician is not the same thing as being awarded for beating your wife. But you can't very well say, "here's a Grammy, you bad man!" The abuser still has money lining his/her pockets, an award on his/her mantle and is free to go and seduce more victims with some smooth crooning. 
How do we, the adoring public, justify that this horrible person produced something good and/or beautiful?
In Chris Brown's case, the decision is pretty simple: He never should have been given an award. A talentless, lackluster pretty boy (who, IMO, isn't all that pretty anyway), the best thing that ever happened to him was catching Rhianna's eye, and then he managed to mess that up pretty badly. And yet, even while her face was still raw and bloody there were defenders of his saying "whoa, whoa, she threw the first punch."
That point is moot. If she did, she certainly didn't do the damage that justifies putting her in the hospital, and Brown should have had the restraint to boot her out the car without breaking a few blood vessels. But that should be self-evident.
But, again, I wonder if his violent tendencies have anything to do with his receiving an award. I don't think giving his Grammy is undeserved because he has a violent streak. I think his Grammy is undeserved because, to put it bluntly, his music sucks. End of discussion.

I realise that I'm not the most qualified person to deliver such a judgment on the Grammy Awards, except that I am a consumer. When other people go into complex discussion of why Adele is the best thing since Outkast, or how one can hear obvious roots of African R&B in new age rock (For example, let's just say), I quickly lose interest in the conversation. Sometimes a pop song is just that: pop.


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