First of all, I have a confession – as an alternative, independent, egotistical musician who, by all rights, should sneer at any large-scale industry shindig, I’ve always had a soft spot for large awards shows.
In the UK, it that means the Brits, and over here in the US, I’ve grown very partial to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction night – mostly for the speeches, although many of the performances are pretty good as well 🙂 A couple of years back, I started watching the Grammy’s which, in my head, were similar to the Ivor Novello awards in the UK. As the years passed though, I came to see them very much more as being like the Brits.
Now, all that confessed, I have to add that I’m not an awards geek. I don’t study the form, or join betting pools for potential winners. I just turn up on the night and watch – enjoying the performances and those few moments when sincerity shines through and an artist seems honestly humbled by the occasion.
So, last night, I settled in to watch the 2012 Grammys
[which should be Grammies, right? Right?]
joining the show about halfway through.
Within five minutes, I’m thinking that I’m watching the death of an industry. Live.
This is a show that could have been aired in the late 70’s
[just swap Leif Ericson in for Chris Brown]
with many of the same names making a showing and a format that is easily 50 years old.
I don’t often use text-speak, but W… T… F?!!!
At now here’s Ryan Seacrest paying testament to the enduring legacy of The Beach Boys. Great, a montage and some testimony, thought I.
No such luck.
[and please forgive any inaccurate quotes…]
“And here to bring that legacy to life,” said Seacrest, beaming his beamiest grin, “Maroon 5!”
And it was. Maroon 5 singing Surfer Girl…
… with about fifteen backing guitarists. Twelve percussionists. Nineteen backing singers.
At the end of the song, Adam looks to his right and announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, Foster The People!”
Cut to the adjacent stage and, sure enough, it’s Foster The People singing Wouldn’t It Be Nice…
… with a different fifteen backing guitarists. An alternate Twelve percussionists. And nineteen other backing singers.
Then come the Beach Boys themselves, replete – for the first time in decades – with Brian Wilson’s thousand-yard stare. They’re old. Very old.
[shit, they were old in 1985 when they reformed to play Live Aid]
But at least they have a legacy. And they sound good enough, which might have something to do with…
… another fifteen backing guitarists, twelve percussionists and nineteen backing singers.
I know musicians have fallen on hard times, but my sense is that the Grammy’s did it’s bit in hiring as many musicians as it could fit in an arena, and then didn’t plug any of them in. Maybe it’s a union thing…
Taylor Swift. Another 53 musicians
[how many mandolins does one song need, for fuck’s sake?!!!]
all in choreographed perfection.
Still, at least Taylor’s smile on finishing the song and experiencing the crowd’s reaction provided one of those rare moments of humility and honesty.
But enough with that youthful talent, this is the Grammys! Wheel out the geriatric Beatle!
And for heaven’s sake, make sure he looks like he got his suit off the bargain rack at Mens Wearhouse.
Introduced by Stevie Wonder as singing a new classic, Paul proceeded to sing a… well…
For all his legacy, Paul McCartney is no Frank Sinatra.
I miss John Lennon.
[PRODUCER: “Note to self – now he’s done his bit, make sure for the rest of the show, we have as many cutaways as possible to a badly dancing geriatric Beatle”]
To the dance tent, where David Guetta and Chris Brown did some perfunctory auto-tuned pop dance
[yay! pass me my large glo-stick so that I too can be cool, hip and trendy!]
which, thankfully, cut to Foo Fighters mashed up with Deadmaus – finally some honesty.
With only the original musicians involved.
Katy Perry. Blue hair. Guitars. Many dancers. Not so many musicians.
Adele. The quite astounding Rolling in the Deep. Alone but for the specific members of her touring band who joined her onstage.
And now they start hyping Nicki Minaj – “A performance you will not want to miss!”
Look, courting religious controversy is all well and good, but its got to be on the back of memorable songs: Like A Prayer, not some low-budget, poor-quality Excorcist rip-off.
[but today’s blogs confirm the Catholic church is upset – job done – record sales up!]
Moving right along.
By this time, I’m getting a headache and sinking feeling deep, deep into the pit of my stomach.
I will never get these wasted moments back again.
And some dude with a beard and grey hair is on spouting something about something and how there’s a charity that helps young musicians and a picture of Johnny Rotten flashes up and my cognitive dissonance hits unparalleled heights.
And this dude is spouting something about protecting the creators in the digital age. And I’m almost screaming at the television because this is, by definition, an awards show geared about and for the MIDDLEMEN!
[and those reading this who don’t believe that those same middlemen have been doing whatever they can do to fleece artists since Elvis signed his first contract with Colonel Tom might as well leave now]
Bon Iver says it all when he thanks those musicians who will never have a hope of appearing at the Grammy’s.
[thank you, Bon Iver]
no surprise that the ‘out-of-time’ music plays him off stage.
Adele gives us one of those down to earth, honest moments when she accepts her umpteenth grammy – I don’t think I’ve ever seen an award recipient acknowledge snotty tears before.
[thank you, Adele]
Jennifer Hudson pulls the toughest job in showbiz, singing a tribute to Whitney Houston. Does a great job.
[thank you, Jennifer]
And LL Cool J – who always makes me smile – introduces the grand finale.
Oh shit, it’s Sir Paul back again. Sgt Pepper’s rear-end…
[only with an awesome drummer]
… an all star celebrity guitar jam.
[and I’m a guitarist for fuck’s sake!]
and I can’t help feeling that Sir Paul now sees Beatles songs as an opportunity to hone his pantomime karaoke skills.
[did I mention that the Grammy’s reminded me how much I miss John Lennon?]
And it’s over.
My initial reaction – that this throwback mess of a show was the death of an industry, live! – remained with me. So much so, that I slept on it before writing this piece, wanting to check my head and listen for any voice of jealousy.
But it never came. The only thing that emerge was this: Support local live music. As the months and years pass, it’s likely the only place where you’ll find honesty, talent and humility.
[all that, and I didn’t even mention Glenn Campbell]