Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy Gimmicks

In recent years, I had given up on the Grammys…too much hip-hop, rap and obnoxious commercials but this year for journalistic reasons I decided to stay with it.
What I found was another entertainment event midway between the SuperBowl and the Oscars that was a made-for-media event which the media celebrates and the celebrities mine for advertising opportunities. Is Taylor Swift selling hand crème or downloads. Eminem should use some of that ice tea he’s hawking to put out the fires on the stage behind Rhianna. Of course, the merging of content and advertising in an M.C. Escher miasma is nothing new.  But it certainly seems to hit new heights around this time of year.

The show came off more than a little schizophrenic. Are we celebrating new music or parading out aging rock stars in hopes that the boomers will show up at Target tomorrow? Is it a music show or a full employment program for dancers, choreograhers and lighting designers in Los Angeles? It is an homage to the power of smoke and mirrors and if they can’t figure out who the real stars of 2011 are, “give ‘em the ole razzle dazzle.”
First put an anchor blonde in a corner to endlessly tease the stars of yesteryear (Dylan, Jagger, Streisand) then when they do show up for their three minutes, surround them with masses of musicians and back up singers.  At least Babs and Bob sang their own songs(in Bob’s case we use the term loosely but if you don’t know the words to Maggie’s Farm, it’s too late for you). And Mick’s tribute to Solomon Burke has him doing a song that for the last thirty years has been associated with Jake and Elwood and their Fabulous Show Band.

What was up with the mini-mosh pit populated by those people who stand up to shake Jay Leno’s hand at the open of the Tonight Show? I hope they got paid good money to stand there holding their hands in the air and blocking low-angle camera shots.  Often the random hands looked like someone reaching for help from quicksand (or was that a promo for Survivor XXX?)

The awards all seemed to average out with something for everyone (as usual) but I was struck by Best Rock Album nominees: Jeff Beck, Pearl Jam, Tom Petty and Neil Young.
And the winner was:  Muse.  Of course they had just performed a song with an amazing light show. (Dylan got no light show or audience cutaways but Streisand got a symphony orchestra.)  I will check out the new albums by some of the also rans.

I like watching Lady Gaga and Katy Perry; they put on great shows.  But I don’t seem to be listening to their music.

Can it really be they have been doing the Grammys for 53 years? Was  Volare  the first record of the year? And others were Moon River, Bridge Over Troubled Water and Beat It.  This year it was Need You Now which Lady Antebellum informed the audience that they had performed at last year’s Grammys. (?)

Finally I have to say I discovered Arcade Fire this year and really like them….crisp, original and energetic. Of course you could not see them for the fusillade of flashing lights that blinded the audience and the cameras when they performed their first number. They got better treatment on the encore.

“It’s quarter to one and I need to quit now”  


  1. good report. added clarity to what I was able to glean from tweets, posts, and web shorts. we were not near a tv and may not have been inclined. but I am sorry I missed Ladies Gaga and Perry

  2. I watched with about the same curiousity you did, Frank, but had to turn away to watch Masterpiece on PBS before my man Mick came on. Doesn't sound like I missed much. I also missed Streisand but not nearly as much. I read one review that said Dylan's voice was "shredded" and I'd have to agree. Strange that he got no close-ups. Ah well, we're all old guys now and Buddy Holly is long since dead.