I have been meaning to blog about the catastrophe that was the 2009 Grammy Awards since the morning after they aired. I had a bunch of notes and everything. I had decided that, since I could not move myself to blog for a couple of following weeks, I would never get around to it. But it has been nagging at my soul, because music is my favorite thing in all of life, so here goes:
First, some back-story. I have been watching the Grammys since I was nine years old. To put that into focus, Christopher Cross cleaned up. Even when rock music started to lift itself onto a gurney, and hook itself up to an i.v. in about 1987-88, I continued to make my watching these awards an annual event. By the early 90’s, it was commonplace for me to watch them alone and with guilt. Everyone in my life panned even the concept of watching. And most of the people in my life have always been artists and musicians.
Me: “Are you gonna watch the Grammys?”
Someone else: “Fuck no.”
I was used to it. And I couldn’t blame them for reacting that way. The show has ALWAYS mostly sucked. I have always known this going in. I watch for two primary reasons: First, it is to be awestruck by the possible attendance of any “gods” or “goddesses” in the world of music. Even if he or she is simply sitting in the crowd, it excites me to see them.
“Rewind! They just showed Prince!”
“That was Paul Simon!”
“Holy Shit! Dave Brubeck!”
“JIMMY PAGE!!!! Are you KIDDING ME?”
Stuff like that.
The second reason I watch is so I can deride the hacks. Man, that is fun when you are watching with other people. (I notice that males like to put down musicians and females like to make fun of others weight.)
Me: “Does Billy Corgan ever write melodies?”
A guy: “Who?”
Another guy: “Exactly”
A girl: “His date is fat.”
Although there has been, in my opinion, no legitimate musical “happening” since Amy Winehouse (before that, Outkast), this year I put out a tray of snacks and tuned into CBS with bated breath.
Again, I do not have my notes, but I will go by memory as best I can.
U2 opened the show. (I am not a fan exactly, but I think “Stuck In A Moment”, “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”, “New Years Day”, and a couple of others warrant their entire career. )
It was fucking terrible. Way less there than meets the eye. Big lights. A lot of jumping around. It seemed very loud. But I could not find an actual tune of any kind. I muted the TV. One minute into the 2009 Grammy Awards, and I am muting the TV. Yikes.
And I am well aware of all the pro-U2 arguments. Shove ’em. U2 was awful.
Next up was Carrie Underwood. I guess she played a Country song. It sounded like Rock and Roll to me, and sadly, it was a highlight of the night. Her guitarist was great. She flirted with an actual melody. It sucked, but compared to most of what followed, it was a highlight. Jesus, that is sad to write. Parenthetically, my father has more stage presence than Bible-toting Carrie. And the last time I saw eyes that vacuous, I was talking to a teller at my post office here in New York.
Oh yeah, sometime pretty early on, Whitney Houston came out. But is was not to sing some new masterpiece. She looked healthy. (Coughing loudly.)
Al Green sang a song from 1972. Nailed it! (Coughing even louder.)
See, I need my notes. I forget the order. Ah well…
At some point The Jonas Brothers played. They are The Bay City Rollers of the day, and I oddly have no problem with them. Cringing as I write…another highlight.
At least they flirted with a melody.
Oh yeah, and they wheeled Stevie Wonder out so he could try and class things up. He played a song (with The Brothers Jonas) from 1971.
Then there was Coldplay. I can’t get a Coldplay fan to hum me one of their songs. Watching them win an award is bewildering and agonizing. Watching them try to “bond” with Paul McCartney was funny. Yeah, aside from the Sgt. Pepper-ish suits, you guys have nothing in common with any former Beatle.
Some people swear by this band. I don’t know. When they won, it marked the first time during the ceremony that I started thinking that the whole thing is “fixed” and political.
At some point Justin Timberlake came out and sang in the right key.
Warning: I am about to dis the beloved Radiohead.
I know that their fans and the band could care less about my opinion, but here it is anyway. Just because a group does not write songs in a traditional mold, it does not automatically mean they are geniuses. It just doesn’t. Sorry. Like Coldplay, I can’t even get one of Radiohead’s own fans to hum me a tune. I can’t help it, this bothers me.
Suffice to say, I watched these ceremonies with a Radiohead fan, and they too thought this was dogshit.
Fleetwood Mac used the USC marching band on “Tusk” in the 1980 recording, and on stage during 1997’s “The Dance.” The difference there was that all of the hoopla created by the drummers, etc., transpired over an actual song; the horns had a melody to play.
So, summing up about Radiohead: BOOOOOOOOOOO!
At some point, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss sang a song that everyone was jizzing over. To me, it was just okay. But I won’t say anything bad about Plant. He is WAY too cool and real to be there at all, I kept thinking.
Adele was the genuine highlight of the night. Hers was, far and away, the best song I heard.
So of course, she was not allowed to play the whole thing. And her song did not win.
Her loss caused me to start to watch with one eye.
With one eye, I saw Jay-Z making shit up as he went along.
I saw Paul McCartney sing a song he wrote in 1963.
I saw some Smokey Robinson casino-style revue of songs even older.
I saw movie stars announce awards, because they could not find enough musicians who wanted to attend.
I left the TV on mute for about the last hour or so.
I was busy having a conversation about how “this is what happens when the wrong people start running the music industry.”
Me: “The worst Grammys ever.”
A guy: “Totally.”
A girl: Gweneth looked gaunt.”
Next morning, I see that the ratings were up from last year. That was when I threw out my notes.