The 55th Annual Grammy Awards

27 Feb

Grammy Award

While most of you are likely past agruing about the Academy Awards with coworkers, I’m still aghast at this year’s Grammys.  February 10th saw the 55th Annual Grammy Awards and to borrow a title from Joy Division it was an atrocity exhibition.  I myself didn’t watch the program, not so much an act of defiance as the absence of cable in my apartment, but after seeing the list of winners and hearing about performances the morning after I’m glad that I didn’t bother.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one because I talked to at least a half dozen friends of mine who consider themselves “very into music” and not a one was able to stomach the entire ceremony.  Why?  Let’s start from the beginning…

*     *     *

The host.

LL Cool J.  For the second year in a row.  Seriously, was he the only one to volunteer?  LL hasn’t released anything of any critical importance since 1990’s Mama Said Knock You Out!  He has released albums straight through the 2010s but he’s more known for his abs, Kangol hats and his dreadful acting than music.

L.L. Cool J poses in the press room at t

I have nothing in particular against LL Cool J, but I would think that a musical artist of some contemporary relevance and stage presence would have been better suited to host the awards.  Be it LL Cool J’s delivery or the poorly written prompt, I’ve been told that the crowd made applauding sound like an absolute chore.

The categories.

What the hell is the difference between Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year?  I’ll admit, I was thoroughly confused until I visited Wikipedia because I use the terms “record” and “album” almost interchangeably, though I usually reserve “album” for LPs & EPs.  I wasn’t totally off point.  Apparently, the Grammy “record” is meant to be awarded to the composer, producer, mixer, etc… of a single song.  Ok, so how does that differ from Song of the Year?  Right, Song of the Year is awarded to the composer or songwriter only.  Album of the Year, in the case of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, is meant to honor the collection of songs that make up Mumford & Sons’ pitiful Babel.  Stupid.  So [fill in the expletive] stupid.

Best New Artist is another category that I find particularly puzzling.  When I think of “new” artists, I think of debut records; maybe an artist that had a single out last year but they didn’t release a proper record until the current year.  I consulted Wikipedia once again and this is what “Best New Artist” in Grammy-speak means: “A new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist. Note that this is not necessarily the first album released by an artist.”  That makes total sense, particularly in the age of the Internet.  Is there an arbitrary definition of “public identity?”  More than 100,000 people have heard of you?  You signed to a major label?  One of your singles had over 72 hours of airplay on Bible Belt FM radio in a given year?  Fun. or fun. or FUCKING ANNOYING POP DICKLICKS have been around since 2008 and they released a shittier album than Some Nights, believe it or not, in 2009.  The fact that they recorded a song that bled out 1,000,000 ears last year (“We Are Young”) does not make them new.  It makes them three fucking annoying pop dicklicks (period!) who are more annoying presently than they were three years ago.  I’ll make it a point to note this for my year-end articles.  Top Albums of 2013 can be released anytime since 1960 as long as I discovered them and thought that they were great in the current year.

Aside:  That’s actually not a bad idea…  Top X Old Discoveries in a given year??

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards also saw the inception of a new award: Best Urban Contemporary Album.  Mr. Frank Ocean took that one home to a standing ovation…but for Chris Brown (what a twat…even though I would have loved to see them square off on national TV).  But, I can’t help but think that this award was created particularly for Frank Ocean and, if I were Frank Ocean, I would indeed be insulted.  He mysteriously wasn’t nominated for Best R&B Album or Best R&B Song.  Ocean doesn’t really rap.  There is no Best Hip Hop Album category.  So they just make up a category for him to run away with and create beef at the same time pitting him against Chris Brown?  The Recording Academy might has well have nominated him for Best Album Released by a Gay African American Metropolitan.  If the Academy really felt that Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio was the Best R&B Album over Ocean’s Channel Zero, Ocean should have gone home with just one Grammy and a bandaged hand.

Frank Ocean

Dear Chris Brown,

Stop being a jerkoff.

Regards,

SHH

The performances.

Some of the performances were not nearly as bad as I thought they would be after watching them on youtube, including the Bob Marley tribute, but…

Taylor Swift’s Mad Hatter performance of “We Are Never Getting Back Together” was something in between Tom Petty’s video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” and a sideshow of Cirque de Soleil layoffs.  The aesthetic had absolutely nothing to do with the content.  One (generic horny male) hoped less for a wardrobe malfunction than drunken stilt-walker or a fire-thrower who was off his game.

The tribute to Levon Helm was heart-warming.  Elton John, three thousand guitarists and Mavis Staples performed “The Weight” by The Band in remembrance.  Oh, and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard sang a single verse. One of the best new artists, actually NEW, nominated thrice but Grammy-less was allowed to sing one verse while the crowd gawked at Elton John who was tasteful enough to wear a remaindered Liberachi tuxedo as opposed to a Donald Duck suit, Mavis Staples whose dress had to be stapled to her and Dumbford & Sons (I’ve called them way worse).  Oh well, take a load off, Brittany…Mavis was certainly the weight this year.  Either way I’m sure that the ramble-rousing Levon Helms would have very much appreciated the sentiment of artistic collaboration in his honor.

LL Cool J, host of the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, was the closing performance.  I don’t think that there’s any chance that I would have been impressed by LL, but he was backed by Public Enemy’s Chuck D. as a hype man, Rage’s Tom Morello on guitar, Blink 182’s Travis Barker on drums and DJ Z- Trip.  The mix proved to be about as interesting as expected.  LL stumbled through some sloppy rap, Chuck D. backed LL up in former Public Enemy bandmate Flavor Flav fashion, Tom Morello got funky on the guitar, Barker drummed really fast with tattoos and DJ Z- Trip (named after the DJ Shadow album??) sort of held it all together.  That is until the best/worst part of the performance where it runs over and the audio for sponsors Hilton Resorts and Delta Airlines bring the show to a close prematurely.  It worked for me.  The track to me sounded a little too Cypress Hill (perhaps subliminally citing Rage’s cover of “How I Could Just Kill a Man” with Morello on guitar) and I couldn’t help but think “Here is something you can’t understand…How I could just kill [an awards ceremony]!”

The nominees.

The nominees this year were snot.  I didn’t expect to see a number of the artists and tracks that I have personally highlighted over the past two years.  After all, I don’t listen to the radio any longer but for brief rides in other peoples’ cars and satellite radio in department stores.  Let us review the Record of the Year category in detail to prove my point.  If there is any confusion regarding “record,” please reference the definitions of this award above.  If not, please continue reading and I will pretend to host the Grammys myself.

Record of the Year.  And the nominees are…!!

Gotye – “Somebody That I Used to Know”

Gotye

This song was so atrocious that I had a theory that its release and subsequent overplay on the radio was directly related to all of the terrible murders that happened over the past 18 months.  People who are already on the edge hear it and just snap.  I hear this song and I think of faces getting eaten off, babies getting thrown out of windows and actors dismembering kittens.

The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”

The Black Keys

It is a good track.  Not the year’s best, but a marked improvement over Gotye.

Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”

Kelly Clarkson

Another song from 2011!  Kelly Clarkson is talented, but I just don’t care for her radio pop style.  “Stronger” reminds me of being trapped in shitty clubs a year and a half ago.

Fun. – “We Are Young”

fun.

Fun. is an awful band, period.  Their single “We Are Young” was made popular by the equally awful television show Glee.  I could not believe the number of “Top” lists that I saw Fun. on this past year.  When I first listened to their album I thought, “Maybe this is just one of those pop albums that grows on you after a few listens.”  It doesn’t.  I couldn’t finish the album the second time through without tasting bile in the back of my throat.

Aside:  Is it just me or does frontman Nate Ruess look like the love-child of Mark Wahlberg and French Stewart?

Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout You”

Frank Ocean 2

Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange was cited by many reputable publications as one of the best R&B albums in recent memory and although the praise may have been somewhat inflated, “Thinkin Bout You” is a great single.

Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”


Taylor Swift

Pop Country may be one of the worst genres of music ever imagined and Taylor Swift has it down to a T.  She should have never ever been nominated for this song.

The winners.

And the winner is…Gotye!  “Somebody That I Used to Know!”  Case in point.

In the absence of worthy nominees several of the categories were awarded to undeserving parties.  I can count the number of winners that didn’t piss me off on one hand.  I don’t mind The Black Keys winning Best Rock Song for “Lonely Boy” (despite the time of release parameters mentioned above and the fact that there are better songs on El Camino) or Dan Auerbach for producing El Camino and Dr. John’s Locked Down.  One of the winners I was most behind was Once… for Best Musical Theater Album as I saw it live on Broadway with my girlfriend on her birthday and rather enjoyed it.

Once Logo

With these few exceptions aside the winners’ circle was horrendous.  Many artists that I highlighted this past year weren’t even recognized with nominations.  I am not surprised because the Grammys have become a politicized celebration of radio pop mediocrity, but come on!
Mumford and Sons

Mumford & Sons, who look like a group of modern saloon fruit loops, took home Album of the Year for Babel.  Fun. won Song of the Year for “We Are Young” and was named Best New Artist.  Gotye picked up two more wins for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Alternative Music Album.

The Grammys are proof of the sad state of affairs that is pop/rock music.  I feel bad for those viewers that tuned in, regardless of taste, and were made to believe that those artists who won represent the best contemporary musicians. Contemporary music really isn’t this bad, I swear.

*     *     *

Since you have already been privy to my Top Albums and Tracks of 2012, I will leave you with my suggestion for a new award category for next year’s Grammys: Most Heinous Shade of Lipstick…

Nicki MinajAnd the winner is Nicki Minaj!

It’s a good goddam thing “Beez in the Trap” wasn’t nominated for Record of the Year…I would have lost it.

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3 Responses to “The 55th Annual Grammy Awards”

  1. bobdoesthings February 28, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

    enjoyable read, sir.

  2. Radioheadfreak February 28, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    Good sir, I Love you . It is sad when a 17 year old girl (like myself) has waaay better music taste than 60% of America’s so called “adults” . I’d knock All those assholes on Their ass . Fuck the Grammys , and Brittany deserved better . The Black Keys are good . fun. are douchebag pretentious indie wannabe posers not fit to sniff a dog’s bollocks. Great post . If I didn’t want Thom Yorke so much , I would go after you .

  3. Radioheadfreak February 28, 2013 at 11:28 pm #

    Someone should just destroy the atrocity that is Taylor Swift . She is setting females back 20 years .

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