Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy Award Muse-ings: East Coast bias, Mumford & Sons shine, Cee Lo Green glows, Arcade Fire ignite, Ma-GaGa-donna & more

First of all, the pink elephant in the room - the music industry is anchored in Los Angeles. The Grammy Awards are held in Los Angeles. The notable parties are all in Los Angeles.

Why aren't the Grammy Awards televised live in Los Angeles?

The obvious answer I come up with is that they're hoping most of the industry won't watch them, that way they can't question why the awards show was opened with a stale tribute to a living legend that would have been better-suited for later in the telecast.

No disrespect to Aretha Franklin, but Cee Lo Green should have opened the show.

Or Justin Bieber, but God-forbid they do that and risk all the kids going to bed, then mom and dad turning on anything more entertaining. (For the record, there was nothing else on. My father-in-law called at 11pm EST and said he was watching - not because he particularly cared, but because he was out of options.)

That Cee Lo Green performance was everything that an opening act should be - dynamic, fun, original and relevant. Muppets! How awesome was that? You know what was just as awesome? The song - just further proving the argument I waged on my Facebook page a few weeks ago, that a great song becomes little more than a novelty when it's hanging its marketing shingle on an f-bomb.

The song is already great, and didn't miss a beat being delivered as "Forget You" - calling it "Fuck You" is nothing more than a cheap and completely unnecessary gimmick that panders to the lowest common denominator.

Speaking of turn-offs, I've loved Lady Gaga from day one - so early on, that people laughed at me when I told them she should be huge. That said, she's only one album in and I already fear her career trajectory could be where Marilyn Manson was after Mechanical Animals. That's how accelerated culture is today, and I fear she's already losing sight of the smaller picture as she jumps the Jaws tank in an effort to express herself.

You're only as good as your current hit, and the groundwork is already being laid for her next one, with the Hollywood Reporter reporting today that Gaga's producer RedOne boasts that the next single "is going to shock" - you mean, as opposed to suck?

"Born This Way" doesn't suck, but it's far from great - and a great way to have buried the song's Madonna comparisons would have been to be joined by the material girl onstage last night. Which obviously didn't happen. In a world where there is no such thing as accidental press, the fact that they're already setting up song No. 2 speaks volumes...

The big winner last night was Mumford & Sons (pictured above). They were in a league all their own, playing with an honesty and spirit that was effervescent. They're going to steal the show at Coachella this year - a 60,000 person sing-along will provide the type of magic that sells the festival out in three days despite a lackluster lineup.

Muse were my other favorite from the night - they managed to translate a big rock show (with obvious nods to Pink Floyd and Queensryche) onto the small screen, making it not only believable, but (here's that word again) relevant.

I wish Bob Dylan was remotely relevant. He came across as old as he sounded. Barbra Streisand sounded great, but how many people cared? Part of the problem NARAS are now facing is that they are trying to spread themselves too thin. Aretha tribute. Bieber performance. Yes, it's an overview of where we are, but it really wasn't tied together well at all. A shred of cohesion could do wonders.

John Mayer, Norah Jones and Keith Urban performing Dolly Parton was great - but where was Dolly Parton? I feel like that fell as flat as John Mayer wasting an opportunity to ad lib and stating he'd stick to the teleprompter...

What makes Mayer such a star - aside from his musical talent - is the fact that he is smart enough to manipulate pop culture to fit his personality. Problem is, he's been snakebit since calling Jessica Simpson sexual napalm, and now he comes across as afraid to open his mouth.

Nobody else worries about opening their mouth, why the double standard?

I had to hide from Twitter and Facebook all day yesterday to avoid the barrage of people announcing winners and spoiling the surprise before we on the West Coast had a chance to see the action, at least make it worth my while to watch!

Arcade Fire would have been a nice surprise - if it was a surprise. As for their show, their punk bravado reminds me a lot of Sonic Youth. And the strobe lights ever-present through their performances reminded me of Motley Crue when they reunited on television what seems like eons ago. We listen with our eyes as much as our ears - don't underestimate how important those strobes were...

Did Arcade Fire really deliver the best album of the past year? Does it really matter? The Grammy Awards got what they wanted - indie cred... Despite the disarray that ensued with their botched Arcade Fire/Barbara Streisand/Kris Kristofferson ending.


One final note, to the publicity company that sent out press releases immediately after the live broadcast aired announcing all the winners - really? You get paid in the ballpark of $5,000/month to work your A-list clients, but you can't stay up until the West Coast feed ends to send out a one-line release announcing that said band won a Grammy, and it was their first?

You couldn't even give us a quote from the band? Nothing but a buzzkill, that's all that press release was... NARAS, meanwhile, doesn't even know how to create a buzz - they kept announcing that people won earlier in the night, but they never went so far as to even scroll the winners that weren't televised.

When NARAS doesn't even think their own awards are important enough to announce, how seriously are we supposed to take them?

About as seriously as Cee Lo Green, I guess.

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