Monday, February 11, 2008

She Puts the "Gram" in Grammy

The Grammy Awards were as magnificently irrelevant as ever this year. A few brain-blips:

-- Big winner and tragedy-in-the-making Amy Winehouse was in terrific voice last night. It's a shame there's such a circus around someone so talented, but the irony is that she probably wouldn't have won without the notoriety. Grammy voters are steadfastly stodgy and if Winehouse had remained just a darling on the alternative music scene, she would never have pinged their limited radar. But now that she's the subject of media hand-wringing and demogoguery, they've actually heard of her. And it helps that she's good. But as most of the rest of the awards last night show, it's not necessary.

-- Also good last night were The Foo Fighters, playing a somewhat tired, but still welcome, song, "The Pretender" off Grammy's Best Rock Album, Echoes, Silence, Patience, and Grace. The list at right will tell you I agree with the choice. And that worries me.

-- Other winners I actually like include Alison Kraus and Robert Plant with "Gone, Gone, Gone." It's an unlikely pairing that works far better than I ever would have expected. The Best Alternative Album was The White Stripes' Icky Thump, a nice enough album with some stand-out moments, but the notion that it beat out Arcade Fire's Neon Bible is laughable.

-- As usual at the Grammys, some old pros picked up some hardware. Herbie Hancock won in the Best Album category for his Joni Mitchell tribute album, River: The Joni Album, the first jazz album to win in the category since 1964; Joni Mitchell herself scooped up the Best Pop Instrumental Performance award (love those Grammy categories); and Bruce Springsteen took home several Gramophone-shaped thingees for songs off his so-so Magic album.

-- Kanye West collected most of the major rap awards, but still found a reason to grouse. He didn't care for losing Best Album to Herbie Hancock, apparently. It's like the old saying: You can't please all of the people all of the time, and if one of the people is Kanye West, just give up.

-- "American Idol" sock puppet Carrie Underwood won an award for her 2005 song "Before He Cheats." Grammy rules are utterly incomprehensible. As she was performing the song towards the top of the show, I wondered what a similar song from the male point of view might be like. And I wondered how much Grammy love such a song would receive. I'm betting it would be less. Somehow, a celebration of criminal behavior as vengeance on an ex is far more appealing coming from a vacuous little blonde girl.

-- Other performances on the show were fair to middling: Beyonce and Tina Turner did an energetic "Proud Mary." Alicia Keys continued to fight against her own talent as she delivered sections of "No One" with Britney-esque staging. Sit down, play your piano and sing. And why does Kid Rock still get work?

-- The Beatles tribute was nice enough, with some enthusiastic gymnastics by the Cirque du Soleil folks which I'm sure smarter people than me understood. The young boy and gospel choir from Across the Universe were lovely.

-- Flight of the Conchords won Best Comedy Album. Yay!

-- Barack Obama won for Best Spoken Word album. Is it a sign? Remember when "Rappin'" Ronnie Reagan swept the Grammys in 1980?

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