Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thin Line Between Love & Hate: 52nd Annual Grammy Awards

I attended the 40th Annual Grammy Awards February 25th, 1998. I was a head seat filler, so I had a lot of friends come and hang being seat fillers. It was a great experience. It was hosted by Kelsey Grammer and had these famous/infamous moments:

1. Wu-Tang Clan member Ol' Dirty Bastard interrupts Shawn Colvin's Song of the Year acceptance speech to protest the Clan's loss in the Best Rap Album category.

2. Immediately after performing "How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes loses Best Female Country Vocal Performance to Trisha Yearwood's cover version of the exact same song.

3. Aretha Franklin performs the aria "Nessun Dorma" after standing in for Luciano Pavarotti at the last minute.

4. During a Bob Dylan performance, a shirtless backup dancer named Michael Portnoy rushes to the front of the stage with the words "Soy Bomb" written on his chest.

I had a lot of great interactions with famous musicians. I'll have to check my journal for specific stories (one day...). It was the closest I've ever gotten to a Grammy stage. It was maddening, intoxicating and yes a little depressing. I always felt kinda torn about the Grammys. It's like when I lived in New York City. I lived in Brooklyn (Park Slope, Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, Midwood), Queens (Briarwood) and Manhattan (Washington Heights & Soho). A lot of my friends lived in Brooklyn and Queens and made it "cool". All the "hipper than thou"crowd bemoaned how uncool Manhattan was. They loved scraping cash for long ass cab rides, taking the L, G, E, F to outer Mongolia late at night. Yeah, real cool. You know what was cool? Walking home from work, gigs, clubs. You know what was cool? Telling women "We can go back to my place on Sullivan Street, between Prince & Houston.." (Ok what wasn't cool was the rent-$850 for my share of a 4 bedroom joint that was tiered to what each person could pay. My share wasn't the highest and this was 1997-1998.) Most of my friends that liked living in the boroughs couldn't afford to live in Manhattan. They had to make it "cool" to put up with the P.I.TA. factor (pain in the ass...) If they had the bread, 99% would've lived in Manhattan.

It's the same thing with the Grammys. Most of my musicians friends haven't been to the Grammys, been nominated or won. I know a few that have won or were nominated, but they are established acts-nobody I came through the trenches with. It's easy for us independent musicians without deals, press or hits to bag on the Grammys (there's plenty to bag on). The truth is the worst thing about the starving artist thing is the starving. I never pretended that I didn't want more exposure for my work. I believe my role as an artist is to be a reflection of the human condition. I want that reflection to shine on as many people as possible. I want the opportunity to have someone blog about my musical expressions, criticize me, cut me down or love what I do and praise my music. Do I wish I was nominated? Do I wish to win a Grammy one day? Of course I do. Acceptance is not overrated. If just one day or week or year I could have an album that grabs people, it would be cool.

Another aspect of the Grammys plays into the ego. We artists/musicians believe we have something to say. To be honest, must of us think people should listen to us. And hey, we all think we're pretty good or great. We on the outside who think we have talent look at some of the performers and question everything:

Can't I sing better than that? I know I'm a better bassist/guitarist/vocalist/songwriter than these people...Why are they getting Grammys while I've been work Clark Kent jobs for 20 years? Why didn't any of the music projects I was involved with get popular or signed? Why am I still trying to do this?

So is there jealousy involved in watching the Grammys? Absolutely. The elephant in the room when I watch the Grammys with friends or family. I'm just trying to be honest with myself. To admit that my ego doesn't exist is ridiculous.

In the end, I like a celebration of music. I hadn't watched a whole Grammys Show since I moved to Austin. In my music sabbatical, I really checked out on pop music. My friend Megan decided to have a Grammy party and I decided to attend and watch the show with some Gen Yers. They schooled me and caught me up on the stuff I missed. I did tweet the show then watched it again on DVR These are my observations (some of them are tweets I posted)

I should note that I watched a lot of the streaming pre-telecast stuff and liked it very much. Kurt Elling should host more stuff and he has one of the best voices around. His co-host featured a Tia Carrere sighting. The backing band was great and the perfomances were grittier. It probably had to do to the fact that it was a smaller theatre.

The opening performance with Lady Gaga and Elton John

This was the 1st time I saw Lady Gaga. She is what pop stars should be though I wasn't particularly moved by her music. Maybe I'll pick up her record and listen to it, just to see if the kids are all screaming about. I do like the fact that she can sing and play piano. Elton was Elton.

Stephen Colbert made a great point about Susan Boyle. "Remember-you may be the coolest people in the world, but this year your industry was saved by a 48 year old Scottish cat lady in sensible shoes."

Man I'm old, I had no idea Green Day is a musical now.
7:32 PM Jan 31st from Tweetie

I guess they are the Gen X version of the Who. Is American Idiot Tommy? I'm not a big fan of musicials, but this performance was aiiight.

Beyonce does Alanis M. Not bad.
7:35 PM Jan 31st from Tweetie

Beyonce was good. I think she outdid Lady Gaga, but Beyonce to me has no personality. She seems like a nice person, she's like a robot. She can sing, but there isn't a lot of there, there. That's why she's such a terrible actress. She can sing her ass off. And she had an all female band. I thing they were all females of color, which is nice to see. I wish Beyonce and the recorded industry would recognize more black rock/alt music (There are books written about the struggle of black rock musicians) By recognize I mean support with albums, marketing, touring, promotion, etc...

People in the audience are like "yo Pink, u know how much my hair cost, this suit and you are pullin' this flash dance sh*t?"
7:47 PM Jan 31st from Tweetie

She was ok, but the song bored me to death.

When did country dudes start dressing like dressed up frat guys? The Best New Artist Zak Brown Band looks like guys that hang out on 6th Street. Good for them, hopefully this doesn't kill their career.

I will never, ever ever ever ever EVER understand the appeal of the Black Eyed Peas. They dress like freaks, their music is like cotton candy-all suger and air. I heard they actually rapped back in the day:

Wha' happen?

Of course Colbert was going to win a Grammy. It's the only reason he showed up to start the show.

Kings of Leon- I know nothing about this band. I guess they are the kings of arena rock now. They music is a was to me. Maybe I need to buy the album the see what kids are all a flutter about. Congrats on the Grammy.

November Rain? With Jamie Fox , Timberland, TI, Slash.... man pop music is weird
8:33 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

WTF was this? I forgot to mention Doug E. Fresh and T-Pain. This performance made me feel so old. I stopped listening to new hip hop after Biggie died. That autotune, dirty south stuff was never my cup of tea. Strong Island, Brooklyn Took It, Boogie Down Bronx-that's me stuff.

Jamie Foxx is a talented dude, though. This guy's an Oscar winner, too.

Leon Russell looks like he's been hanging wth JD Salinger...
8:41 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

Hey Grammy Soundguys, please improve the mix in Taylor Swift's monitor. She is singing kinda flat....
8:50 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

She's sweet. She's cute. She's young. She's tall. And she was not good. I don't know if she sings flat all the time, but with Stevie Nicks (Not exactly the most accurate singer herself) She won big tonight. (Four wins including Album of the Year)

Hudson, Usher, Smokey, Underwood and Dion and a trippy booby Beyonce in the audience... Who needs 3D?
8:58 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

The Michael Jackson tribute was ok. I just wished they picked a better song. Earth Song is kinda a durge of a tune. I didn't have 3D glasses so I couldn't get the full effect. Smoke Robinson, Jennifer Hudson, User, Carrie Underwood and Celion Dion were all adequate enough, I guess. When his kids came out and Prince had the speech down, it was sweet. I guess Michael was a good dad to them. The crowd in 3D glasses was very 50's. Beyonce rocked them....

How did Bon Jovi go from hair metal to country pop? #grammys
9:11 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

RT @thecultureofme: richie sambora looks like an old lesbian these days. #grammys
9:12 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

So can Jon Bon Jovi not hit the high note anymore in Living on a Prayer? He let her take it...
9:16 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

Amen on people paying for music. It costs real money to make music. When recording, mkting & touring r free, music should be free. #grammys
9:46 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

I total agree with Neil Portnow

"Now, what if someone told you they really appreciated your work but didn't think they should have to pay you for it anymore. What would you do? How would you pay your bills, support your family? How would you survive?

This evening, you've seen performances by the most successful artists today. And you know about their generosity and giving back. But standing right behind them are thousands of unknown and up-and-coming music makers who face the question of survival every day (THAT'S ME!!!). In the coming decade, unless they can make a living at their craft, the quality and creativity of the music will be at risk.

Well tonight, we're all fans and music lovers who want to ensure that the future of music is a bright one. New technologies will bring music whenever and wherever you want it.

But as fans, let's all truly value the music and the songs that change our lives by supporting and compensating these gifted creators of the music we treasure. And together, let's make this next decade a time of renaissance for the music that plays as the soundtrack of our lives."

Dave Matthews band has always been a snoozefest for me and their Grammy performance did nothing to wake me up to their music.

Nice to see Maxwell and Roberta Flack together.

Man that Les Paul tribute was weak. They couldn't put a real band with Jeff Beck? Why not Al DiMeola who actually plays jazz on a Les Paul?
10:07 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

Tarantino is in his fat Elvis phrase doing a terrible Samual L Jackson.
10:13 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

I see Little Wayne & I hear "Pants on the Ground.."
10:15 PM Jan 31st from TweetDeck

The should've live twittered it with the lyrics since most of them were muted.

The complete list of winners are here.