The 2009 Grammy Awards: Part 1

I realized when I was listening to the Grammys, talking on the phone, and writing online that I should have just Twittered the Grammys. It would have made my life a lot easier. Now I feel like I have to discuss them, and the new format allows me the freedom to do so. Believe me, the Academy Awards will be Twittered live; otherwise, I'll spend a week going "But Sally Hawkins gave the best performance of the year" and no one wants that. The 2009 Grammy Awards: Part 1 It all started with a mediocre performance of a mediocre song by a band capable of doing much better: Thankfully, the show did pick up to a certain extent. The conclusion hasn't been this inevitable since O Brother, Where Art Thou? won every possible Grammy, seemingly including categories it wasn't nominated in. The Plant/Krauss album was inevitable. It's what NARAS eats up: strong collaboration by/rebirth of established artists that otherwise might not work together. It worked for (in recent history) Santana (Supernatural), Steely Dan (Two Against Nature), Allison Krauss et. al (O Brother soundtrack), Ray Charles et. al (Genius Loves Company), The Dixie Chicks (Taking the Long Way), and Herbie Hancock (River: The Joni Letters). That isn't to say that these winners were undeserving; they put out solid albums worthy of recognition. It's just most bloggers and message board users aren't always familiar with all of the nominees. They see their favorite album nominated and go, "Clearly, it's the only right choice." But that's not how it works. Here are representative singles from each of the nominated albums in Album of the Year: Coldplay, "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends" Lil Wayne, "Tha Carter III" my sincerest apologies, I only just noticed a very unwelcome surprise caused by those pants; still, it best represents the approach of the album Ne-yo, "Year of the Gentleman" Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, "Raising Sand" Radiohead, "In Rainbows" So those are the nominees. In broad sweeping generalizations: Rock, Hip-Hop, Contemporary R&B, Country, Alternative. If the Grammy award was handed out for innovation, the only clear choice would have been Radiohead. Not because their music was anything particularly new, but because they actually pushed the medium of distribution and showed a new, potentially viable way for independent/less known artists to get their music out. For those unaware, Radiohead offered In Rainbows as a digital download; it cost however much you wanted it to cost. No pricing scheme, no bloated, out of control download rates, no strings attached. If you thought it was worth $5, you got it for $5. That was brilliant marketing. For me personally, I never really got into Radiohead. I understand the skill behind the music, but from a personal aesthetic standpoint: I don't like falsetto. Thom Yorke uses falsetto a lot. He has a perfectly nice falsetto, great even. I just can only listen to falsetto so long. The album In Rainbows is very strong, has a nice flow, and clearly had a lot of support to be nominated as an alternative album in this category. If the Grammy Award was handed out for diversity, Lil Wayne was the clear choice. His rhyme scheme mashes together seemingly incongruent images into sensible descriptions that stick with you. His cadence/flow is nice and controlled, as hard or as soft as he needs to be. He has club anthems, love songs, boasts, and just plain fun music. However, let's be honest with ourselves: This man put out a single about being licked like a lollipop. Sure, it won Best Rap Song, but that kind of music probably turned a lot of voters away. For those unaware, voters are considered experts by NARAS in particular fields. A hip-hop producer would be invited to vote in hip-hop categories; they can only submit nominations in specific fields, as well as record/album/song/best new artist; they can only vote in their field (actually, in less areas of their field) and record/album/song/best new artist. So Lil Wayne clearly went over well in the Rap categories, but not so much in the general categories where everyone, from New Age to Hawaiian music, is allowed to vote. If the Grammy was handed out for the most commercial album, we'd have a two horse race. In this corner, the gentleman himself: Ne-Yo. He released commercially viable singles with cross-over appeal between urban and contemporary hit radio stations. His sales were strong, and the album was very polished. This style of R&B is safer to the voters, as it can also be viewed as pop music. And in this corner, Mr. Paltrow et. al: Coldplay. The music industry has a hard on for Coldplay. Everyone I know that works in it goes on and on at every opportunity that Coldplay is the future of Rock. Coldplay is the only new band that could sell out arenas and eventually do a never-ending, sold out, "Last Tour Ever". They make "real" rock music and clearly appeal to a wide audience. Believe it or not, Coldplay is considered completely commercial by the industry. They sell records, they sell albums, and they sell seats. They bring in awards and they bring in good reviews. The music isn't even important anymore when discussing Coldplay, only the dollar signs. That is a huge shame; fortunately, their music is meritorious and Viva la Vida offered the only real challenge to Raising Sand. That leaves us with what should have been the obvious choice for everyone complaining. Plant and Krauss put out a country record with mainstream, adult contemporary appeal. Did you know there are 8 country awards at the Grammys? Have you ever noticed that there is always at least one country act nominated for Best New Artist? Have you ever noticed how there's almost always a country act in the race for Album of the Year? Have you noticed how that country album tends to win if it was made by an established artist? Then where's the surprise? Listen, I'm not the biggest fan of country music. I like The Carter Family, Dolly Parton, The Judds, Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, and Nickel Creek. I've enjoyed the crossover songs from a few other acts. I listened to the Plant/Krauss album and was very much impressed. The songwriting is strong and the vocal arrangements are interesting. The album works as a cohesive whole. Oh yeah, and it's not a straight up country album. It's laced with rock/folk elements, jazz tones, bluesy vocals, and electronic manipulation. It's absolutely a collaboration between two very different artists. And it works. It's very nice. I'm cool with people who genuinely think another album deserved to win; I would personally give it to Lil Wayne (picking from their nominees; very different if I picked my top 5 from the eligibility period), but that's just me. What I can't stand is the "ZOMGZ! Taht album is teh suck! (I never heard it, but I know) it's bad (because they beat "x"). Fucking Grammys are completely out of touch with music. PHaildogSZ!" I'm not saying NARAS is completely in tune with what America likes; I am saying that NARAS is comprised of people who control the industry, work in the industry, and perform for the industry. If they don't understand the commercial music industry, who does?

Labels: Album of the Year, Allison Krauss, coldplay, grammys, lil wayne, Ne-yo, Radiohead, Robert Plant, U2

The 2009 Grammys, Part 2

The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood, Part 3