Sunday, February 11, 2007

Grammy liveblog

Edited Monday only for typos.

7:57- Good to go- just had the best pizza in JP (Bella Luna), great beer (Dogfish Head 60 minute), and plugged the TV into my stereo system, something I do once a month maybe… Here’s hoping it’s worth it.

Inadvertantly caught the last 15 minutes of “60 Minutes”. I’m still not used to Katie Couric in her new “face of network news” role. I still don’t buy it. But she did a nice piece with Norah Jones.

8:00 “We are the Police and we’re back!: And they’re doing “Roxanne”, my least favorite Police song. Just my luck. Sting sounds the best I’ve heard him in awhile though. The drummer looks like his head is going to explode. They’ve put a little mosh pit up front in the hopes you’ll forget that it’s mostly a bigwig affair. Nice try- doing a simulcast from a little club would’ve been better.

That said, they sound good- it had kind of a jam session feel, and they all seemed to like doing it, which you're never sure of with the Police. I hope they tour, and I can actually afford to go- looks like if you get them early in the tour it's a good show.

8:04 In the downscreen (you don’t really matter) bulliten board, Brecker wins two jazz awards, as I called, including big band.

8:05 Duo/collaboration award- what a weird amalgamation- Stevie Wonder/Tony Bennett, Bono/MJ Blige, Nelly Furtado/Timbaland. How does anyone I judge that?!! Not surprisingly, they go with the old standby, Bennett and Wonder. (At least they didn’t wait ‘til one of them died. And it is a nice recording.)

8:08 Joan Baez introduces the Dixie Chicks. For once, the connection makes sense. Thousands of TVs across the heartland are probably switching channels right now.

8:10 After all the falderal, after selling even more records, after an apparently great documentary about them (on my Netflix list), I guarantee you all the press about the Dixie Chicks tomorrow will be about their clothes. I don’t like them either, but I hope I’m wrong. (And that bridge- holy overwrought string section!) Bottom line- I like the Dixie Chicks okay, but that was not their best effort.

8:17 Prince???!! Apparently he survived the Superbowl okay. To introduce Beyonce. I’m using her phenomenally cookie-cutter power ballad to catch up on the flash-across-the-screen awards. Bela Fleck beats Sex Mob. No surprise, but that stinks. Nancy Wilson wins the vocal- yawn. Brecker wins soloist- probably best in that category, though you can make and argument for Branford. And then there’s the dying thing. To be continued. Mercifully, that was short.

8:21 Black Eyed Peas talking about Booker T and the Mgs. I didn’t know they’re back story as the Stax house band. More than deserving of the air time- wish they’d let ‘em play. Now- R&B Album award. How does Prince NOT win this one.? (He won’t win this one.) He doesn’t win; this one; Mary J. Blige does. Fan favorite, I suppose. She’s clearly overwhelmed, and has a speech prepared, and talking about herself. A lot. They’re trying to stop her- she won’t stop. Go girl. I think. (I’ll catch this one later)

8:25 Spending precious minutes hyping the Justin Timberlake contest, while cutting all the performances to 3 minutes? AAARGH!!

8:28 Commercials. Returning to the jazz awards, Chick beats Ornette, DeJohnette and Sonny. Please! I actually know a couple of people who vote on the jazz awards- to get into the Academy you need an album producer credit, a couple of connections and a screaming need to feel important, often when you’re not. Being a sharp, discerning player, producer, and/or player is sadly not a major criteria. Breckers win big band- necrophilia rules again, since I think the other four were certainly better, more artistic records. I’ll stop now.

8:32 Justin Timberlake talking about his song. Again, spare me. Either sing or shut up! Okay, he’s singing now. I should qualify, I actually kind of like Justin- he clearly can sing and dance (even if her really apes MJ), he cares about the music a lot, his band is so tight it’s sick. That’s obvious, even in what’s obviously a really tough situation to pull off. And every song he’s done (except “SexyBack, which I detest) has been at least listenable, and the latin-ish tune off the first record was actually good.

Typical Grammys- the backup band is waaaay too big, and he sounds like he’s singing in a bathroom. Now he’s got a digital video cam- I really don’t’ want to see his pores up close. (Though clearly whatever he uses for zits works better than my stuff does.)

8:37 Oops, announcers talking over each other. Now, Pink and T.I. Pink introduces the Doors’ achievement award. This is a travesty. Female B&B vocal. More Mary J. Blige. I think she’s wearing a great dress. But I need to go to the men’s room…

8:46 And now, Stevie Wonder, brought to you by God. And Target. But he’s singing, so it’s all good. He’s introducing (I, Stevie Wonder! Say these guys I’m introducing are okay!!) Corrine Bailey Ray, John Legend, and John Mayer. I’ve managed to completely miss CB Ray, so this is the first time I’m hearing her. Is that cellos behind her. I like the writing- understated. Now too much drums, and here’s John Mayer channeling B.B. King. (I’m actually okay with this. I liked “Trio” a lot.) She’s okay, in a Norah Jones but not quite as good kind of way. On the other hand, I’m pretty sold on John Legend. But now there’s way too many strings- how many arrangers did they use? It’s not a big song, don’t kill it. The vocal harmonies are nice. I don’t know anything about this song, but I can’t help but think about Iraq when I hear it. Tragic. And John Mayer is doing “Gravity”- thank God he didn’t do the “Waiting on the World” song. I almost turned in my fancard on that one (more on that in downtime). I like the B-3. I like this performance, all in all, but I don’t think it hangs together well as a medley. Maybe that’s too much to ask. That said, I’ll take it.

8:56 The blonde- I have no idea who that is- looks stoned. Best pop vocal album- again, how do you judge this crew? John Mayer wins. Does he go political? Nope- but he does thank Steve Jordan.

8:58 More Timberlake duo crap. If people haven’t voted by now, after a full month of hype, do they people care? And coming up- an Eagles tribute! I’m going to hurl.

9:02 Back to Mr. Mayer. I detest that “Waiting for the World” song- NY Times ">piece about it here. First, it’s an obvious ripoff of “What’s Going On” without the guts to actually bite into the issue of the day. But my bigger problem- in the last elections there were signs that for the first time in many moons, the 20-somethings were more politically active than some of their older brethren. Now is NOT the time to tell anyone to stand around and wait. Ghandi said it best- be the change you seek. I know that's a lot to invest in a pop song, but I think Mr. Mayer can do better. (Looking at him, I'm convinced he's going to look like Mr. Rogers at age 45.)

9:04 Shakira and Wycliff. Do either of them really sing, or just moan? But my God, look at her!

9:05 Clearly, they just went to the vocal tracks. What is that set- half Moroccan temple, half acid trip. Despite the fact that their Haitian and Columbian.

9:08 Burt Bacharach and Seal salute Herb Albert and Jerry Moss. Albert has given a ton of money to many jazz causes. Awkward announcer cut-in- can’t they get this straight? Song of the year. A hunch says Dixie Chicks win. I called it right- I’ll be offering 900 number betting advice tomorrow.

Randy Newman wins for song written for movie. He’s turned onto a one-man awards machine in that niche. They’re still good songs, but a long way from “Rednecks”.

9:17 I’m intentionally not even looking at the ads so I can finish a thought. And hold on to some semblence of sanity.

I barely recognize Alyson Hannigan (formerly Willow, the nerdgirl/witch on Buffy), who I had a crush on ten years ago. What a horrid fake tan. Honoring…. The Grateful Dead? Who planned that one? And matching them with Gnarles Barkley is... not how I would've done it. They’re dressed as airline captains; I’m never flying again. Remixed as a dirge march. No wait, that’s a live orchestra! In Mozart wigs! And choir in an outfit I can’t quite see.

Sorry, Police. So far that was the performance of the night.

9:23 Common and Kanye West start a beef on national TV. OK, not really, But they do introduce a deep rap category. I hope to God the Roots win. So they won’t win. T.I. will. Oops, or Ludicris. An Oscar and a Grammy- that's a good year. Nice line about cutting his hair. A long list of thank yous. Thanking Oprah and Bill O’Reilly- further proof that any publicity is good publicity.

9:26 Did I mention there’s a contest to sing with Justin Timberlake? And YOUR vote matters. Unless you live in Ohio, northern Florida or poor neighborhoods of Boston.

9:33 Terence Howard onstage. I wish I could wear a vest like that. Introducing an award for Maria Callas. Long overdue, but a nice presentation. And introducing Mary J. Blige, speaking of divas. (“This song is very important to me, let me talk about me some more…)

I’ll be honest, as I said, I don’t get it. She sings fine, but not any better than Beyonce or a host of others. She talks about herself in the third person. She’s hyperdramatic. Okay, this is more a reflection of me than her- I’ve seen so many people get caught up in their own drama. Even when the drama moves in a positive way, it’s still drama, and only invites more drama. Maybe songwriters need that. She is playing the diva to a hilt.

9:38 “Soon to be seen in “vacancy”, I love these product placements. Best country album. Dixie Chicks will win again. But I hope Willy Nelson does, because… well, do I even need to explain? I’m right again!! I wish there were NFL games to pick this week. Now do they go political? Nope. Allusions, but nothing about Wubba. Damn.

9:47 Reba McIntyre introduces the Eagles tribute. But first she talks about the Texas Playboys, again richly deserving of all praise. (There’s a great bit about them in Ratliff’s 100 Best Jazz Albums, which again is worth the read)

First, though, Carrie Underwood sings a Playboys tribute, with their fiddle player. I’ve missed her completely, due to my intentional avoidance of anything Idol. If this performance is any indication, she’s not very good- she clearly respects the music, but it’s obvious she hasn’t really lived with it, as the really good ones in any genre have to. (To be fair, it could be nerves. That’s a pretty nerve-wracking situation, and she’s still real young.)

Now the Eagles stuff. I really dislike the Eagles- everything I don’t like about 70s rock. Okay, not everything- the Eagles were never overtly racist. Henley seems the opposite. So I’ll abstain from this mess- if you can’t say something nice, etc. I want Sly Stone back.

9:59 Natalie Cole and ORNETTE COLEMAN?? And Ornette gets a big hand. (Would it be too much to give him a real Grammy. He did make probably The best jazz album of last year.) Gets lifetime achievement honor. He deflects the attention himself to an award featuring five musicians who couldn’t carry his mouthpiece- totally Ornette. Very beautiful, and a great lesson. Also, a great suit. Best new artist- Carrie Underwood will win. She wins. (If someone just performed, she’ll win the next one. That’s the formula.) I’m just kind of glad James Blunt didn’t win. You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful! You’re *&$^#%^n OVERPLAYED!

10:08 Sam Jackson on R&B. He has become the safe shorthand for soulful. With Cristina Ricci, the whitest beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. (Great dress). An R&B medley- Smokey, Chris Brown, and Lionel Richie. Smokey sounds okay- not his 60’s best, but not bad- but looks like he’s a victim of waaay too much Botox. And he’s too low in the mix- you’d think with their budget they could fix this crap.

“Hello” by Lionel Richie. This was the musical accompaniment to a slideshow at my cousin’s wedding in 1983 or so. And I’m sure he and his (fantastic) bride aren’t the only ones. This is technically R&B I know, but can’t we do any better than this in a “tribute” medley?

Oooh, feedback. Other than that, Lionel is in good voice.

And Chris Brown steps with a whole crew dressed like a cross between a frat boy and Freddie Krueger. Complete with cute 5 year old who dances his ass off- tacky. Putting him behind Smokey and Lionel Richie just drives home how overproduced, badly written and piss-poor commercial R&B is right now. No melodies, too many word is each line that don’t really say anything. (See also, Beyonce’s current single, and several others whose names I don’t want to know) I have seen R&B sir- Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone... and you, sir, are NOT great R&B. Child CAN dance, though.

This does NOT deserve a standing O. No way in hell.

10:16 Cut right to Christina Agulera singing… “It’s a Man’s World”. Now, I know there had to be a James Brown tribute, it’s only right. But she’s not the first person I would’ve thought of at all. That said (okay webbies, ready, aim) I think she’s pulling it off. I really wish they would’ve had Maceo or someone from that crew front and center. More cred.

Okay, Christina just did her make-dogs-bark squeal. I take back most of that last paragraph. And she was doing so well. (sigh…)

I'm running out of gas. I just don't care THAT much.

Darcy pointed this out a couple of years ago- when someone signs up for Idol, they literally sign their whole life, and afterlife away. (I think Smoking Gun has the contract. Will link someday) Is it really necessary to gushingly thank them? Will you still be thanking them when you’re forty and hustling on the Holiday Inn and cruise ship circuit?

10:25 Ooh, my favorite part, the president of the Academy! The man whose public approach to piracy reinforces the idea that the industry has it head up it’s #$s. Now pimping two teenagers to ask people to support music education and hype the Grammy Foundation. This piano player is clearly happening, and rushing like crazy. (I can’t imagine how nervous he must be right now.)

That said, working in a public school system, I know this pitch to contact your elected officials is painfully necessary. And appreciated.

10:28 The list of those now gone. Don Alias is missing. I didn’t know Toure had died this year. Was Buck Owens in “Nashville” and “Blues Brothers”? Nice JB footage, nicer cut to a dancer onstage- I think JB would’ve been okay with that one. I always love/hate this montage. It’s always very well done, and a sad reminder of the fact that nothing is permanent. (And, no Don Alias is just not fair!)

10:37 Make David Spade go away, please? (Though his one-liner was not bad) Introducing Ludicris + Mary J Blige + Earth Wind and Fire. I had no idea this song (“Run Away Home”) was his. I think it’s a little heavy handed, but not bad. Again, the mike is hot. I have friends who could do a better job with the sound here, given the budget!

Someday someone will write a hip-hop tune that’s socially conscious and not heavy handed. (Public Enemy gets a pass) This one ain’t it. Then they bring out kids with candles, in case they didn’t drive home the point.

What a waste of Earth, Wind and Fire.

10:42 James Blunt dedicates his performance to Ahmet Ertugn (sp?) Nice touch. Here it is,- You’re Beautiful. You’re Beautiful. You’re Painfully Overexposed. (It really isn’t a bad song, There’s one like this every year.)

I’ll take this pause in the action to note that there was not one classical OR jazz performance this year, and I don’t see one coming. The last time I watched the show through they at least threw a bone and had Chick play with Foo Fighters. The industry eats its young…

Not to belabor the point, but Blunt’s vocal mike just made a really funny hiss- amateur hour.

10:52 “Your Grammy moment.” Robin somebody. Justin is covering the great Bill Withers tune “Ain’t No Sunshine”. This girl, in her big one-shot moment, is not in tune. Really not in tune. The voters do know how to pick ‘em.

10:54 Okay, we’re on safer ground now- Justin’s tune “My Love”. As my mom would say, that’s a nice dress she’s almost wearing.

All that hype… for THAT?

10:58 Tony Bennett and Quinten Tarentino. Odd couple indeed. QT saying “sumpin sumpin” is just weird. Record of the year. I don’t know on this one. (QT has a future as a basketball arena announcer. This is the most animated moment of the evening so far.)

Dixies win again- where was all this industry support when people were burning them in effigy? Still no politics- I’m so disappointed.

Chris Rock introduces the Chili Peppers. Damn you, Grammy producers. You know I’d stay for that!

11:09 Walk away for ten seconds and miss Chris Rock. Couldn’t have been that good. Have the Chili Peppers become a cruel parody of themselves? They still play well, but there’s no edge to the music anymore. Thoughts? (I was never invested in them, so I can’t care that much)

I just noticed their little grafitti sign- “Love to Ornette Coleman”. I can dig that.

Pan to the crowd- they are SOOO ready for the afterparty.

11:13 Al Gore and Queen Latifah???!! To hear him praising the musical community (and presenting the best rock album) in just surreal. I want “John Mayer Trio” or Tom Petty to win. So neither will- the Peppers will. And do. Please let them, let SOMEBODY say something that people will talk about tomorrow morning. And they don’t- who threatened these people with what before the show? (Yes, I’m getting tired. I’m getting snarkier) I blame Dick Cheney- why not?

11:19 I’ll break my commercial pledge. I just saw a cruise ship X commercial- new, even cheesier music (probably done by one of the company’s singers and show bands, yes they’re that cheap), same footage, same tagline. In my experience, it doesn’t look like that in real life.

11:22 Finally, album of the year. Scarlett Johannsen is recording an album? Lord save us. They almost pulled that one-liner off. My hunch says Dixie Chicks win. Gnarls Barkley should, and certainly won’t. I’m right again. I’d rather not be right.

And it’s over. What a boring show- no major slip-ups (unless you count the sound guy) No overt politics. Some good performances, some less good, no great ones. I remember the first year I watched the grammys through- I think it was 1988, the year Tracy Chapman won Best New Artist and Bobby McFerrin won Best Album for “Don’t Worry Be Happy”. I don’t remember who else was there and playing, but I do remember being inspired by a lot of the music and musicians I heard, and the energy they created. I know that was probably an unusually good year, and I know I was a lot younger and greener, but I guess I keep watching the Grammys in the hopes of seeing an energy like that again. I’m still waiting.

Good night, everybody!

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