Monday, February 11, 2008

Tea Leaf Prophecies

After last year's debacle, I didn't stay up for the Grammys this year, so I have to admit I was a little surprised when I picked up the paper this morning and saw that the big winner last night was... Herbie Hancock. Herbie?? Anyone else know what to make of that? As the times article mentions, Herbie has won ten of them, since the Grammys seem to favor known, famous commodities over quality, though Herbie certainly offers both. And he has contributed two of my fonder Grammy moments, this really swinging bit with Natalie Cole (this was recorded just days after Tony Williams died, which apparently lent some extra push to the performance), the famous Rockit blowout. and the hilarious '85 synth medley (see Thomas Dolby's amazing post on the event.)

I've stated my skepticism of award shows, and the Grammys in particular, in these pages before, and it's rare when I'm willing to tag any record, no matter how much I like it, the "best of the year". (Note also that my most of my jazz category picks, made with no lack of cynicism, came to pass.) But what I've seen of the show, and the coverage it's getting, seems to confirm what we already know- the industry proper, even more than the rest of us, is confused as hell about how to address the changing marketplace, the "long tail" and the opportunities and challenges presented by the digital world. If you had any doubt, read the transcript of the Grammy's president. You decide to fight hard to ensure proper renumeration for traditional radio play... a piece of the economic pie which shrinks more and means less each year. You promote the grand future by... playing an Oscar Peterson tune. Way to go guys.

I did catch up with a few of the performances online, and was pleasantly surprised. I'm not exactly a fan, but Amy Weinhouse put on a monster mini-set, as did Kayne- it's unusual for me to react when a performer's charisma jumps off the screen, but his sure did. And Feist's performance, half solo, half with (somewhat half-assed) brass band was pretty happening- reminded me of Darcy's review of her set this summer, which sums it up nicely.

Look at the Globe's photo montage, with all it's diversity, and tell me how many artists, or even categories, you recognize. After the first twenty or so, save Blanchard and The Shins, I'm clueless, and I like to think I keep up. I have no idea what it all means, except maybe that the Grammys grow less relevant with each passing year.

UPDATE: read Ben Ratliff's astute take on Herbie's victory. His article from a few years back on the Diana Krall phenomenon is worth reviewing as well. And David Ryshpen as well.

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