Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy's makeover?

I feel like I write this post every year, but here goes...

I made a joke yesterday, before the Grammy awards, that the more cynically I call the awards, the more likely I am to win any pool I'm in. That said, my cynicism was rocked by jazz bassist Esparanza Spalding winning the Best New Artist last night. Like most of my jazz friends, I'm delighted- she is a hip, talented, unapologetic black artist playing jazz, and anything that brings that to the mainstream can't be bad. Her work doesn't move me particularly, but woman can play, so by all means go!

However, my cynic still says that in a way that this was completely predictable, as Herbie's win for "Gershwin's World" was a few years ago. (I can't find it, but the Times had a great breakdown at the time of why he won, much like the following.) My thought- Drake and Bieber split the commercial vote, and Mumford and Florence split the hipster/alt vote, leaving Esperanza to get the old guard vote, which here was enough to win. (She is, after all, a favorite of our current president) This isn't to diminish her award, but let's put it in context. Same goes with Arcade Fire winning- not enough people were willing to vote for Eminem in the big category, Gaga and Katie Perry split the pop vote, "Need You Now" got the record, so Boom, it's "The Suburbs", album of the year. (Full disclosure, I've tried hard to warm to Arcade Fire, but I still don't like them. After multiple listens and passionate pleas from friends I respect, I still found the first two records bombastic and whiny. I'll give "The Suburbs" a shot, though) I'm happy for both acts, but I don't think this is some kind of game changer by any means.

That said, the rest of who got the awards was more than a little depressing. My gambling instincts were right on the jazz awards- Moody got it because he dies, Vijay and Danielo, thanks, come again! Maybe. Darcy lost the big band category because it was his first rodeo, despite having the best record in the category by a long shot. And does anyone else catch the irony of Esperanza winning on a night when the Best Record goes to Lady Antebellum, a generic-sounding country band named after southern Civil War nostalgia? (I've heard "Need You Now" dozens of times without knowing who it was, and honestly until last night thought it was a collaboration between Taylor Swift and some Keith Urban type. Or maybe I don't relate because I've never drunk dialed anyone) I was even disappointed by Eminem's performance- he's traded the clever sneer of "Slim Shady" for bombast, in both delivery and production, which makes him sound like every other rapper to me. Yawn...

That said, give me Cee-Lo any day. I'm remember one time Meshell N'Degeocello said onstage "D'Angelo, man... he can just lay across the cover of a record and I'll buy it!" I'm beginning to feel that way about him. Find the video on Youtube while you can. (I can't promise this link still works) I loved it!