Tuesday, February 14, 2012

2012 Grammys: Adele and a ceremony of Old vs. New.

This is my fourth year doing a Grammy recap but this is the first time I didn’t care about who won an award. I only wanted to see Adele’s reactions and the performances. The Grammys were pretty much going to be a coronation for Ms. Adkins and her gift of touching so many this past year. So this year’s Grammy was gonna be about the performances – as the awards show has typically been. Especially with fewer categories awarded in general and shown on TV.

The Good
- Bruno Mars is better being retro than he is being current.  He’s fun to watch and that performance channeled that era  - down to the moves, precision, voice, energy. Loved it.
- Paul McCartney showed how to be understated and tell a story with his ballad.
- Glen Campbell’s swan song. Do Not Go Gentle Into the Good Night, face your future boldly and kicking your heels. Much respect to him and his amazing farewell
- The Beach Boys!!! I wished Maroon 5 and Foster the People weren’t so out of place there because hearing Mike Love sing and Brian Wilson play and hearing those harmonies was beautiful! They still got it!  
- Bruce Springsteen doing what the Boss does best. Rocking out and showcasing the E. Street Band continuing on without the Big Man Clarence Clemons.
- Tony Bennett’s smoothness/Carrie Underwood being underrated. By the way, it amazes me how many folks Tony Bennett has outlived
- Bon Iver’s speech was a win for art. He spoke on how he was in it to make music, shouted out those  who didn’t make the stage and reminded people that an award isn’t the highest goal as much as it’s making great music.

The Bad

- Memo to Taylor Swift. Grow up. Writing the same songs about living a dream in such cutesy, but childish ways. Taking shots at people who think you can’t sing live. You’re an adult now. Time to step up and reflect that instead of selling a lie to these girls who buy your music.
- Chris Brown’s live music video. That was a nice light show with great dancing. Not much for singing

(Sidenote: CB’s career has revolved around the Grammys if you will. 5 years ago, he did the tribute for James Brown and performed with Lionel Richie and Smokey Robinson. 3 years ago, we all know what happened with Rihanna. Now, his “comeback” is complete.)

- Don Cornelius getting briefly mentioned with no soul tribute. In my mind, Don is as important as any musical figure in the last 40 years and he deserved not just his own mention but a reminder of how urban music changed the pulse of America.
- Rihanna and Katy Perry. No conviction. Just flash and sizzle. No wonder they sat next to each other. Partners in looking good with not much else to matter. For that matter, Rihanna and Coldplay too. I'm a  big Coldplay fan but Paradise might be one of my least favorite singles they've done.

The Grammys showed how popular Black music in a terrible state. When Chris Brown and Lil Wayne are “performing” with David Guetta over house and dubstep, it doesn’t bode well for the future. But I don’t think we’re in trouble because despite the Grammys not always highlighting the best of Black music recently, there’s always hope because we never needed popular validation for what’s dope.

Case in point, Diana Ross’ first Grammy was her Lifetime Achievement Award. To quote Phife Dawg, “I never let a statue tell me how nice I am.”

It also says how limited the future is if the older acts outshined the younger ones - at least the ones the Grammys highlighted. Part of that is their habitual problem not showing enough love to talented young acts. Foster the People, for example, should've had their own set to shine and we can already think of many younger acts who could've been nominated and performed briliantly.

That’s why Adele’s triumph was so great. I was hoping she’d do more than just stand there and sing but she performed and delivered well. She showed how to deliver a song with expression, sass and oomph! Well done after not having her voice for so long.

I felt genuine emotion in watching her win because it felt like talent was being rewarded. A coronation of a queen who gave us her pain, her voice and brought some earnestness back to music. An earnestness that we lost Saturday with Whitney Houston.

I’ll speak more on her in depth later but hearing her perform at the beginning was too chilling. I was angry that we were robbed of seeing that voice, that command, that brilliance. Then to hear Jennifer Hudson do it in her own way, I got chills. I started crying cause those words felt like Whitney talking to us from the grave.

Her demons took her apart and then took her away. An industry built on building up stars watched another flicker away. That’s what made Nicki Minaj’s performance so appalling, weird and disturbing.

There’s art and then there’s something showy that could be something sinister. From an artistic standpoint, Nicki put on an over-the-top show that showed how much she lacks as a musician but succeeds as an entertainer. Her fierce raps lacked bite cause you could barely hear them or focus on them.

But on a deeper level, I saw something worse in her exorcism, which I guess was failed? I saw an artist who was symbolically embracing the dark side shrouded in warped religious imagery.  Considering Whitney Houston succumbing to her demons was partially aided and abetted by an industry that didn’t help her, it was a terrible performance and made me fearful for Nicki messing around with that.

Other artists have done that before. Yet given my state of my mind and the folks around me tweeting around her, it was disturbing to my soul in a way I haven’t felt for something. The first female rapper to perform solo at the Grammys and that’s what we saw? I guess.

But ultimately the 2011 Grammys will be remembered for saying goodbye to a legend and celebrating a new talent realizing her greatness. Congrats to Adele.

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