Rock music is pretty much shat upon by the Grammy powers that be these days, that we know. Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young both did really great folk (at most, folk-rock) CDs in 2005, both of them were nominated for Rock categories, and Bruce won one. This ain't so bad 'cuz... well, deserving and all... but jeeze it goes back to Jethro Tull winning the metal category y'know? Where was Audioslave? Where was Franz Ferdinand?
For that matter, where were the Latin categories? Has no one noticed that Hispanics are the largest minority in the USA? How come deSol or Kinky weren't playing? And speaking of folk-rock (as I was a minute ago), what about Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Ben Lee, and Lucinda Williams? Guess they don't get a category -- so it's like they don't even exist?
Anyway, the two major rock awards (best metal and best hard-rock performance) happened get this OFF THE AIR. Apparently Slipknot and System of a Down (the winners, respectively) are not ready for pime time. But JZ or whatever he is, well he's just fine. What kinda' crap is that? Heck they couldn't even give us the White Stripes and their alt-rock award, for chrissakes...
Remember years ago when rap was new and all the rap guys bitched about getting no respect as musicians, etc.? OK, yeah, so they got their own category (of course, hard rock and metal had been trying since Led Zeppelin's day, and they finally got a category each in the late 80s, but I guess we won't get into that). And that's fine, good, even if what they do is a lot more performance art than it is music. But just a few years go by, then I turn around and not only do they have like six categories or something but they have the most performances on the show -- to the point where they and their R&B pals are horning in on other people's performances. Linkin Park can't play unless JZ is up there with 'em? What the hell was he talking about? I have no idea... but excuse me? Metal gets one single category, the award is given away safely off stage, but Kanye West and Kelly Clarkson get to thank their freakin' PUBLICISTS for fucksake?!? I say anyone who thanks their publicist should be barred from all future awards.
I'm all for this cool smash-up idea where people from radically different music "categories" get together and do some cool collaborations. But that shouldn't only equal some rapper talking about his money and how cool he is over the top of a watered-down version of a Linkin Park song. Here's a crazy idea: Why not Coldplay meets the Chemical Brothers? (CBs also got an award last night, two of 'em in fact, though you'd hardly know it if you watched the show.) Or Norah Jones meets Foo Fighters (oops, yeah, Dave Grohl made that happen, didn't he?). Or Angelique Kidjo meets Tom Morello.
The closest things to a rock performance in the show were Coldplay (w/more energy than you've ever seen 'em, I was truly surprised), and U2 (though of course we couldn't have a simple rock and roll song, some R&B chick had to come out and show off her vocal range for half of it, but Bono was nice enough to do very nice backup singing for her), and believe it or not Paul McCartney's kick-ass version of "Helter Skelter" rocked harder than anything else. He was cool, totally relaxed ("...my first time on the Grammys, I'm glad I finally passed the audition."). Later, Chester from Linkin Park was doing an admirable attempt at Paul's "Yesterday," (while JZ was doing his best to massacre the song) and Paul just moseyed out there to help. The only thing cool about JZ was his John Lennon teeshirt. Why Linkin Park's resident pianist/rapper was relegated to the back of the stage, I have no idea, since he's better at it than any of those guys with the jewelry and attitude...
A tribute to New Orleans was planned for the end but the show ran overtime (as usual) mainly because of look-at-me antics and ego-stroking speeches by Kelly Clarkson and the block of rappers/R&B people who'd pretty much taken over the whole show. So the second main reason I was watching got rushed at the end... and please note that none of those self-important jerks were on the stage to help out Katrina victims (except for WillIAM from BlackEyed Peas, the classiest of the rap bunch). Anyone care about their musical roots at all? Jeeze.
The other main reason I watched was the Gorrilaz thing at the beginning, which was pretty impressive. They really seemed 3-D, and Madonna actually walked all the way around one of them, which was pretty cool. The animation wasn't bad, the characters were hilarious (guitar-gorilla in his tighty whities and singer-gorilla almost bored to be there, while drummer gorilla looked like King Kong on vacation). What a great song is that "Feel Good Inc."
The surprisingly good moments of the night: Bruce Springsteen alone on a totally dark stage singing "Devils and Dust," with a quiet "Bring 'em home," statement at the end. John Legend sounding like a modern-day Sammy Davis Jr. And Bono's emotion when talking about his father. Oh yeah and all the people doing the Sly/Stone songs. Might've been better if the lame-ass sound guys would hold off on the pot-smoking till AFTER the show. I never saw 3 hours with more sound-engineered gaffs in my life. During one country-music performance, you could actually hear the sound guys talking to each other about their fuckup. Great work, guys. Really.
The pointless ego-fests that pass as "music performances" these days never cease to amaze me. Mariah Carey gets a good review 'cuz she screeched out some inhuman high note? So the feck what? So now sadism passes as musical talent? Did anyone happen to notice Christina Aguilara standing perfectly still leaning against Herbie Hancock's piano? Now that was a performance! The girl's growing up -- she used to be the sleazy Britney Spears, and now from what I can tell Britney Spears is the sleazy Britney Spears...
And forget all those rap guys, who are so in love with the camera and the money it represents that they now have to do their poser-schtick during other people's performances too. I was hoping to hear Jamie Foxx sing (he really can, y'know) but all he got to do was prance around like a high school moron with that other guy. Sigh. That audience of people who actually thank their publicists in acceptance speeches couldn't even remember the freakin' words to "Higher Ground" when Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keyes asked them to sing it with them in honor of Rosa Parks at the beginning, and thus a potentially beautiful moment was lost. Cripes. They're probably all "Rosa who?"
OK, the rant's winding down now. I'd started to feel a little optimistic about the Grammys for a couple years there when the performances were good and etc. Lauryn Hill gave you hope for hip-hop, and Alicia Keyes and Usher for R&B. Maroon 5 and Los Lonely Boys made you think pop might be good again. And remember Simon & Garfunkel together again? Great moments. But last night proved that it's back to its money-grabbing tradition -- I guess we shouldn't be surprised when it's entertainment industry related at all. But the recording industry has pretty much proved that it's completely lost by this point. They shove aside whole genres of music so the rap crowd can have their night. Fine. When do the rock people (never mind blues, jazz, world, etc.) get theirs?
(a gen-X-er who's starting to feel a little bit like an old fogie)
PS: Yay, Green Day! Winning best rock performance with a song that was technically released in 2003! And yay Billy Joe Armstrong for pointing out the glaring absence of rock n' roll in these final days of the great Roman Empire. A culture that stagnates (read: wallows in its own decadence and ignores the danger signs) will fall. Katrina was just the beginning.
Kudos also to David Bowie, who didn't bother to go even though he was "awarded" a lifetime achievement thingie. That amounted to someone talking for all of 20 seconds about how cool he was and a bored audience politely clapping whilst checking their voicemail. An embarrassment. Hey... when's the R&R Hall of Fame show? Or have the manufactured pop stars and crappy slam-poets with gold teeth taken that over too?