Wednesday, February 08, 2006



Stick around folks, it'll be a long night...

Opener…The 21st century version of the The Archies, Gorillaz perform their hit, “Feels Good, Inc.” and hand it off to Madonna.

As much as I’d like to use the obvious joke, “another walking cartoon,” truthfully, I can’t. Madge is in great shape and singing pretty well. Which raises an interesting question: Some people asked why Motown singers wouldn’t have made a more appropriate halftime show than the Rolling Stones (who, given Paul McCartney last year, made for ‘60s British acts two years in a row at America’s biggest sporting event). Well, how about that other Detroit extract, Madonna Louise Cicconne? I know folks are nervous after the Janet Jackson “wardrobe malfunction,” but Madonna’s become a bit more -- shall we say -- “restrained” since motherhood.

Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder do a little bit of schtick to open the show (no full-time single host), including a few bars of Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”

Alicia Keys and Stevie Wonder do a little bit of schtick to open the show (no full-time single host), including a few bars of Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”

(8:15) First award: It’s an upset! Kelly Clarkson beats out Mariah Carey, Bonnie Raitt and Gwen Stefani to get the Female Pop Vocal Performance for last year’s “Since U Been Gone.” Maybe it’s not such an upset: Kelli beat Gwen at the MTV Video Music Awards too…

I don’t think I will ever “get” Coldplay, though Chris Martin does do a not-bad Bono vocal impression.

UPDATE(8:25): Despite all of his own hype and public posturing, Kanye West gets major plaudits for discovering and producing New Artist nominee John Legend, who looks to be riding the same route to stardom as Alicia Keyes – songwriting/piano playing/singing (as opposed to rapping) in a classic R&B/soul style.

Another New Artist nominee – Sugarland, a country act, “Looking For Something More.” Geez, what’s going on with the sound, lead singer’s voice just dropped out. Oh, great, you can even hear a technician trying to figure out what’s going on?

BEST Country Album: Lonely Runs Both Ways, by Alison Kraus & Union Station. Well, never heard anything from it, but my boss, Bob McManus should love this. Big Alison Kraus fan.

UPDATE (8:40): U2 doing “Vertigo”, a song even I’m getting sick of…

Ah, they segue into “One” – and this time it’s a duet (“One” is a duet?) with Mary J. Blige. The Grammy folks have been promoting this for a while, part of their “music can bring us together” theme. (The best-selling “mash-up” dueo of Jay-Z and Linkin Park are supposed to perform later.) What the U2/Blige collaboration does show is how easily Bono & Co.’s music is adaptable to style other than rock – particularly soul and gospel.

Matt Dillon (white guy dressed in black) and Ludacris (black guy dressed in white) – who both starred in race relations flick Crash -- announce that David Bowie is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award. Couldn’t they have given a little more love to the Thin White Duke -- like actually have him live in person accepting the award?

(8:50) BEST Rap Album: Late Registration, Kanye West!
No real surprise – though he says, “I had no idea!” Right. But give the guy his props. After throwing a temper tantrum last year about not winning the awards he thought he should, he turned around a put together another really good album. The man has a huge ego -- but he also has the talent to back it up.

(8:55) Ben Roethlisberger!!! Um, no. We really don't need to do this. And introducing Kelly Clarkson -- who demonstrates that she really is the "American Idol" break out...

UPDATE (9:02): BEST Rock Album: U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.

Bono: "[You can take this rock thing and it] just might amount to more than just entertainment on occasion and you might be able to convey some real honest emotion on occasion."

The Edge: "Even more than the awards is the gift you've given us, allowing us to continue making music,"

Nicely said, guys -- but hasn't that damn album been out for nearly a year and a half now?!?!

Paul McCartney. Yes, he's a living legend, but sorry the former Beatle just doesn't do it for me anymore. Maybe it's because he's now 64.

UPDATE (9:14): That said, I have to admit, it was cool having McCartney bring out "Helter Skelter" -- reminding those of us who forgot that he could really rock out when he wanted to do.

BEST Male R&B Vocal Performance: John Legend, "Ordinary People," what I said above. Good to hear some nice unadorned talent rewarded. Oh, he beat out both Stevie Wonder (who picked up two more Grammys earlier in unaired ceremonies) and Jamie Foxx.

(9:30) I’m glad that Mariah Carey had her great comeback. Still not feelin’ her. Except for that track she did ten years ago with ODB, “Fantasy,” I’ve never been impressed with her. Oh, the acoustic cover of “I’ll Be There” was cool, too.

Always be a little suspicious when the pop performer brings out the gospel choir -- as Mariah does -- and, yes, that includes folks I like such as the aforementioned U2 and Kanye West. Oh, Mariah? Madonna was right to insist that she open the show -- and the producers were smart to take her up on it.

UPDATE (9:36): BEST Pop Vocal Album: Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway -- definitely shaping up to be her night. Beating out Sheryl Crow (geez, splitting with Lance and now this; bummer of a week); Gwen Stefani, Fiona Apple and Paul McCartney. She also has what appears to be a genuine surprised exuberance about winning. Downside of this is that it will make Simon Cowell and the rest of the AI machine even more insufferable. Though this does guarantee Paula Abdul the opportunity to play Mrs. Robinson to an endless supply of young male wannabe singers.

UPDATE (9:43): Is it just me or does Keith Urban -- who I admit all I know about is that he's an Australian country music singer -- look a whole lot like the guy who plays Sawyer on Lost? Meanwhile, I'm amazed how much Faith Hill has changed her sound since Biggie Smalls died and she stopped working with Sean "Diddy" Combs. She seems so much more, I don't know -- wholesome? Guess the duet with Keith is what they mean by "urban" country, huh?

Seriously, this is one major advantage the Grammys have over other awards shows -- the ability to show, by performance, the incredible variety in pop music. This becomes a major marketing tool for the industry in a way that Hollywood, television and even Broadway can't quite manage with their celebratory productions.

BEST Rap Song Collaboration: "Numb/Encore," Jay-Z/Linkin Park. Interesting that this award, of the very few (about 10 percent of over 100) that were shown live -- made the cut. Others in the category included Destiny's Child and Gwen Stefani/Eve, Kanye West/Common/John Legend. Clearly, the Recording Academy considers hip-hop as the creative and commercial heart of popular music.

Dave Chappelle: "One of our comrades is coming back for the first time in 19 years. Give a big Grammy welcome for the music of Sly Stone." Everyone has been waiting for this. Sly has been essentially in a drug-addled forced retirement for more than a quarter-century. How will he look?

It's an all-star medley:
Joss Stone, John Legend & Van Hunt do “Family Affair” Good combination – Sly was a groundbreaker in the pushing the interracial/colorblind aspect of his unique rock/R&B blend.

Fantasia & Devin Lima, “If You Want Me To Stay”

Maroon 5 & Ciarra: “Everyday People”

Will i Am (of Black-Eyed Peas): "Dance To The Music," couldn't he have actually sung the song, instead of that ridiculous freestyle rap?

Steve Tyler & Joe Perry, "I Want To Take You Higher"

Sly Stone, The Man Himself, takes the stage to join in on "Higher."MY GOD, Sly, what have you done to your hair? The Mohawk?

This is actually very sad. The man is barely able to play the keyboards and isn't even really singing. This is almost a "Weekend at Bernie's" type performance. It may have sounded like a good idea at the time, but a better tribute would have been to have the man sit in the audience and enjoy the tribute from the younger artists whom he clearly influenced. This was a travesty. Oh, it would also have been nice to have given the "Family Stone" members a little more recognition.

UPDATE (10:15): Jay-Z & Linkin Park do the song which earned them a Grammy a few minutes earlier...and now they segue into "Yesterday" ---with McCartney coming in to join in! Very nicely done actually. Again, this another way that the Grammy Awards are able to meld the creative eras in ways that the Oscars, Tonys and Emmys can't match.

Bruce Springsteen concludes his stark, solo performance of "Devils and Dust" with an a turgid, "Bring 'em home." Hmm...what could he be referring to?

SONG Of The Year: U2, "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." Wow, if you thought there was a political message being sent here, the juxtaposition between Springsteen's closing comment and the title of the recognized "song of the year," you might have some fodder for that argument.

But then again, Bono deflects that by saying that the album, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, is actually about coming to grips with his father's failing health and eventual death. Certainly this song would jive with that interpretation. But, even Bono would admit that the "true" interpretations of various songs and albums don't always belong to the writers and the recording act that created it in the first place. After all, the songs within U2's previous album, late-2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind, took on profoundly different meanings after 9/11.

UPDATE (10:40): Kanye West & Jamie Foxx use Kanye's "Gold Digger" to introduce a taste of Historically Black College marching bands and step dancers to the broadest possible audience. Again, Kanye's various political statements and attention-getting stunts like "I'm Christ-on-the-cover-of-the-Rolling Stone," take away from the fact that he is one of the most driven, visionary, performers out today.

RECORD Of The Year: A mild upset, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," Green Day. Actually, this is perfect song for the Grammys to recognize. The band itself is still remembered for its early-'90s punk days and the album that spawned this song, American Idiot, is seen as a real mature leap forward, along the lines of what The Who did with Tommy. The song is tuneful with just the right amount of "edge" to it to make it too poppy. Who'd a thunk this moment could be possible for guys responsible for these
timeless lyrics:

Bite my lip and close my eyes
Take me away to paradise
I'm so damn bored
I'm going blind
And I smell like shit

Sit around and watch the phone, but no one's calling
Call me pathetic, call me what you will
My mother says to get a job
But she don't like the one she's got
When masturbation's lost its fun
You're fucking breaking

So good to see growing up being rewarded.

BEST New Artist: Appropriately, the award goes to John Legend. Of course, whether that's a good thing or not -- who knows. The presenters, Chuck D, Common & ///// listed the many previous winners, focusing on acts like The Beatles, Sheryl Crow and Norah Jones. Of course, they left off embarrassments like the Starland Vocal Band and Milli Vanilli (later rescinded). I've got my fingers crossed on Legend though.

UPDATE (11:00) And we're in overtime!
Nice list of the past year's dearly departed, concluding with Richard Pryor. Queen Latifah comes on to announce that Pryor is also a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award and praises him as one who "shook things up while you were here, baby." This recognition serves to remind everyone that the Grammys are conferred by the Recording Industry Artists Association. In other words, it ain't just about music. It's about people who put their diverse talents and visions in some recorded format -- music, comedy, spoken word. Pryor's '70s comedy albums certainly shook up things and the award is well-deserved.

(11:17): James Taylor & Bonnie Raitt announce that Steve Lillywhite has won the "Producer Of the Year, Non-Classical" -- mostly for his work with U2, I believe.

ALBUM The Year: U2, How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The boys from Ireland beat a pretty good field including McCartney, Kanye, Mariah Carey, and Gwen Stefani, who must be pretty devastated. She was pretty much shut out, after putting out a commercially and critically received album. Not sure how well Kanye West will receive Bono's point that -- as they've lost two album of the year Grammy's before -- "You're next."

Anyway, this night caps a pretty amazing couple of years -- creatively, musically and, yeah, politically -- for U2, even though some folks, including RAGGED THOTS reader Tater Tots, thinks of them as being ridiculously "overrated"

UPDATE (11:25): Closing: An all-star tribute to the music of New Orleans, featuring Dr. John, Oleta Adams, The Edge, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and more.

Appropriate given Wilson Pickett's departing a couple weeks ago that "In The Midnight Hour" closes out the show, featuring Springsteen, Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave), Mama Thomas.

Generally speaking, a pretty fine and entertaining show. As I mentioned in the comments, the Grammys have -- after being perceived as irrelevant and musically out of touch for sometime -- figured out how to strike the right balance in melding different generations and styles of music, while showing respect to all.

Good for the RIAA...

UPDATE: More Grammy coverage can be found here.
UPDATE: Slate weighs in here.

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