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Monday, February 13, 2012

Music's Biggest Night

A funny thing happened on the way to Los Angeles Staples Center.  Saturday evening Whitney Houston completed the epic meltdown we had all feared was inevitable.

48 years old and arguably the finest voice pop music ever heard is now silent.  Many will say it is no shock.  She had been dead for a while as far as her music was concerned.  She was an irrelevant side note.

But when you take a look at the Grammy Awards last night things appear even sadder.

Bruce Springsteen, in his early 60s, led off the broadcast with his tepid and familiar new track "We Take Care of Our Own."  Say what you want about The Boss and his work, you cannot ignore his fitness, longevity and unbridled passion for his craft.

The same can be said for Sir Paul McCartney (who will turn 70! this year.)  His rocking "Golden Slumbers" finale (not so much his sappy Valentine song) was further evidence that rock/pop know no age.  They also re-emphasized that indeed the "love you take, is equal to the love you make."

Even Glen Campbell (age 74), crippled with Alzheimers Disease, sounded solid and looked spry performing his signature hit "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Much has, and will be said of Houston and her untimely passing.  Many will blame Bobby Brown.  Others will look at a young woman who rose to such heights far too soon.  How could she have been prepared for all that her voice would bring her?  Grammy statues. Starring roles in blockbuster films. Songs that would define a decade.  Her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and "I Will Always Love You" are the benchmark every singer tries to match.  Pity Jennifer Hudson last night put in the impossible task of paying tribute singing the latter song.  Much like Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson's number 42 maybe it is high time we retire "I Will Always Love You" too.  Will anyone ever do it better?  Why try?

And that is the point.  Houston had long been forgotten in the world of contemporary music.  Looking at last night's broadcast it is clear their are several young women eager, and able to take her mantle.

The evening belonged to a 23 year old Brit, Adele, who seems destined for the type of rise Houston herself enjoyed 20 some years ago.  Katy Perry, Rhianna, and Kelly Clarkson have vocal abilities and added charisma that should sustain them for several years.  Let's not forget Lady Gaga either.  She may not have taken the stage last night, but her presence was felt.  Yes Nicki Minaj I am looking at you.  Enough of the over the top theatrics please.  Work on your songs please!!!  Minaj's performance last night nearly ruined an otherwise nice ceremony.

The Grammy's did a nice job paying tribute to Houston and her indelible voice.  They paid tribute to the woman that inspired us all.  The woman that gave us goosebumps when we heard her sing.  The woman we all fell in love with.  Long before her well chronicled problems she was the voice.  The voice that spoke to all of us.  Black and white.  Young and old.

We can choose to remember the train wreck who was taken away far too soon.  Or we can choose to remember that voice and how it spoke to us.  We can listen to the songs and remember simpler times.  We can appreciate and respect her talents and be grateful we are fortunate enough to have them at all.

Artists have died prematurely before and will do soon again.  The art they leave behind is timeless.

Thanks Whitney.  You have left us with quite a catalog.

Other Grammy Notes:


E! Television pre-show is cringe worthy, must see pre-event television.  Kelly Osborne is a fashion consultant with grey/purple hair.  Should we trust anyone on fashion when she herself is a walking nightmare?  Ryan Seacrest is a robot unable to convey any emotion (on a clearly emotional day.)  The producers had footage of Houston from Thursday and broke it down like John Madden used to break down a 3rd down blitz package.  They freeze framed Whitney handing Brandi a note!!  What are they expecting to uncover?  It was a shameless, embarrassing and pointless piece of video to air.   And don't get me started on super queen former Jay Leno intern Ross Mathews!!!  That topic could fill an entire column and I promised to not use profanity anymore.

LL Cool J did a fine job keeping the show moving along.  But just as Tim Tebow praising the lord for touchdowns is oft putting, so too is leading the Grammy's off with a prayer for Whitney Houston.  I will give you a moment of silence...  but a full on prayer??  Joe Walsh is in the crowd!!  And Skrillex!!!  And Houston began her career singing for her church in Newark, NJ.  Clearly that path led her down some shaky alleys.  Keep God and/or all other entities in yours music.  It need not be so overt.

Bruno Mars' performance was one of the highlights.  He is an engaging, talented, and gifted performer. More please.

Chris Brown should not be allowed on stage once, let alone twice.  He can dance don't get me wrong.  And his auto tune sampled songs conceived of by various producers and machines have their place for certain.  It just ain't here.  After watching his act last night it is more evident his primary talent is raising a fist to women.  Go away, and fast.  Oh, and shame on the countless clueless kids who tweeted "He could hit me any time."  What message is this sending???  25 extremely disappointing reactions to Chris Brown on Grammys

Kelly Clarkson is a force.  Jason Aldean is probably a pretty adequate country singer.  The two should never share the same stage, let alone the same song.  Did the producers cut his mic on purpose?  By far the biggest disaster of the night.

Rhianna's performance was a little flat and disappointing too.  Matters were made worse by Coldplay doing a particularly nice version of "Paradise."  Love them or hate them Mr Chris Paltrow can write songs.  I will not be one of the haters.

The Beach Boys medley/reunion was very sweet and musically rewarding.  Brian Wilson has looked better, but he can still bring it.  Foster the People and Maroon 5 handled some tough tracks quite nicely.    Those acts had such strong years it would have been nice to see them perform one of their songs too (my wife's astute point- she always bitches I steal her lines.)

Taylor Swift finally sounded good live!!!  Good song.  Good band.  Well done!!  She is an artist you can really root for.

The Civil Wars brief version of "Barton Hollow" was a standout.  Not an easy task to play in the middle of music royalty.  They did it effortlessly and with humor.  Their line "We would like to thank the opening acts so far" was the funniest of the night.  Paul McCartney played right before them.

Katy Perry has vocal abilities.  Her choice of "ET" and her new track "Part of Me" were as contrived as her blue hair and Blade Runner replicant outfit.  The more she protests being normal the less relevant she becomes.  OK, you are an oddball.  OK, you are getting divorced.  You need not shout it from the rooftops.  Try some subtly.  If you are as talented as we think you are we will still love you.  But we will stop short of marrying you.  No one wants to have a break up song written about them.

Never been a huge country fan but The Band Perry and Blake Shelton did a nice job with the Glen Campbell tribute.  Campbell too is an inspiration and it was good to see him in the spotlight one last time.

Many folks are scratching their heads asking who is this Bon Iver (real name Justin Vernon) character that walked away with Best New Artist.  Well, he has been around for a bit.  He is a midwesterner who gave many in the alt world their favorite album last year, the self titled Bon Iver.  It is a slow, melancholy piece of rhythmic ambien.  Not for everyone I readily admit.  His humble, aw shucks acceptance of the award was refreshing.  You can go back to not caring or listening.  But if you sat through Minaj's abject nonsense you might want to give these two tracks a shot.  Falsetto male voice and dreamy synth warning!!

Holocene
Calgary

The mash up of David Guetta, DeadMau5, Lil Wayne, Foo Fighters and woman beater was a complete failure.

Dub step, techno, Electronica and the like do NOT translate to the small screen.  You might argue they don't translate at all without sufficient amounts of Ecstasy and glow sticks.  Guetta can re-arrange all he wants and DeadMau5 cool helmet make me chuckle all the time.  But let Lil Wayne do his thing and Dave Grohl has had a nice run without any help, thank you very much.

And if you were going to include this element why not give Skrillex that spot???  Weird.

The night was as much an Adele coronation as it was remembrance of Whitney.  And her stirring performance of "Rolling in the Deep" was proof her voice is back.  She is so young, and as her 60 Minutes profile showed us, quite spunky.  Our hope is she does not flame out like Amy Winehouse, or Houston herself.

She has an unbelievable voice, and, gasp, writes her own material!  This type of talent comes around once in a lifetime.  She deserved all her awards and glory last night and seemed genuinely happy/overcome to receive it.

Here is hoping we can enjoy her gifts far longer than we enjoyed others like her.  Today we celebrate her.  We look forward and not back.

That's a wrap 2011.  Good stuff indeed, but as is the case with any good art...  we are wanting some more!!!







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