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Commentary: The Grammys (or the Mr and Mrs Carter Show)
Published on January 31, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Anthony L Hall

I don’t care too much for his acting (as seen on NCIS: Los Angeles), but LL Cool J is so good hosting the Grammys that he’s fast becoming as identified with this awards show as Ellen DeGeneres is becoming with the Oscars. Sunday was his third-consecutive gig (for The 56th Grammy Awards), and he did not disappoint -- from giving the show that you-know-it-when-you-see-it edge with his mere stage presence to riffing off introductions like a cool DJ introducing new songs.

Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian who descends from the Turks and Caicos Islands. He is an international lawyer and political consultant - headquartered in Washington DC - who also publishes a current events weblog, The iPINIONS Journal, at
I wish he’d do something about that lip-licking though (ChapStick…?). But I suppose that’s like saying I wish Michael Jordan had done something about that tongue hanging when he was making the NBA must-see TV, no?

Anyway, LL was … ill.

In this age of WikiLeaks and social media, keeping secrets is becoming associated with being untrustworthy, prudish, or anti-social. This might explain why even “big surprises” like Super Bowl commercials and headlining Grammy appearances are teased to the point where the big reveal becomes anticlimactic.

Such was the case with all of the teasing about the Grammys’ opening act featuring Jay Z and Beyoncé. I’m a huge Beyoncé fan. But I agree with Jennifer Hudson (who co-starred with Bey in the hit movie Dream Girls) that she cheapened herself and her talent with shamelessly vulgar lyrics and videos for her new, self-titled album.

For some incomprehensible reason serene Bey is trying (way too hard) to be to I’m-sexy-and-I-know-it thirty-somethings what twerking Miley is to don’t-know-much-about-sex Gen-Xers and what cradle-robbing Madonna is to desperately-seeking-sex AARPers. Got that? But we can really do without Bey acting out on stage what she and Jay do in their bedroom, making mockery of Michelle Obama hailing her as role model little girls can look up to.

Adele’s performance of ‘Rolling in the Deep’ was as stirring and poignant at last night’s Grammys as Whitney’s performance of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was at the 1991 Super Bowl. What’s more, that her album 21 sold more last year (18 million) than the albums of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj combined is a testament to the ultimate triumph of unadulterated talent over vaudevillian schtick -- aka substance over style.

(“The Grammy’s: a Postmortem,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 13, 2013)

I missed Adele.

As for Jay Z, well, I’m more Snoop Dog, em, er, Snoop Lion, Jah. More to the point, though, I couldn’t help thinking as Jay and Bey were performing “Drunk in Love” that Jay and Rihanna sounded much better doing “Run This Town.” Of course Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love The Way You Lie” is the best rap/pop duet of all time, with Jay’s duet with Alicia Keys on “Empire State of Mind” the runner-up. This is why it came as no surprise to me when Jay and Bey lost out to Jay and Justin for the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Sorry Bey.

Incidentally, what do you suppose the impossibly beautiful Bey did to cause God to create her baby girl more in Jay’s fugly image than in hers?

Remarkably enough, most performances were downhill from that opening act. Especially with teenage Goth-chick Lorde following it by almost emulating Ashlee Simpson with her lip-synching faux pas and some Justin Beiber-type named Hunter Hayes squealing out a country song that smacked so much of bubblegum pop that Johnny Cash must’ve been rolling over in his grave.

A very notable exception was Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons who, frankly, made up for all of the other lousy performances. They did a stirringly seamless mix of their respective hits “Radioactive” and “m.A.A.d city.” Too bad that, despite seven nominations and this outstanding performance, Kendrick went home Grammyless.

But honestly, I don’t know why anyone thinks it’s enjoyable to watch a legendary group like Chicago belittle itself by appearing to perform, only to have Robin Thicke blur their soft-rock sound by doo-whopping the lead vocals on their classic hits like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is.”

I mean, can you imagine going to an Adele concert, only to have her introduce Miley Cyrus to warble Thicke-like through “Rolling in the Deep” and “Skyfall”? Talk about “Blurred Lines.” Chicago’s original lead singer, Peter Cetera, must have been at home cringing … with humiliation for his band and embarrassment for Thicke.

Trust me, there are many good reasons why, despite having the year’s most (over)played song, Thicke went home Grammyless. And not least among them was his confiscatory sampling of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.” Interestingly enough, his label EMI finally settled a copyright-infringement lawsuit with Gaye’s heirs two weeks ago: too little, too late.

All we needed was to have Bruno Mars enter stage right to take over as Ringo Starr was groaning out his signature tune “Every Time I See Your Face.” Thank God Stevie Wonder is so good that he was able to salvage his performance of “Another Star,” despite interference from Pharrell Williams and French electronica duo Daft Punk.

The producers of this show really should put an end to these grossly overrated, ad-hoc duets. Hell, the Pepsi NFL Halftime Show commercial featuring ad-hoc duets with Deon Sanders and Terry Bradshaw was more entertaining than most of them.

Beyond this, I found nothing about performances by the likes of Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, John Legend, Merle Haggard, and others I’ve never even heard of that’s worthy of comment. Well, except that, just as Lady Gaga needs to decide if she wants to be a pop singer or a walking freak show, Pink needs to decide if she wants to be one or a flying trapeze act. Because if we want to see the kind of aerial acrobatics she tried to perform, while trying to sing, we could easily watch professionals with Cirque du Soleil do that … really well.

I really missed Adele.

Meanwhile, as I indicated above, the remaining Beatles, Paul and Ringo, just looked like two dirty old men crashing a coed party. And talk about anticlimactic; tributes to the Beatles, who performed their last “Rooftop” concert on January 30 1969, are taking on the spectacle of cult worship. But, given all of the hype about their long-awaited reunion, you’d think they would at least perform a song most fans would recognize instead of some lullaby that was as obscure as it was soporific.

I don’t think they had too many people clamoring for a Paul and Ringo reunion tour after that performance … thank God! By the way, am I the only one who noticed that One Direction, the Beatles putative heir apparent, was not even nominated for a single award?

Apropos of cult-like behavior, I get that same-sex marriage is the cause celebre of the moment. In fact, my commentaries will attest that I've been in the vanguard of those championing it as a civil right.

But really, the last thing I tuned into the Grammys for was to watch rapper Macklemore, who seems an ironic fusion of Eminem and pastor T.D. Jakes, sing his gay anthem “Same Love” for a mass, pansexual wedding ceremony officiated by the ironically closeted Queen Latifah. This seemed even more contrived than a Moonie wedding day. What a farce! Which is why I suppose mama-don’t-preach-to-me-waxwork Madonna fitted right in … as the pansexual maid of honor.

God I missed Adele.

Oh, in case you haven’t noticed, I couldn’t care any less who won which award. But I was rather hoping Miranda Lambert would beat out her boozing, philandering husband, Blake Shelton (co-host of the reality-TV show The Voice), for Best Country Solo Performance. That might have been a symbolic way for her to start performing solo at home too. Instead, ironic, iconic Black crooner Darius Rucker won (homage to Charley Pride).

Still, it’s probably noteworthy that, after entering the show leading all artists with nine nominations, Jay Z left with just two (both thanks to his fortuitous collaboration with Justin Timberlake). His better half dropped her album too late to be nominated in any category.

I would be remiss not to mention that my relief over the conspicuous absence of the diabolical Kanye West and vaudevillian Lady Gaga was in inverse proportion to my disappointment over the sublime absence of the angelic Adele.

Finally, über producer Clive Davis’s pre-Grammy party used to be as big an event as the awards show itself. But it must be dawning on this 81-year-old music mogul that his torch is being passed to a new generation. Especially given that on January 15 Billboard named Jay Z and Beyoncé No. 1 on its enviable Power 100 list (Davis didn’t even make it); and that the media were buzzing more about Jay Z’s pre-Grammy party than about his. What’s more, guess who were the talk of Davis’s party…?

That’s a wrap!

Related commentaries:
The Grammys

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