The music industry is all abuzz because of last Sunday's Grammys ceremony. From performances that reminded us why we love Annie Lennox to history repeating itself with Kanye West storming the stage to disagree with an outcome at the awards…..people are definitely talking.
There were a few surprises. Katy Perry really impressed me with her song "By The Grace Of God" and Rihanna was in great voice for her performance of her new single "FourFiveSeconds" with Kanye and Paul McCarthy. And of course everyone was waiting with baited breath to see Madonna's performance of "Living For Love".
I was not surprised by all the trophies handed to Sam Smith. "Stay With Me" was probably the most inescapable song of 2014. It was disappointing to hear that the song has elements of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down". But as I have said many times….there are only so many notes and keys. Without even thinking about it there are plenty of songs that are simple rewrites of other songs. A perfect example was when another Blue-Eyed Soul singer, Michael Bolton claimed he had never heard the 1966 version of "Love Is A Wonderful Thing". The court immediately awarded the Isley Brothers 5.4 million dollars (the largest plagiarism case settlement in music history). Sam Smith a been crowned the new face of Soul Music. I'm not sure about that in my opinion. I actually believe Boy George did it better in the 80s, but didn't get the same proclamation because of the dress. With all this talk of appropriation that might upset some folks, I still applaud Sam for being so young and his last acceptance speech where he thanked the guy who broke his heart. He got four Grammys for that break up.
There has been controversy over Beyonce at the Grammys (and no I am not talking about Kanye's wish that she had gotten "Album Of The Year"). R&B singer Ledisi had requested to sing Mahalia Jackson's "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" but was denied and Beyonce was asked to do it. Many are saying that Ledisi was robbed of her Grammy moment and are upset that Beyonce accepted the invitation. Ledisi later was quoted as saying she understood why they chose Beyonce, but was very disappointed. The classy thing for Beyonce to do would be to invite Ledisi to perform with her on stage at a big event. I watched her performance and was not impressed. It was a Beyonce performance instead of a down home girl praising the Lord (and I know Ledisi would have brought it). Between Beyonce's see-through choir robe and stiff movements to capture her back lighting, I didn't feel the song like I should have. But Beyonce has bored me in the past with other performances like when she did "Ave Maria".
And speaking of Kanye West's words after the Grammys about Beck winning over Beyonce for "Album Of The Year"……I am afraid that he, like Azealia Banks, keesp sabotaging his image and career by opening his mouth. Has he not learned from the Taylor Swift incident at the MTV Awards? Does he not realize that with all the racial tensions in the US right now, that his outbursts are not helping the situation. And Miss Banks needs to be banned from twitter with all her bullshit over being angry that her career has not gone as planned. Stop blaming Iggy Azalea for your shortcomings. Think before you react and you might appear more sane and level headed. As a Club DJ who watched the charts and singles, Beyonce had that award hands down out of the other nominees. But the Grammys are their own community and judge on musical merit. Beck is one of those artists who plays multiple instruments and writes his own songs. Beyonce is an entertainer who travels the world and excites audiences with her stage show but apparently needs four people to write one song. Yes….she is an amazing performer and I would prefer watching her anyway over Beck in concert. He lost me shortly after "Loser" back in the 90s. But a good example was back in 1981 when Christopher Cross' "Sailing" won "Song Of The Year" and "Record Of The Year" for a song that came out in 1979 I couldn't understand. And being a teenager I really couldn't comprehend why this song won anything. I was loving all the Pop dance songs on the radio back then. "Sailing" seemed boring. But after becoming a recording artist myself and working as a DJ in radio, bars and clubs I have learned to listen and appreciate music differently. I actually appreciate the simplicity of "Sailing" now. In a time period when New Wave Pop was coming in and Disco was dying, Christopher Cross sounded like a breath of fresh air.
And as I watch the twittersphere rumble over with the young ones calling acts like Madonna, ELO, AC/DC and Annie Lennox old and tired, it amazes me to think that there was a time when Madonna and AC/DC would not have even been invited to the Grammys. These are the artists who have paid their dues and paved the way for all the ones who you adore and worship for a month and then move on to the next new thing.
Many of her "Little Monsters" probably fell over when Lady GaGa announced that she was recording an an album with Tony Bennett. I understood it perfectly. In the old days, the new artists had to work with the legends in order to be taken seriously. It showed that you learned from the best. That the torch was being past. And even though GaGa has been accused of stealing from the greats like Bette Midler and Grace Jones, I believe she is a really talented artist and without all the gimmicks she can sing. Her voice is unique and distinctive. That's what you need to be a legend. Interesting enough…..Madonna doesn't have that range, but her talent is being an entertainer. I don't think anyone has macked the game like she has. I don't even think that anyone could ever do what she did again. Mainly because that time period has passed. Great voices like Annie Lennox will always rattle our souls. I was looking at her on the red carpet and I thought to myself…."she's cool because she's is her age". And when she hit the stage and went into "I Put A Spell On You" the fire and passion was still there because that's who she is. She has never been any of the gimmicks or costumes she wore in the 80s. I loved it! All of these acts were amazing on the Grammys because they have earned their place there.
I think all the young ones out there would be surprised to learn that the woman who is behind "Chandelier" and the hook for Flo-Rida's "Wild One" is not in her 20s. Besides Beyonce's non-church performance Sia's performance at the Grammys really made me upset. In my opinion….probably the worst performance of the evening. When you are on the Grammys it is the opportunity to show you can sing. Sia, darling….turning your back to the audience and facing a wall of a set while two dancers pranced around like in your music video did not prove you were a great vocalist. Her range is amazing but this hiding your face behind big wigs and production just does not do it for me. At least Katy Perry's performance had a cool effect with the shadow dancers.
Question: When did Country Music start using Hip Hop lingo? Miranda Lambert's performance of "Little Red Wagon" was more of a Rock song and the lyrics included the word "swagger" several times. I actually thought I had slipped back in time and was watching some late 70s special with Tanya Tucker. Back when Tammy Wynette recorded with The KLF I said that one day we would hear some Country Rap Music. But I guess we had already heard that when The Charlie Daniels Band did "The Devil Went Down To Georgia".
Pharrell's Goth-like version of "Happy" was interesting. I saw some article discussing the deeper meaning of this performance. It was cool to hear the lyrics spoken in other languages but other than that it was just okay for me. Considering the song is almost two years old and was overplayed and even parodied by Weird "Al" Yankovich, I was kinda over it and the bell-hop outfit was cute but went nowhere.
Stevie Wonder's quick harmonica solo at the end of Usher's performance shows the genius and artistry of his musical legend. Can't wait to see his upcoming TV special for his album "Songs In The Key Of Life". And I was happy that John Legend and Common closed the ceremony. I looked at it as a nod to the "Black Lives Matters" movement. It seems funny to me that the industry will take stands on some issues and show support for some and then quietly back out on others.
I noticed that Iggy Azalea didn't win any awards. I figured she would have been the new female Elvis at the end of the show. But the Grammys backed away from the new "Great White Hope". Why? I think to send a message that the drama surrounding appropriation is something that the Grammys doesn't want any part of. And after the nastiness of the Macklemore win last year in the rap category I think the Grammys decided to not get involved. And even though Eminem won "Best Rap Album", I am sure he got it because he is considered industry. He has earned his place with more than a decade of work. Iggy…..you are a clever girl and have a distinctive voice. That's what legends are made of, but I hope you can stay out of the online crap and just concentrate on your craft. Be The Teena Marie of rap and earn your place. And as Macklemore advised….."remember your place."