I Love/Hate the Grammys. I love the spectacle and chance to
see acts that I had/have absolutely no interest in do their thing, and I hate
the emphasis on sales as the true arbiter artistic merit.
This year’s Grammys did not disappoint. Lady Gaga proved to
me that she is not merely a poseur, but can write a decent song and put
together an amazing stage show. Dance and choreography were prominently
featured in the Grammy’s live performances, revealing once more how intimately
attached pop music and dance are in modern world.
The best performance, musically, hands down, was John Mayer,
Keith Urban, Norah Jones’ acoustic rendition of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.”
Imagine two guitars, three voices filing a humongous room used to 100 dB
onslaughts from casts of thousands. They not only pulled it off, but brought
tears to my eyes. Urban’s funky fingerpicked lines worked in perfect
synchronicity with Mayer’s own fingerstyle pattern to form a perfect bed for
their three part harmonies. THAT was music.
Heck, I even liked Dylan’s monotone croaking and Mick
Jagger’s arthritic hip-shaking. Ten years ago if someone had told me I could
see a Grammy awards show with Dylan, Jagger, Barbara Streisand, on the same
show I would have said, “no way!”
On the awards side of the event, among the Grammys given out
earlier in the day, that one that makes me smile the most is “Best Country
Instrumental Performance” for “Hummingbird” by Marty Stuart from his superb Ghost Train CD. Some category winners,
such as Mavis Staples’ You are Not Alone,
in the Americana category show how the Grammy nomination committee has NO IDEA
what Americana is. An even bigger gaffe was in the bluegrass category. Given
the number of GREAT bluegrass albums this year, for Patty Loveless to win with
an album produced in 2009 was a complete muck-up.
Sound throughout the Grammys was more than decent. Even when
I turned the music up to LOUD, such as during Mick Jagger’s Soloman Burke
imitation, the mix was clean and I could hear deep into the arrangements.
Overall, after it was finished I didn’t wish for the last
three hours back, which is more than I can say for most of the Grammy programs
from the recent past.