Requisite day after Grammys rant:
Sorry. I just feel the need to spew this out… This year, more than ever, the Grammys have become their own genre, and it’s not good. It seems no matter which category came up this year, everyone who won presented an anthem of sorts, an ersatz enthusiasm, a forced HURRAY FOR POP! There was no dangerous hip-hop, no valley of the shadow of Hank, nothing subtle, nothing shocking. If anything dabbled in the ugly puddle of authenticity, it was definately, left at the door. This year more than ever the Grammys were a bland pep rally that any respectable freak would immediately leave the building over.
Take a random sampling of grammys past…
1971: On the country front, you cant beat winners like Lynn Anderson, Ray Price and Johnny Cash & June Carter. Those people just do not exist anymore. Then of course, reality hits with the cloying earnesty of Simon & Garfunkle and the breakout blandness of the uber-white Carpenters, who acutally turned out to be quite tortured souls, but who knew? In Jazz we had Miles, in best musical arrangements we had Mancini, In R & B… do we even want to go there? Face up: Aretha Franklin and BB King. Lordy, Lord, them are monster talents… Can we have another dose of 1971, please?
1979: Punk had broke and the lamos were the only ones left at the prom. John Denver hosted this meandering cruise down the river of weed-worn aesthetic laziness. “Faded Glory” was the fashion of the eve. The Eagles corporate reordering of country-rock won, even while the cynical lyrics to Hotel California were a critique of the baked culture that was bestowing their blessings. Still, even in this dire time Thelma Houston’s future anthem for drag queens world over “Dont Leave Me This Way” won best R & B song, Fleetwood Mac’s made the template for psychic-pop-folk to come (but at least an allusion to mysticism, or something greater than bling). And this was also the year of D.P., Waylon & Willie, and a bourgeoning retro-blues awareness as Muddy Waters won for “I’m Ready.”
1986: “We Are The World.” There was beauty, and sheer ugliness. Rosanne Cash and Ronnie Milsap. B. B. King and Amy Grant. MTV was on the move and the Dire Straits, aptly named, headed a rock line up of winners that also included a very much alive Don Henley, and “thundering in” was Tina Turner with “For the Living” — which reminded us that this brilliant performer was indeed capable of putting out something dead. But she’s Tina… one of the inventors of Rock-n-Roll. It’s not her fault the industrial-military-complex offered her more money than she’d ever seen to glamorize a desert war. Also, looking at the video on youtube, it foreshadows goth… but I digress…
1995: Springsteen, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, Green Day in the new “Alternative” catagory (what was that about? the special bus?), Clapton cementing his reputation of superiority, jazz was taking a fusion-induced nose-dive, only to be saved by Etta James covers of Billie Holiday (a safe bet, no?), R & B was Boys to Men (WTF?) and in the country department it was a respectable line up of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, Aaron Neville & Trisha Yearwood. It was also the year of resurging greats Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, with his “American Recordings.” Ry Cooder was doing his whole anthropological tourism of the third world thing. Although mediocracy was sidling up to the bar, ya gotta admit: Not a bad year.
2013: OK. Mediocracy is the frat-boy that has drunk way too much, is loud and insipid as hell, and now everyone, not just the freaks are leaving the building. Looky: of the elder statesman in the audience was a 23-year-old girl with the emotional complexity of a 13 year-old-girl. Taylor Swift in this role is much like Bonzo in the war room… oh wait… that happened… and we’re still here. So I guess that’s the lesson. Perhaps our popular culture maestros will note that we are indeed in the middle of a troubling, complex and violent world, where it is now in vogue to enter public places or grades school and shoot out your frustrations, AND we’re still limping through a “not a depression.” Perhaps the 30’s were like this. But if there’s ever been a cultural disconnect (the Black Keys, Alabama Shakes & Dr John were about all I could even relate to, and two of the three were so marginalized, I probably shouldn’t even mention them… & Jack White’s OK too, I guess) the 2013 Grammys have to be it.
I recently was in Miami and my friend Ofelia and I took a random cruise heading north from Miami Beach. Huge condo tower after huge condo tower, Trump in the mix, all about 45 stories each, meaning about 2500 units each times about 25 buildings per mile, for god knows how many miles… On a Friday night at 9:30 lights could be seen in about 10% of all the apartments. This is because the buildings are 90% vacant. I don’t know where the money comes from to keep building these (sorry) castles in the sand, but it comes from somewhere… somewhere really ill-informed and reckless. Somewhere I don’t really care about, and going to somewhere I have no interest in visiting… except casually cruising past with a friend laughing at the idiotic decadence of it all… for a couple hours out of my life… hmm. Voila, the Grammys.
In the mean time, 2 of my freakin’ neighbors produced kick-ass albums in the last 2 months! Kamara Thomas and the Ghost Gamblers, and Eric “Roscoe” Ambel’s treatment of Jimbo Mathus… My “on the ground” “real life” “grassroots” friends, take a bow!