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Grammy Slammy 2016 Edition

The Grammy Awards did something quite different this year than they had previously. They decided to make the "Awards" a secondary element and focused on the music, the performances, the personalities and the artists and gave a lot less time to the actual award winners themselves. Despite the fact that there are nearly 100 categories of Grammy Award nominees, only the smallest handful of the awards were actually presented on the three and a half hour CBS telecast. That left a lot more room for the performances, including Album of the Year winner, Taylor Swift, who opened the show.

As is always the case, The Grammys are only as good as the music of the year turned out to be, or only as good as the "In Memoriam" section allowed, and of course some incredible music giants did die between last year's ceremony and the 58th Annual. In fact, the awards themselves really did seem to take a back seat to the people who left the planet. With such legends as Eagle's Glenn Frey, Blues legend B.B. King, Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White, an extended clip of Natalie Cole singing "Unforgettable" with a video of her legendary father, Nat King Cole, Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister, and of course David Bowie, it was a painful collection of losses suffered by the music community, and the world at large.

I'm not certain how many of Bowie's fans are enamored with Lady Gaga. I'm fairly confident the answer is "not all of them." I can see how some would be put off by Gaga's tribute, as she walked through a few of the guises that he created throughout his career. But, like her National Anthem at Super Bowl 50, it was workable and fine. Personally, I think it would have been a better tribute if there were a variety of performers involved, instead of just her, but there were so many other elements to the show, I'm not certain it would have worked.

Next most notable was Lemmy's tribute by The Hollywood Vampires, which featured Alice Cooper on lead vocals, and Joe Perry and Johnny Depp on guitars. That seemed a bit heavy on the pyrotechnics and I was worried that the Staples Center might start burning with all the fireballs that kept blowing up during it.

Much more low key was the salute to Maurice White: an a cappella performance of "That's the Way of the World" which spotlighted Pentatonix and Stevie Wonder, who, in turn, got to spotlight an issue that was one of the two most important social change messages of the evening. Yes, Stevie has previously used the joke where the name in the envelope was written in Braille and held it up to the camera. But this time, he finished the point by saying “I just have to say before saying the winner that we need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.” Yes.

My personal favorite was the salute to B.B. King, which had Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark and Bonnie Raitt singing and playing "The Thrill is Gone," and as you heard it, you could really feel that to be true. That hit me, right in the gut.

But also making me sad was Jackson Browne, filling in for Glenn Frey as the rest of his Eagles gave their final Grammy tribute to their late great songwriter member. I don't know what it was about seeing Browne there doing "Take It Easy." It sort of felt like he was running on empty. Maybe I was the only one who had that reaction, but I couldn't help but think of Jackson Browne as something of a saddening and pathetic figure, maybe more than anyone who appeared on that stage.

Really, only the Grammy Awards could get away with severely cutting back on the number of trophies presented during their telecast and have few people even mention that fact. In previous years, they would list the categories for awards not presented on the program before or after going to a commercial break. I guess they've decided that the internet is a good enough place to find all that info now, and didn't even acknowledge them at all, and only briefly mentioned the Lifetime Achievement winners. Did you know that Run D.M.C. got a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award? You might have missed it, if you weren't paying attention.

But the element of the program that was the most important social change message was Grammy Winner Kendrick Lamar's medley performance of "The Blacker the Berry" and "Alright." Set in a prison, with his bandmates caged up like inmates, the anger and frustration over the system of institutional racism that devalues black males to an inhumane level in this country was laid bare for the Grammy Audience and the nation to see. Why there is still a need to point this gut-wrenching fact out in 2016 is proof that we still, even after the Civil Rights Act, even after President Obama, have a long way to go before we reach that "post-racial America" that many people had been bragging about for the past 87 months.

Music is so important because that is an element we all can enjoy, appreciate and share, together. It's the tie that binds. And that's why we need to celebrate music more, and honor musicians, not just for the work they do, but for the results of those labors. They're the thread that keeps the fabric of the nation from completely ripping apart, and that fact was never more clear to me than it was during this year's Grammys.


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Feb. 17th, 2016 08:02 pm (UTC)
And thanks for taking a moment to have a look!
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