Monday, February 12, 2007

Grammy Awards - I Get To Decide

I almost never watch the Grammy Awards, or any of the big show-biz shows like that, because they are usually stultifyingly boring. It is mostly about artists who I don't care for receiving accolades that I don't thing they deserve. From what I did observe last night and also on the news reprisals this morning, last night's show was no exception to this, with the exception of the astounding appearance of The Police. I really would have liked to have seen that portion of the show. Unfortunately, I was otherwise engaged at the time and missed it. I do intend to catch up with them on YouTube later today.

For a very long time now, my artistic and musical tastes have tended away from the mainstream towards the eclectic. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that as I get older, I simply care less about and have become increasingly immune to the nefarious efforts of the entertainment media and the pop culture it serves to sell me on what "the industry" thinks is great and wonderful. I have been a performing musician for most of my life and over the years have been actively involved in many different technical and artistic capacities. I listen to music with an open mind, but I do bring several decades worth of experience and personal preference to everything I hear.

The main point is this: I like what I like, and in my world, I get to decide what is good and what is bad.

So here are some passing opinions, in no particular order:

Dixie Chicks: Great players, decent singing, very good engineering and production, and gifted songwriting. Not sure how popular they would be if they weren't 2/3 gorgeous, though. I can't stand their politics. And politics is why they won the gold last night...

Ludicrus: Honestly, I don't like anything about his music. Rap/Hip-hop is not my favorite musical genre anyway, although there are other artists I like. His post-show comments, though, are telling. To paraphrase, he said that since this was the fifth time he had been nominated and he hadn't won a Grammy, when he set out to make his most recent album "Release Therapy", he was determined to win this year, no matter what.'s not about the art, then, it's about the award, the glitz, the money, the fame? Okay, that may be entertainment, but its not art. (Like I said, in my world, I get to decide.)

Carrie Underwood: I like her very much and was glad to see her win a couple of awards, including Best New Artist. Country is not my favorite genre, either, btw. She was my favorite in last year's AI competition because of her voice and because of her personality. She has great songs and great performances on her album, which is co-produced by Dan Huff, one of my favorite producers. My prayer is that she stays good and will somehow, miraculously, remain unbesmirched by this great early success. I hope she has good people with level heads around her. I will cry if she goes all Britney on us in the next couple of years. I like two of the other nominees in this category, too, Imogen Heap and Corrine Bailey Rae. My son introduced me to both of them and he has a very good ear for new and interesting music.

Rick Rubin: He won as non-classical producer of the year and he totally deserves it. He is one of the most gifted guys in the industry. While it was his work on the Dixie Chicks album that put him over the top, he is also responsible for all of the great recent Johnny Cash albums, including two this year. I was pleased that T-Bone Burnett was also a runner up in this category, principally for "Walk The Line", the superb soundtrack to the Johnny Cash bioflick (which was really, really good, too).

Jimmy Carter won in the Best Spoken Word Album category. Give me a freakin' break. So, do you think the entertainment industry leans a little towards the left? This unbelievably asinine award barely merits a snort and a spit from a thinking man, but it says something that Carter had to beat out Bill Maher and Al Franken. What a tool.

Red Hot Chili Peppers: I'm not a fan of their music, and I've never liked their vocals, in particular. But there are good things about them. I guess I somewhat grudgingly acknowledge their efforts.

Christina Aguilera: She is a great singer. Really good. I can't wait to hear what she is doing 10 years from now, actually, since she is one of the few female popstarts on the scene that I think really could have some serious staying power. I do find her persona annoying. I have heard the song that she won for, but not much else, lately.

John Mayer: Another gifted performer. Both of his recent albums, Trio and Continuum, deserve more attention. If he doesn't burn out, he is another artist that could and should continue to get better with time.

Don Henley: Yeah, okay, I guess so.

Michael Brecker: A great sax player. I've been a fan for many years. My formative years were spent playing in funk bands and we did several Brecker Bros. tunes. He deserved the recognition, for sure. An excellent jazz player, a lot of his music in the 70's and 80's was really progressive for its time. I have not yet heard the recent tribute album, but I need to pick it up. As I look across the jazz category in general, I see several interesting releases that I have not yet heard.

In the Gospel categories, a genre that I like, I am surprised at how ignorant I am of some of the entries. I have not heard Yolanda Adams' song from The Gospel soundtrack that won Best Gospel Performance. But she is a great singer in a category teeming with great singers and I'm reasonably sure it is probably great. I bet that Randy Travis album is good, too (no really, I'm not that into country), because his work is always impeccable. The only album listed that I've heard is Chris Tomlin's See The Morning, which I do like a lot. I would have liked to have seen The Vineyard's Sweetly Broken nominated. It is definitely one of the best worship albums of the last year, I think. Also, as a rule, anytime
Sarah Groves is not nominated somewhere for something in some category, justice has been pretty much denied in my opinion. Tommy Walker could have been in there, too, with either of his last two albums. I think, though, in general, the music industry doesn't really understand worship music...most of the world doesn't understand worship music, really.

The thing is, there is music being made all over the world, in places and by people most of us have never heard of. I don't believe we need Hollywood, New York, or Nashville to tell us what we need to be listening to or who the best artists are. Some of the best music is made by folks who have day jobs, by college kids and senior citizens that record their own original music in their garage on the weekends, and by people who find their joy playing and singing at their local church, or at the blues bar on the edge of town. They may not be as polished as Justin Timberlake or as virtuosic as Celine Dion, but so what? Is that what is important? There are, of course, many medium-to-high profile artists who are also very dedicated, gifted artists, and we should gratefully enjoy their art, but they are the tip of the iceberg. Often, today, performers are promoted and sold to us as a colorful, exciting package when, in fact, there is little of real lasting, artistic merit underneath the superficial veneer of glitz and bling. Look instead for those works which inspire, which speak of life, beauty, spirit, and value.

If you like it, then its good - keep it. If you don't like it, then move on. You get to decide.


DaveG said...

I think with the advent of file sharing and viral marketing enabled by web technologies, the music marketing machine is going to face the same challenges that the printed press is facing. They no longer control the message the way they used to, and they are far more likely to try to entrench and fight from their fortified bunkers than they are to embrace the new way of doing things.

Oh, and the Dixe Chicks? I couldn't care less about their politics; I just wish they'd keep it to themselves.

I've written off any interest in the Oscars for the same reason: it's not about the quality of the product anymore, it's all about how well you've embraced the zeitgeist that calls for constant harping about the President and the war in Iraq, and expressing anti-American sentiment as well. I'm sure that kind of stuff thrills the Hollywood set, but it only serves to depress me.

Barry Pike said...

You are so right, Dave.

jeff said...

No opinion on the new hip Al Gore appearing? I watched about 15 minutes of the show near the end. I saw Al Gore mention the nominees for best rock album. Rock music is in a sad state right now. Not a whole lot of choice. You had Neil Young, Tom Petty, Red Hot chili Peppers and some new band and someone else not real rock-like. What's up with that? Are there no new rock bands? Tom Petty and Neil Young, shouldn't they be dead already?

Barry Pike said...

Happily, I missed the Gorey part of the show.

Actually, the wife and I were watching a movie, "The Illusionist", which wasn't bad. Features Ed Norton, Jessica Biehl, Paul Giamatti, et al.