Sunday night marked the first time I’ve actually watched the Grammy Awards telecast in years … years, I tell you. Why have I stayed away from this annual orgy of self-congratulation? Because very little of the music that meant anything to me in a given year is recognized. And the music that is recognized is, to be kind, underwhelming to these ears.
I know, I know … I’m in the minority here—repetitive, unoriginal pop music is all the rage and that’s what sells these days, and this grumpy old guy should just shut up.
Fair enough. I will … once I’ve vented about the top ten things I hated most about the 2014 telecast. For the most part, I’m skipping my views of the music that was awarded, because—let’s face it—I outright hated most of it. Let’s just look (in no particular order) at what just overall sucked about it.
Too Much Beyonce and Jay-Z
I realize this show is live TV, and the directors are deciding who in the audience to put on-camera on the spot. But did we have to see the reactions of Beyonce and her husband at what seemed like every moment of the show? Every speech, every song, every award announcement, and they’d zoom right in on the couple, who apparently are the royalty of the music industry judging by all of the focus.
No offense to ‘Mr. and Mrs. Knowles,’ but—hell, Yoko was there for the semi-Beatles reunion (more on that next). Couldn’t she have gotten some camera time too? (Actually Yoko got too much camera time too).
Underwhelming Beatles ‘Reunion’
We’ve heard in recent weeks that the Grammys show was going to feature a reunion of the ‘Twotles’—the surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. (Yay, one for us seniors!)
And reunite they did … sorta. What we actually got was “Queenie Eye,” a little-known song from Paul’s recent (and good) solo CD, New performed by Paul and his band with special guest Ringo thumping along on the drooms.
Fair enough, but as an historical reunion, it was quite underwhelming. There will be a Beatles reunion of sorts—but that won’t come until February, when CBS (who conveniently ran an ad telling us so) broadcasts a salute to the Fab Four’s American TV debut on the Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago.
What the %$#& Was Up with that Metallica Mash-Up?
In recent years, the Grammys have filled the awards shows with collaborations—of young and old artists, or between artists from different genres. Some were pretty good—the country/blues guitar duel between country Aussie Keith Urban and blues man Gary Clark, Jr. was pretty hot, and Sara Barielles and Carole King did a nice dueling piano thing.
But by far the most bizarre pairing of the night had to be Metallica with classical pianist Lang Lang. There was Lang, decked out in a tux—undoubtedly a gifted player—banging some complex bits on the 88s (and was that a bit of “Rhapsody in Blue” I heard?) as an intro to Metallica’s dark, crowd un-pleaser “One.” Their guitars sounded out of tune, and the band seemed to be not too into it. The sound quality was poor, as it was for much of the live music during the broadcast. All in all, a big bummer.
Music Legends and … Robots?
Another live music segment that was pretty cool was the live rendition of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers (who were both on the original record) along with Stevie Wonder. That was cooking along just fine … but when the actual Daft Punk guys appeared onstage, in their full robot costumes, seemingly “mixing” but actually just pushing a few buttons (the most their gloved hands could manage, I’d figure), well, the whole thing took a turn for the ridiculous.
I get that the Daft Punk duo has been in the music biz for 20 years and they’re producers and electronic manipulators of the music—and that they’re apparently really, really big—but the whole thing seemed silly once that gimmick kicked in.
Two Acts Won Everything
Is it too much of an exaggeration to say that Lorde (the 17-year old New Zealand girl who had a big hit in 2013 with “Royals”) and Daft Punk seemed to win everything? She went up to that podium many times (and thankfully, kept her speeches short and smart) while the ‘Robots’ also carted home more than a few awards, although they let their collaborators speak for them.
That’s too bad; I would have enjoyed hearing them try to speak through their helmets and sound like a guy in a Gamorrean Guard mask from “Star Wars” at a comic con (with French accents).
Lip-Synching Like Crazy
To the show’s credit, most of the music at the Grammys was live—for better or worse (see Metallica above)—but there was still a great deal of lip-synching, primarily from today’s top pop stars. It’s common knowledge that many a pop diva (Britney Spears? Ashley Simpson? Etc.?) has lip-synched in their live concerts, possibly due to their complex choreography or the fact that they just can’t cut it as a live singer.
But the 2014 featured Katy Perry doing this crazy, huge production number entitled “Dark Horse” with an enormous set and staging that included dancers and effects and everything except Katy singing. Yep, that was a tape, folks.
Ditto Pink when she did her circus acrobatics bit above the crowd as she ‘sang’ her song “Try.” Good number, and nice acrobatics, but it sure sounded like that was a studio recording of her voice—it wasn’t live, it was Memorex. Pink’s very talented and certainly can sing, but this seemed canned to me.
Omigod! They Killed Chicago! You Bastards!
Another ill-conceived collaboration occurred when the band Chicago teamed with Robin Thicke for a medley that included snippets of the band’s classic hits along with Thicke’s heard-it-everywhere-last-summer megahit “Blurred Lines.”
Good idea, but Thicke was obnoxious in his oversinging on the Chicago tunes. Did we need his vocal calisthenics on every note? The guy’s got a voice, OK, but that was overkill. Sing the damn melody, please—respect the classics!
Bleep! Bleep! Bleep!
You would think with a show of this magnitude, CBS and the Grammy people who map out every conceivable second as much as possible. But apparently the producers had no idea what the artists were going to perform—how else to explain the rampant—and at times random—bleeping during numbers from Macklemore or the royal couple (Beyonce and Jay Z)? Some curses got through. Was this such a surprise to seemingly everyone who worked on the show? Don’t they do rehearsals?
Awkward Celebrities Who Can’t Speak
Actually, this one could also qualify for a list of things that were awesome about the Grammys, since the incoherent gibberish that Ozzy Osbourne spouted in a talk-up for the Beatles, as well as the on-camera intro by Cyndi Lauper (who looks like a Kabuki doll these days and apparently went to the Michael Bay school of teleprompter reading) were simultaneously pretty entertaining and highly embarrassing.
They Cut Off that Cool Supergroup at the End
Hey, awesome! A grouping of Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham? That’s my kind of collaboration. And it was going well … until CBS saw fit to cut it off before they were done, mid-song. Why? To promote CBS shows and an airline.
Way to respect the music, dumbasses! Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor said it best when he Tweeted “Music’s biggest night… to be disrespected. A heartfelt F*CK YOU guys.”