First off, please don’t get irate about that headline—there were many, many things that didn’t suck about the Feb. 9th Grammys Salute The Beatles special commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Fab Four’s debut on U.S. television.
For one thing, I think it was just great that there was a special saluting The Beatles. My all-time favorite band was so influential that, in my opinion, every band working today should bow down in reverence to them. They changed everything—not just music, but also clothes, hair, attitudes—everything. In under a decade they created a catalog of peerless music that no band has ever surpassed—and none ever will. They wrote many of the greatest songs of all time. Why shouldn’t The Beatles be recognized with a prime-time special?
Like I said, there were many things to like about it. The show was, from what I could tell, all live. The bands were playing, the singers were singing. No stupid lip-syncing (which I—rather controversially, it seems—delved into in last week’s round-up of 10 things that sucked about the Grammys). There were real musicians on the stage! Playing some of the best music ever! And we even got the two surviving Beatles, on stage, together, playing Beatles songs. Not the reunion we all hoped for (which will never happen, sadly) but it was something.
Still, there were some things I found rather flawed in the broadcast. Here they are, in no particular order:
Katy Perry Destroying (Not in a Good Way) “Yesterday”
Oy. Really? Did we need America’s favorite pop tart singing a totally irredeemable version of one of the greatest standards ever written? She saw fit to do a gender rewrite of the lyrics (“Why … he … had to go,” etc.) and sang it OK, I guess. But is the creator of “Firework” worthy of this music? I think not.
Alicia Keys: Over-singing Meets Attitude
Alicia Keys and John Legend did the dual-piano thing on a version of “Let It Be” that received a standing ovation. I thought Legend did a nice job … as did Keys, but was I the only one who was irritated by her over-singing? When she went into her vocal acrobatics, stretching out a single syllable into what seemed like 10, she wasn’t singing the song—she was showing off. As I wrote about Robin Thicke when he massacred Chicago songs during the Grammys broadcast a week earlier, it became more about “Look at me! Listen to what I can do-oo-oo-oo-oo-wo-wo-wo-oh-oh-oh” than “Listen to the great song I’m singing.” I’d prefer more of the latter and less American Idol-isms, thank you.
Furthermore, Keys’ self-righteous intro was troublesome: “We stand in the shadows of timeless and monumental artists like The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin, who forever changed what pop music could say and what it could mean.”
OK, true enough. I hold all of those artists in high regard and respect their influence and talent. But this was a show about the G-damn Beatles! It felt like she was insulting them by implying that others on her list should be recognized as well, at that moment.
Legend, on the other hand, took the high road with his intro: “It’s a song that’s comforted generations with its beauty and its message.” And he sang the song—with style, sure, but without making it all about him. Kudos, Mr. Legend.
Is Tom Hanks a Beatle Now?
Like at the Grammys broadcast a week prior, the audience for this Grammys production was filled with Hollywood stars. That’s fine … but isn’t this a music show? Hard to tell, with plenty of Hollywood types all over this peace—Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges, Sean Penn (more on him later), and, getting plenty of camera time, Tom Hanks and his wife, Mrs. Tom Hanks. (The fact that they were sitting with Olivia Harrison, George’s widow, probably helped, because all Beatles family got lots of camera focus, and rightfully so.) But it seemed like Hanks was a Beatle, because the cameramen certainly got plenty of reaction shots of him throughout the evening. Apparently we all want to see Tom Hanks’ every reaction to Beatles music.
Incoherent Sean Penn
Speaking of Sean Penn, what was up with that horrid, mumbling intro to the night’s biggest moment—the Paul McCartney mini-set that led up to semi-Beatles reunion of Paul and Ringo? Penn—one of our finest actors, who should know how to read off a Teleprompter—was virtually incoherent as he struggled to get through the lines. Was he substance-enhanced? Who knows or cares? But show a little respect, Mr. Oscar Winner!
Bizarre Yoko Dancing
Maybe this was a highlight of the evening? As the camera crew, understandably, put a lot of focus on the Beatles members and families (when they weren’t zooming in on Tom Hanks, that is), we got a whole lotta Yoko on Sunday night. And Yoko—who has never passed up an opportunity to put herself out there—took full advantage of the camera time with some of the most bizarre dancing ever seen on American television. Her wild gesticulations were as much a Yoko performance art statement as they were a glimpse of someone enjoying the music. At least she didn’t sing, and she appeared to be having a good time, unlike her son …
Bored Sean Lennon Faces
Sean Lennon, son of John and Yoko, was there, and he didn’t look happy. While Yoko visibly embraced the celebratory nature of the event, Sean (who’s currently emulating his dad’s “Imagine”-period quasi-Hassidic fashion style) looked, at times, supremely bored and at other times, downright pissed off. Maybe Jr. was peeved because the show featured George’s son Dhani in a very fine version of his dad’s classic, “Something,” yet Sean was not invited to perform? Or maybe he was just too cool for the room?
Do These Folks Have to be on Every Show?
Apparently it’s a rule that every music-related show must feature Dave Grohl, Keith Urban, the dreaded Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, Brad Paisley, Adam Levine, John Mayer etc. etc. etc. And plenty of Dave Grohl. Lots and lots of Dave Grohl. I like Foo Fighters and all that, but it’s enough with the Dave Grohl already!
Unnecessary David Letterman Interview Bits
I get it—the point of the show was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Ed Sullivan appearance, which took place at the theatre that now houses the David Letterman show (aired, not coincidentally, on CBS). And it was fine to have some footage of Paul and Ringo touring the old facility. But was Letterman the right guy to do the interview? I enjoy Letterman’s show, but he seemed awkward and forced, and I didn’t get a sense he knew much about the band or its history. A little of that would have gone a long way.
What was Up with that Schmatta Annie Lennox was Wearing?
Seriously, that thing the Eurhythmics vocalist had on looked like a giant lampshade.
No John and George
While the “historic” set featuring Paul and Ringo onstage at the end, got plenty of hype—and deservedly so—it can’t be called a true “reunion.” The Beatles were four guys—John, Paul, George and Ringo. Two of them are, tragically, no longer with us—and that truly, deeply sucks.