I attended the show on Sunday, thought many of the performances were great, and I was stunned to see the Grammys did so poorly in the ratings. It’s barely even an awards show any more – it’s about unique performances, and they’ve done some pretty entertaining shows over the past 10-12 years. Granted, the show has stiff competition on Sunday from ABC now, but is there any other reason interest in the show was so low? Did they just do a miserable job of promoting it?
Did anyone else see the show? How did the performances come across on TV?
The Grammys are far and away the least accessible major awards ceremony in entertainment. Who gets to vote? Why do the people who win, win? On what criteria? It certainly isn’t popularity. You might be tempted to say it’s a matter of technical or artistic skill that may or may not operate independent of popularity - the Grammy folks certainly want you to think so. Coldplay cleaned up a few years ago. What the fuck is so great about Coldplay? Nothing. No other award show on TV makes you go “WTF?” more than the Grammys.
It’s simply becoming painfully obvious that the Grammy selection committe operates on the most superficial and arbitrary of criteria. To win a Grammy, you must be either super-new or, more likely, as old as the fuckin’ hills. Everyone’s heard of the Jethro Tull/Metallica debacle. And, oh wow, Ray Charles cleaned up this past one. Hmmm, wonder why? And Prince. Fucking Prince?
The Grammys have become like those internet Geek Test sites that only determine if you’re the kind of geek the guys who made up the test are. Except, nobody’s the type of geek the Grammys geeks are.
The unique performances, evidently, are simply not enough to buoy it as a ratings draw.
America has drunk from the toilet bowl of celebrity so much by the time that the Grammys come around that we’re already full. Seriously, with channels like E! or shows like Access Hollywood you don’t need to watch this or any other award show to get your celebrity fix like you used to.
So that’s a major draw gone right there. Bill explained pretty well why a lot of people don’t care about the actual awards. The only thing left is the musical performances, which isn’t that huge a draw.
Perhaps it could be something to do with the fact that the Grammys are about giving awards to the biggest and best representatives of a music industry that rewards homogeny over originality and looks over talent? Nah…
This is kinda my point. Why aren’t the performances a bigger draw?
The Grammy telecast has little to do with the actual awards these days, and it’s been that way for years. It’s a full-blown all-star concert. This year they piled 24 performances into 3.5 hours, and a lot of them were flat-out awesome. In fact, every year you can pretty much count on 2 or 3 showstopping performances. I guess I’m just puzzled that people don’t seem to get more excited about it than, say, the Oscars, which has far fewer performances and focuses more on clips, awards and speeches.
Do the performances just not translate that well to TV? Or maybe do they hurt themselves by covering every genre of music, making sure that, at some point, just about everyone is watching some artist they’ve never heard of or don’t like? :)
There were some terrific performances. Green Day was fanfuckingtastic. Their win for “Best Rock Album” wasn’t just one of the most well-deserved Grammys in a long time, but was also one of the first time the Academy actually got a rock award right.
Melissa Ethridge and Joss Stone did a killer duet of “Piece of My Heart” for Janis Joplin’s lifetime award.
Kanye West’s thing with Mavis Staples and the Blind Boys Of Alabama worked well too.
Finally, Usher was nifty, but better yet was having James Brown step out on the stage with him. Great moment. JB still has the mooves.
I’m probably forgetting a few, but here’s a wrapup of the performances I remember, with some comments:
We were at the entrance to the Staples Center at 4:30PM (show started at 5PM PST), but due to some retarded line management (they had us merging with the celeb line, which had us standing still for 10 minutes at a time), we missed the opening number(s) with Black Eyed Peas / Gwen & Eve / Los Lonely Boys / Maroon 5 / Franz Ferdinand. I was pretty bummed – last year’s opening number with Prince and Beyonce was great, and it seemed like they were trying to top it. I have no idea if they succeeded. :(
I don’t like Alicia Keys, and I think she’s in line for a Mariah Carey-esque meltdown within 5 years, but she poured her heart into her performance of “If I Ain’t Got You” like she was pleading for a place in history. It was an outstanding performance of a great song. Jamie Foxx did a pretty good job dueting with Keys on the next song (“Georgia On My Mind”) as well.
Some people might have been confused by U2’s choice of song – the slower-paced “Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own” – but it’s my favorite cut off the new album, and they did it well, so I was happy.
The Lynryd Skynryd tribute, with the surviving members along with Gretchen Wilson / Tim McGraw / Keith Urban / Dickie Betts, was kinda cool. The pounded through Skynryd’s hits like pros. Interestingly, while a lot of awards shows make bands truncate their numbers, this year’s grammys seemed to let the bands take their time; in this case, they probably could have trimmed things a bit.
the J Lo / Marc Antony set piece was an interesting concept, and I was actually looking forward to it, because Antony had already delivered a great performance at the Grammys a few years ago. They sang fine, but it didn’t go over well. It was like watching a Spanish soap opera – right down to the same blank feeling you get when you watch a TV show in another language.
In the arena, the Etheridge / Stone number was the showstopper of the night. I think people were a little confused by the shaved head (I didn’t realize she was fighting cancer), but Etheridge sang the crap out of that song. It was the biggest ovation of the night.
Green Day’s performance of “American Idiot” got kind of a “meh” reaction from the crowd. I thought it was fine, but I think the people who weren’t familiar with it just heard a vanilla punk song when they really wanted “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” instead.
The Kanye West and Usher numbers were solid, but it was much cooler having James Brown on the stage with Usher for Sex Machine. Interestingly, the guy sitting next to me had a son nominated for a few Grammys for songwriting on Usher’s album, but got shut out during the show. He wasn’t happy.
the all-star rendition of “Across the Universe”, with Bono, Stevie Wonder, Steven Tyler, Alicia Keys, Billie Joe from Green Day, Brian Wilson (!), and Velvet Revolver as the backing band, meant to generate charity for tsunami relief (available for sale within minutes on iTunes), didn’t turn out that well. The biggest problem was bad mixing, one of the rare times that happened all night. It was a cool idea, tho – I’d like to hear a studio version, although who knows if that could actually happen.
Tim McGraw singing “Live Like You Were Dying”: fine performance, but did nothing for me. I know there’a a backstory about his dad’s death, but the song is still too cheesy for me.
John Mayer singing a stripped-down “Daughters” – it’s a sweet song, and he did it well, but I have no idea how it got nominated – let alone won – Song of the Year (the songwriters’ award). People who complain about the awards being hard to figure out … notice that you aren’t hearing any arguments from me on that front. :)
Finally: What happened to Queen Latifah? She came out, introduced a few awards, did a jazz number, and then went MIA for the last two hours of the show. I miss the days when Ellen DeGeneres and Rosie O’Donnell would host the show and crack jokes during commercials; the show could really benefit from a strong host.
I loved the Grammies this year, but it’s also the first time I’ve watched in long while. It seemed that this year, the musical forces of nature actually coincided with my own tastes (Green Day, U2, Jack White/Loretta Lynn) enough so that I’d tune-in. (which, of cource, means that no one else cared) From this I learned some valuable lessons:
Alicia Keys is both HOT, and has an amazing voice. I’d still never buy one of her records, but she deserves all the credit she gets.
Gwen Stefani has become Madonna from the 80’s, but without the baggage. I still would not buy her records.
Country Music these days is TERRIBLE. Simply terrible. Loretta Lynn winning (and her family winning a Life Time Achievement award) was perfect
I think that’s part of the problem. If you’re watching it on TV, it’s like watching a series of short concerts – half of which you don’t care about at all – over an almost 4 hour period. I mean, seriously, who the hell is going to watch 3.5 hours anyway?
Its actually a lot cooler to see it on The Grammys than anywhere else (like watching a music video or listening to the artist on the radio). For example, I pretty much hate Alicia Keys’ music, but her performance was amazing. I was stunned, really, that I could enjoy a performance from an artist I disliked.