Monday, February 9, 2015

Old Guy watches the Grammys

Good Monday morning from central Kentucky, where it's raining here.  Suppose it would be worse if it were snow....

It's award season, you know, and since we're all in the mood to recognize people for their creative accomplishments during this time of year, the Recording Academy gave out the majority of its annual awards last night, and my wife and I decided to tune in.

A recent phenomenon has been the sometimes unexpectedly delightful but often unnecessary pairing of a "traditional" artist with a contemporary one.  Such was the case last night, wherein Paul McCartney performed with Rihanna and Kanye West, and Tom Jones sang "You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling" with Jessie J.  The latter pairing was interesting, but that's a difficult song for a man/woman duet anyway, although Jones was in fine voice.  The ads promising some of these pairings were enough to intrigue us into watching.

The performer I was most interested to see with a younger counterpart was Jeff Lynne, the mastermind/singer/songwriter/guitarist of the Electric Light Orchestra, or ELO, as they're more commonly titled.  Lynne was paired with the contemporary singer Ed Sheeran, whom I feel is enormously talented.  He proved that in a solo performance accompanied by an odd mishmash of performers ranging from Herbie Hancock on keyboards to John Mayer (playing guitar rather elegantly, but only singing backup) and the Roots' drummer Questlove.  Sheeran then joined Lynne and ELO for a nice rendition of the uptempo "Mr. Blue Sky."  I had read recently that Lynne had reformed ELO (there's some sort of splinter group of former members who are performing as ELO II and not doing the brand any favors, by all accounts) and will soon release a new recording and tour.  I recall having noted in this space some months ago that he had redone many of ELO's traditional hits in a more-or-less solo recording, and had also released an solo album of old songs.  Still one of the great voices around, and he still sounds great.

Now I have to turn into Old Guy for a minute....I'm sorry that I'm woefully out of touch as regards most pop music, although I know who some of these folks are from seeing them on the Today Show or some such.  But who is Beck?  He looks like the president of the high school chess club, and his album won for best album and best rock album, I believe. Yet he performed a song with Chris Martin of Coldplay that was subdued and pleasant, but not what I would define as "rock."

And why does Kanye West persist in implying that Beyonce should win, you know, everything?  This happened years ago at the MTV Video Music Awards, where he took the microphone from a then-teenaged Taylor Swift to proclaim that Beyonce had been robbed.  And while West feigned interrupting Beck in accepting the best album award last night, he apparently went off in a backstage media gathering about how the Grammys don't respect artists and how they were all tired of it.  But I'm sure he and most other artists would agree that, win or lose, the exposure gained from these awards shows benefits winners and nominees who did not win.  So something tells me that we'll see him (and his reality TV star wife) in future such settings.

I'll just add that I didn't understand the song by someone named Sia that was transformed into performance art, featuring comic actress Kristen Wiig.  And if anyone tries to tell me how great Madonna sounded last night, I'll respond with a count of the number of singers onstage with her.

Did I learn anything I didn't know?  Well, I had never heard multiple winner Sam Smith sing in a live setting, and he's also pretty good (I told my wife I wanted to pair him up with Adele to see what they could come up with singing together).  I also now know that most of the members of AC/DC are still alive and kicking, and that Angus Young is still wearing that smart schoolboy outfit he was sporting when I was in college.  And that Sir Paul McCartney's hair is longer than his current wife's.

Next year, maybe I'll know who more of the nominees are.  Or not.

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