The only one who moved me was Eminem. Had it been a competition of white music versus black, then black won, hands down (and I include Em as honorary black). The panorama of white music, pop, rock, country and all hybrids in between, as represented on the Grammy stage, was dire. Worse, hopeless. That Lady Antebellum, with yet another boring, predictable and formulaic ballad, won song and record of the year, is yet another Grammy travesty.
Followed shortly after by Eminem with Rhianna and Dr. Dre in the most vibrant performance of the night, it was very apparent what the best song of the year should have been (“Love the Way You Lie”). I wasn’t an early convert. I heard Eminem when he was just a voice on a demo and, besides my lack of understanding at the time for most rap, I had misgivings about some of the topics in the material. I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of working with an artist who was quickly being labelled a misogynist. But it’s frequently Em’s albums I go back to when I feel the need for some adrenaline in my veins and, 11 years later, Em still has it. The pathos, the lyrics, the fire in the belly – Eminem and Dre on stage were a feat of unforgettable rapping, lyrics rolling, clicking, rhyming – it was great because it was strangely real.
That Gwyneth Paltrow was one of the most fun white singers on stage says it all – and she was singing with Cee Lo Green and a coterie of Muppets Puppets.
Bob Dylan, bless his soul, cannot really claim singing as something he can still do, his voice barely a rasp. Barbra Streisand continues to make music and hats off to her but thrilling is not a term I would associate to watching her sing. Nor Katy Perry, in one of her least successful performances.
And that leaves the Gaga lady. Hard as I try, I cannot get into her. I even have a hard time admiring the inventiveness of her costumes and presentation – like her music, I am probably old enough to find it all oh so derivative. Never a huge fan of Madonna either, I have to admire some of Ms. Ciccone’s ground breaking work. Maybe Lady Gaga hasn’t come to full maturity yet or maybe I am just not much of a “monster”.
Mercifully, we were spared Justin Bieber as new artist of the year, in favour of Esperanza Spalding. It might be that silly ever-present mop that clouds my judgement but, vocals or not, I just cannot get excited about a teenager with a perpetual lost look on his face and will take Mick Jagger’s tiny gyrating hips over Justin’s aimless and choreographed wandering around the stage. I suppose 40 years stomping stages must have taught Mick a trick or two but his Solomon Burke’s tribute, without background dancers, props, pyrotechnics or video images, should have reminded all watching at home and ainside Staples what the thrill of music is all about. And given some of the artists back stage reason to pause.