I don't usually watch the Grammys. I never have. I think I tuned in once, got assaulted by alternating rap and country extravaganzas and decided I was better off listening to music I already knew and liked. Music didn't seem to improve by being placed in a metaphoric blender with every other genre. Plus there seemed to be about five million awards: Best Live Performance By a Jazz Band With Three Bass Players, Best Record Released in the Spring By a Single Artist Whose Birthday is in October, Best Pop Duet With a Cow, Best Triple-Platinum Roots Record By a Man With a Son Named Wayne. The categories were endless.
But this year, in keeping with my sole New Year's resolution—to pay more attention to the news—I figured the Grammys counted as news and I should tune in. If you're wondering about that New Year's resolution, I've had too many nights out with my friends during which they all start in on some topic: the depth of the Giants' pitching bench, the murder one town over, or the hearing on Capital Hill, during which I nod and make facial movements of concern or outrage, whatever seems to be appropriate for the words coming out of my friends' mouths. Then I go home and stick my nose in another book and continue my life uninformed about contemporary happenings.
Determined to be well informed, I tuned in. Imagine my surprise to find that last night's Grammys show was (mostly) one beautifully produced performance after another by the biggest current stars in music. There were a few exceptions, including the pretty but underwhelming Taylor Swift. And most of the awards, like Best Recording Package and Best New Age Album, were given off the air. Thank yous were short and fun, unlike the unfurled lists of agents, make-up artists, sound crews and grandpas named Buster that the Oscar winners always seem to have. It felt like t\here were only about ten awards total presented on air and the rest of the 3 1/2 hours were given up to music. Bravo.
What did I learn, e.g. did the Grammys count as news? Well, of course the awards themselves are news. The nominees are pretty much by definition well known to a big part of the world, but I was starting at zero with a lot of these musicians. I'd never heard Rihanna sing. Nice voice. Frank Ocean, ditto. He sang his odd and touching song, "Forrest Gump." At least one act I'd never heard of: The Lumineers, who performed their catchy Ho Hey. I may have to buy that cd. http://thelumineers.com/
Fun performed their rousing song "Carry On” while a mini rainstorm poured on the band and the stage. The mother in me worried they would get electrocuted but they survived, wetter but probably cooler. Toward the end of the show there was the mandatory nod-to-artists-who-passed-away-since-last-year's-show, which concluded with an excellent tribute to The Band's Levon Helm, featuring Mavis Staples, Mumford and Sons, T Bone Burnett, Elton John and others doing a rendition of "The Weight." Well done.
So, go ahead, ask me anything—about the Grammys. I'm on it. The sequester? I need a few days to get up to speed on that.