Five Things I Think About The Grammys
February 17, 2016
1. I think I’ve never heard the term “throwing shade” used more often than I have in the past week or so. And even when “throwing shade” while accepting the Album of the Year award – simultaneously tossing in a dash of perfectly-placed humblebrag, for added context (“as the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice”) – Taylor Swift never fails to say the right things at the right time, doing so with finesse, eloquence, and class. Neither she, nor anybody else, needed to mention the individual-not-worth-mentioning who was the obvious target. We all got the message. An empowering, encouraging message delivered with a velvet hammer and perfectly articulated. How much clearer can the difference between she and you-know-who be? One of them is a role model and a towering symbol of strength for young women – the other is inexplicably $53 million in debt, reduced to pleading for financial relief on Twitter. In spite of evolving into Pop music full time – and doing so in spectacular fashion – Taylor has strategically and sincerely maintained her popularity base here in Country among both fans and radio/industry members. We all pull for her, because she still represents a value system we connect with. I still believe she’ll come back to Country at some point and will make an album that will be just as special for this format as “1989” has been for Pop. Whatever her message then, it’ll be well worth the wait, and perfectly delivered.
2. I think Country was actually very well represented this year, and deservedly so. Hey, there were 19 live performances on the Grammys; four of them featured Country artists – with two of those precious slots being Country-centric – from Grammy-nominated artists and songs. Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt looked great together, and somehow the mashup of “Take Your Time” and “Heartbeat” worked. It at least answered the $64,000 question about “Heartbeat.” The credits say Sam Hunt is on it, but where? Now we know. Also, I think as many times as Little Big Town has performed “Girl Crush” on TV in the past year, they continue to keep the song fresh. (Hello! Strings!?) I wouldn’t say Lionel Richie music is exactly in Luke Bryan’s wheelhouse, but he pulled it off during the Richie tribute; the guy has bigtime star power. If we’re being honest here, the segment needed him, more than he needed it. I also think that when you put Chris Stapleton on a television show – ANY television show – let the man sing his own song, and let it be whatever the hell song he wants to do. Sure, he did great in the BB King tribute, and as he sang “The Thrill Is Gone,” my first thought was, “No it’s not. It’s right there on my TV. The Thrill is alive and well, singing his ass off on national TV.” What I think is impressive about Stapleton’s many television performances since the big night at the CMAs is how diverse his song selection has been. He hasn’t focused on the single; he’s given us a taste of other songs from “Traveller,” too. I love that. Also, that SNL gig? We heard he was really sick and getting onstage to perform was literally a game time decision. And yet he knocked it out of the yard. And so, Grammys, yes, include Chris Stapleton but give the man – a double Grammy winner Monday night (2/15) – his own slot, featuring his own song. I can guaran-damn-tee it will be more impressive than the hot mess we saw from the Hollywood Vampires. Frankly, I’d have preferred a rerun of Hollywood Squares.
3. But I also think, if you’re going to feature Country artists singing, please show them winning more Grammys, too. I saw Chris Stapleton and producer Dave Cobb pick up the trophy for “Traveller” with the Best Album win – Love that. But I didn’t see Chris up there for Best Country Solo Performance, Little Big Town’s Best Country Duo/Group Performance win with “Girl Crush,” or Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, on TV for penning the Best Country Song – also “Girl Crush.” I know it’s a time crunch, but I also know of the 83 total Grammys awarded this year, just eight were done so on TV. With 19 live performances, something’s gotta give. How about make it 18 live slots, lose the Hollywood Vampires and add one more award for Country – along with Top 40, the biggest music format in America?
4. I think Lady Gaga’s Davie Bowie tribute felt like it was more for her than for Bowie or his music. Gaga, I loved you doing the Anthem at the Super Bowl. You did America proud, and yes, you’ve proven you can sing based on your Tony Bennet collaborations. I had my doubts when you wore nothing but sirloin to an awards show a few years back, but you turned me around recently. Your frenetic Bowie tribute featured too many songs (10), and not enough of each (like, half a verse?) And I know you love dressing up in costume (because: Meat), but that outfit seemed like a mashup of Bowie, Elvis, Freddie Mercury, and even Scott Weiland of STP, to some degree. We all know you tried to pay tribute to the many ch-ch-changes in Bowie’s music and style – but here’s one from the suggestion box: with the time allotted, pick three songs and stick the landing on them. And while we’re on the less-is-more topic, don’t dress like Bowie, because nobody but Bowie could. Instead, show images of him and his many iterations behind you while you sing your ass off.
5. On a related and final note, I think I loved how the Eagles played ONE song all the way through in paying tribute to Glenn Frey, and I love that original Eagle Bernie Leadon was part of that. I think I wish Don Felder was, too, but I realize that may have been the one thing that could make Frey roll over in his grave. (Too soon?) Jackson Browne may or may not have messed up the lyrics (to a song HE wrote), but hearing those guys play “Take It Easy” was still one of the best “Grammy Moments” – as the Grammys like to say – of the evening. Although, in Billboard’s ranking of Grammy performances (the Eagles was rated 15th), somebody was obviously vying for the Out-Of-Touch Knucklehead Of The Year award suggesting, “Perhaps the addition of a younger performer (or choosing a less obvious song) would have shaken things up.” @#$%! Well congrats, Billboard, you’re the K.O.Y. (Knucklehead of the Year) clubhouse leader and unlikely to be unseated, even though it’s only February. Thank you for that “I coulda had a V-8” moment! I mean, how stupid of the Eagles, when paying tribute to founding member Glenn Frey to play “Take It Easy,” since it was, is, and always will be a signature song for the band – a statement for both those coming off the late sixties and coming of age in the early 70s, and still iconic after 40-plus years. You’re so right! Maybe the band should have played something less obvious – let’s go with, say, Hmm … “Good Day In Hell” (side two, cut four from “On the Border,” FYI), instead. And come to think of it, maybe the Grammys should have insisted the guys from Tame Impala get up there too – to, you know – how did you put it again? “Shake things up?” Um, hello, McFly … err … I mean, Billboard. How about this instead: How about none of the above? How about shut up? The Grammys already have a collaboration issue, trying desperately to pair artists together for the sake of time and star power. What the Eagles did was perfect, and part of the solution, not the problem.