Monday, February 09, 2004

Some random thoughts on the Grammys, both the awards themselves and telecast:

Funk ruled the night, starting with Prince's medley that reestablished his preeminence as both songwriter and performer, aided by Beyonce making like Tina Turner. The mid-evening funk jam showed off older and newer generations of funksters, even if Robert Randolph and the Family band's music sounds like it predates Earth, Wind & Fire's or George Clinton's. While most of the musical pairings looked designed to just showcase musicians from less mass media-friendly genres (Foo Fighters and Chick Corea - why?) the inspired teaming of Andre 3000 with a marching band meant that the bassline for "Hey Ya!" was played on sousaphone.

Samuel L. Jackson was also the only non-musician who justified his inclusion as a presenter. As with his appearance on other award shows, he is one of the few actors who clearly memorizes his speeches and imbues them with feeling. Based on his joining in the P-Funk jam, this wasn't just acting; he was clearly excited to be part of the music. He may have a new movie coming out, but he was the only actor who didn't look like he was just there to plug his latest project.

Why don't they create a category Best Late-Career Album by an Artist We Ignored in Their Creative and/or Commercial Heyday so that they can clear out dreck like the Eagles and leave room for artists who are currently doing quality work in the "real" categories.

The Beatles tribute was like last year's to Joe Strummer: musicians chosen because there were there already as nominees, not for any musical connection to the honoree. About all Dave Matthews has in common with the Beatles is that he probably smokes pot. About all Sting has in common with the Beatles is that, like Paul McCartney, he did his best work in a band with creative tension, and his solo work has been boring in comparison. Fortunately, the Warren Zevon tribute was done by people who worked with him and admired his music throughout his career.

And I'm disappointed that Fountains of Wayne was shut out, but perhaps they are destined to be forever on the verge of superstardom.

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