I have never attended the Grammy Awards, am not a member of the NARAS voting board, and don't (yet) have any kind of product to even submit for Grammy consideration. But I've watched the show over the years as any music-loving spectator would: I look forward to my favorite artists receiving acknowledgement from the Academy for their high level of artistry, songwriting ability, arranging, engineering and production prowess, performance skill, etc. Was the 54th Grammy Awards going to pleasantly surprise or sorely disappoint me?
Over the years, my interest in the Grammy awards had fizzled, as they seemed to be shifting to more of a popularity contest. I'd occasionally watch, but never made plans or adjusted my schedule around it. But last year, when jazz genius Esperanza Spalding was nominated for Artist of the Year (usually a field dominated by pop artists), I had to watch! Of course, as a professional musician, I was hoping she'd win. Her biggest perceived competition, Justin Bieber, is a very talented young man, and I use his story as a means of inspiring my young music students to focus and practice. But Justin and Esperanza are in different worlds. Regardless, I watched and enjoyed the show because of the inclusion of such a brilliant jazz performer. More diversity on the show is better, at least for me and most musicians I know.
This year, I was sick with the flu, so I didn't watch the show as it aired. However, I was excited to find out if Adele (I'm a fan) would win, whether or not there would be some mention of the Grammy Awards eliminating 31 non-pop or country musical categories (including Latin Jazz, Cajun and certain forms of Gospel among others - highly controversial), and how they would honor Whitney Houston - who died the night before.
On Monday, having risen from my flu induced stupor, I watched most of the performances, using my remote to zip past those which didn't capture my interest. Don't get me wrong: I do enjoy Country and Pop music, but Country act after Country act after Pop act after Pop act really got dull for me. No Jazz? No Classical? No World? No Latin? Yawn...
Well, here's my summation:
• Jennifer Hudson's version of Whitney Houston's iconic song "I Will Always Love You" was perfect.
• Adele went ahead and SANG "Rollin' in the Deep". Love her! I hope she has quit smoking! No more beautiful voices lost to that addiction, please!
• Bruno Mars was fun. I like his playful energy and catchy melodies.
• Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt were sweet in their tribute to Etta James (I'm a life long Bonnie fan, so just seeing them perform together made my day).
• Chris Brown? Twice? I too believe in second chances, but it would have been nice if he'd offered some a demonstration of remorse in his award speech (for those who don't know, he admitted to beating up the singer Rihanna in 2009), given it was probably one of his largest audiences since the incident with Rihanna. Something along the lines of:
"I really appreciate being welcomed back to the Grammy Awards, and being given the chance for me to let everyone know that anyone can change - even me. We all know that I behaved in a manner that was reprehensible in the past, and I've paid for my wrongs. I want to be a better example to my young fans. Fellas! (or whatever young guys say nowadays) It's NEVER ok to hit a woman. Thank you to my team, my label, my fans and God. God bless everyone and good night!"
I think that would have captured every news headline in the country, lessened if not prevented the negative social media fallout, and would have taken him a long way towards reconciliation with people who still look at him with disdain when he appears in public. Hopefully someone will coach him about how to respond in a way that not only demonstrates his personal growth but will also promote record sales. Much harder for regular, decent folks to hate on someone who's publicly contrite.
• Nicki Minaj's performance was bizarre, indulgent, derivative, ill-suited for the occasion, and way, way, way, way, way....WAAAAAAYYYYY too long. They could have had a Jazz musician perform in all that extra time they allotted for her acting debut. Oops! Apparently Grammy thinks that no one wants to watch Jazz performers at the, according to the Grammy Awards website, "only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position"! Silly me! Jazz musicians at a music awards show? Balderdash! Better to have a Rapper do an extended skit about a Catholic exorcism!! Um....huh??? Nicki Minaj is such an amazing Rapper. Why did she waste so much time singing, acting and flailing about the stage? I kept waiting for her to really get into her flow. But no, she had to go do more "scenes" for her skit. Sigh...
Those are my thoughts. It would have been awesome if the Grammy producers had decided, instead of yet another Country singer or Pop ingenue or Rapper, to have had a performance like 2008's Herbie Hancock and Lang Lang, or 2011's Esperanza Spalding and Bobby McFerrrin. Oh yeah! They didn't broadcast that either. It was the pre-cast. Shaking my head in dismay...Maybe next year...one can always hope...