Thursday, February 16, 2006

Junos join race to bottom

We just survived the Grammys. Now, what to make of the upcoming Juno Awards, Canada's answer to the America's Grammy Awards.

I'm not going to reflect on every category. I don't have time, and I truthfully don't know all the artists well enough. But in the International Album Of The Year category, they have two albums that are a joke. Gwen Stefani's "Love.Angel.Music.Baby" and Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway" are up for consideration. Artistry is obviously not the issue. I agree that female artists should be in the category; what about Aimee Mann's "The Forgotten Arm" or the Magic Numbers' self-titled debut - both released last year.

And I'm not sure, but why wasn't Neil Young (a native of Canada) nominated for "Prairie Wind" in that category. A wonderful album, at least it earned Young nominations in Best Songwriter and Adult Alternative Album categories where the winners will be announced on April 2.

However, credit our friends up north for nominated the LIVE 8 show from Toronto that featured a range of artists including Young, Bruce Cockburn and Tom Cochrane in the Music DVD of the Year field. Nice going.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Grammys: the good, the bad & the ugly

In the big scheme of things, I guess it doesn’t really matter.
The 48th annual Grammy Awards were staged at Staples Center in Los Angeles last night, and there was that anticipated mix of well-deserved prizes and ones that just left me shaking my head in disgust.
I tend to be negative when discussing the Grammys, so let me start out being positive. U2 was awarded “Album of the Year” for its great release “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.”
In fact, much is being made today about U2 upstaging Mariah Carey because the Irish quartet took home a total of five Grammys – winning in all of its nominated categories. Hello! I’m sure most of the readers of this column agree U2 crafts epic, lasting songs that will be listened to decades from now. Mariah Carey? Are you kidding?
Her over-the-top performance left me reaching for the mute button on my remote!
But her performance outdistanced the peculiar return by Sly Stone. I know Sly is a funk icon and all that, but it wasn’t just the clownish white Mohawk extending high above his head; he looked like he couldn’t hit the right note on his keyboard if his life depended on it. It’s not surprising he hasn’t made a public performance that anyone knows about in forever. Pathetic.
It was great to see a few of the performances: U2 tearing through “Vertigo” (how sad that the duet with Mary J. Blige ruined “One”), McCartney and his band conquering “Fine Line” and trying to wake up the comatose crowd with boisterous “Helter Skelter.” I thought Bruce Springsteen appeared to be trying too hard (maybe because he was focusing on how he could get his anti-war quip in, “Bring them home” under the tape-delay censors), but “Devils and Dust” is an excellent song not heard enough by the industry-centric crowd that filled the L.A. arena on Wednesday night. And don’t forget about Coldplay, who delivered the band’s great “Talk.”
And I have to admit to enjoying the way Stevie Wonder and co-presenter Alicia Keys got the crowd singing along with an a cappella version of “Higher Ground,” much better than Madonna’s been-there-done-that dance-minded performance with poorly-animated apes Gorillaz. Bore-ing.
Perhaps the most interesting performance was the fusion of rockers Linkin Park, rapper Jay-Z and McCartney joining forces to perform “Yesterday.” It was every bit the success that the U2-Blige pairing was not.
Am I the only one who doesn’t get John Legend? Technically the guy can hit the right notes when he is singing and on his keyboard; but his voice lacks the distinctive beauty of a Wonder or even Maroon 5’s lead singer. It’s amazing he bested British rock trio Keane for Best New Artist. Hype often rules the day.
And did you know the much-deserving Aimee Mann won a Grammy? Well, sort of. Actually, she won a Grammy for the Best Recording Package. And her amazing music? Not even nominated.
That is a good place to note that the disposable Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” (coming soon to a used bin near you) won over McCartney’s “Chaos and Creation in the Backyard” in the Best Pop Vocal Album race. Sad.
Perhaps the most ironic note was how comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out to introduce Paul McCartney, noting “Our next performer needs no introduction” before she left the stage.
Ironically, looking at the industry crowd and deciphering how McCartney, as well as Neil Young, failed to pick up a single Grammy, it’s easy to see a time when great artists will need introductions. Kelly Clarkson winning multiple Grammys and the aforementioned seminal artists none?
Some things never change.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Grammys Eve

Tomorrow the Grammy Awards arrive. It's interesting to see where the focus is today on the eve of the event. I just read an article by Associated Press Music Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody, with the focus of that piece on Mariah Carey and how timely her comeback is as the Wednesday night, Feb. 8th awards night approaches.

Does anyone really think this so-called diva's music will be remembered beyond the hype of today? I could be wrong, of course, but listening to her over-the-top bombast and emotionally-chilled vocals, I can't help but think "who cares?" Is it just me? And she is in fine company this year, with Gwen Stefani nominated for something or another related to her forgettable solo debut "Love. Angel. Music. Baby."

U2's "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" and Paul McCartney's "Chaos and Creation in the Backyard" are also nominated and deserve to be; now those are wonderful albums full of emotional depth and musical craft that showcase why pop music can still weave magic decades after it was born. Yet, McCartney has never won a Grammy for best album. He has won Grammys, dating back to his epic work with the Beatles. But it's amazing to think that Stefani and Carey might rob an artist of McCartney's standing from earning that prize.

But don't be surprised. It's the Grammys and that often means music comes last...