Where do I start? I guess I will start with the performances.There were three performances that
knocked me on my feet last night, in this order Kendrick Lamar, Bonnie Raitt, and Alabama Shakes.
Kendrick actually put on a performance; he used his mind blowing music to tel a story, and the editing on his face toward the end was some of the best stuff I have seen at any televised music concert. I will dig into the Grammys in a few for not giving him Album of the Year.
I am glad Bonnie Raitt was able to join in the tribute to B.B. King because her presence elevated the tribute to the heights it deserved; she is one of the most talented musicians of all time, and I can still see glimpses in my memory of her winning Album of the Year for Nick of Time at the Grammy Awards back in 1990.
If there was another artist or group that deserved to win Album of the Year last night it was Alabama Shakes, and their performance was fantastic.Brittany Howard (their lead singer) is one of the most powerful vocalists working today, and it was great to get to see her showcase her magnetic voice.
Beyond this, the show was a snooze. I know some will cite they loved Gaga's performance art, but it's a performance I need to let settle on my brain. Part of me wishes it was more emotional and self contained, but again, I need time to let it settle. At least she was not as bad as the widely mismatched vocal range of Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt. Or the Hollywood Vampires, what the hell was that garbage?
Then came the awards, which they only presented 8, none of the R&B or Pop categories were presented on the main stage, although the General Field (Album, Record, Song, New Artist) have basically become Pop only winners. The Weekend had a huge year, but once again they regulate R&B to the pre-telecast awards.
A brief pause, most of the hundred categories are announced the day leading up to the main show, and they save a select few for the main show. I get that they want to make this experience about the concert feel, but when the concert is a huge flop, and and your Encore is Pitbull it's time to re-think your concept.
On to the winners, specifically the General Field, the Grammy Awards hide in their genres. While folks are off saying #OscarsSoWhite they should also pick on the Grammy Awards for similar problems in the Album, Record, Song, and Best New Artist categories. Maybe #GrammysSoWhite or GeneralFieldWinnersSoWhite.
I am not saying that artists of color do not win, so before you scream at me, my comment is that like with the Oscars and Straight Outta Compton, Grammy voters "do not get rap" or hell even modern R&B. Just look at that picture of the audience when Kendrick Lamar was performing. Only two hip-hop albums have ever won Album of the Year Lauryn Hill for The Miseducation Lauryn Hill (1999) and Outkast for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2004).
Andy Herman from LA Weekend highlighted this terrible trend "Since 2006, in the Grammys' top four categories (Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best New Artist), black artists have accounted for roughly one-third of the nominations but only four of the 40 wins. (The Grammys also freeze out Latinos, Asians and pretty much anyone who isn't white European, but that's a whole larger discussion.) Herbie Hancock won Album of the Year in 2008; Beyoncé won Song of the Year in 2010; and John Legend and Esperanza Spalding won Best New Artist in 2006 and 2011, respectively. That's it. Technically Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams won Record of the Year in 2014 for their contributions to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky," so let's be generous and say five major wins over the past 10 years have gone to black artists. That's still an abysmally low figure."
So what happened last night? Taylor Swift won her second Album of the Year award, for a perfectly fine Pop Album, and defended her honor against Kanye West. Swift also proudly boasted the stat that she is the first Female Artist to win Album of the Year twice, while about 10 plus male producers stood up behind her. Swift's win was not all that surprising since the Grammy Awards General Field winners often come from the Pop Rock or Country categories.
Last night Album of the Year should have gone to Taylor Swift last, I would have ranked the Albums this way: Kendrick Lamar, Alabama Shakes, Chris Stapleton, The Weekend, and Taylor Swift. Lamar had a message, and his performance was proof that once again the Grammy Awards rarely get message music unless its about a white woman singing about heartbreak.
Song of the Year was an injustice too with Ed Sheerhan besting Kendrick Lamar for "Alright" Taylor Swift for "Blank Space" Little Big Town "Girl Crush" and Wiz Kahlifa and Charlie Puth for "See You Again." Proving they go with the stodgy wedding song. This song is a song writers award, so my thought is they see this as honoring Sheerhan who is seen as a "great" singer song writer working today. Sheerhan has talent, but this song, but this song does nothing earth shattering.
Record went to "Uptown Funk" and while Bruno Mars does identify as Puerto Rican, the song is nothing but Pop folly for weddings. Funk is a harmless win, and if you define Record of the Year as the biggest "hit" of the year, then it is a deserved winner. I would argue that this is where they could have chosen to honor Taylor Swift for Blank Space, and I would have been perfectly happy.
Meghan Trainor won Best New Artist, meanwhile she was nominated for Record and Song of the Year last Year, which crazily enough is allowed based on Grammy rules. The Grammy Awards were finally bold and brave enough to have stronger, lesser known nominees in Courntey Barnett, Tori Kelly and James Bey, but they went with well, I would not take away the truly emotional moment for Trainor, but this was another undeserved winner; she should have been replaced with Leon Bridges.
As award shows like the Grammys (and Oscars) try to maintain and continue to be relevant, they continually outdo themselves with stodgy choices for winners, they go the "harmless" route rather than making bold statements about their craft. Neil Portnow and Commong presented the youngest Grammy nominee presented a 12 year old piano prodigy last evening, a truly talented young man, but he better learn to sing about losing a man/woman in a powerful ballad if he ever wants to make it on the telecast to win a prize.