After enjoying forty years of life as a career musician who was fortunate to work with some of the most talented artists in the world, serving on music label advisory boards, and living in the affluent musical suburb of Franklin, Tennessee just outside of Nashville—I should go ahead and say it. The Grammys are rigged. But you knew that deep down.
Sorry folks. It is all about money. It has little to do with talent and creativity. And it becomes more evident with every Grammy broadcast. For me, the annual show is like a burning building (particularly last night)—it is hard to watch but harder to turn away. Thankfully, there are rare people like Gary Clark, Jr. and Billie Ellish who manage to slip through the Grammy filters.
My Highs and Lows
As all good musicians know, the first and the last five minutes are the most important moments of a show. A sincere statement about the untimely death of Kobe Bryant would have sufficed. And then let the show go on. But it seemed as if Alicia Keys had taken a strong drug and it showed. To me, as a host, she was cloying and overly-sentimental. Maybe I’m just cynical.
Best Performance—Gary Clark, Jr. A virtuoso talent with a lot to say—but the Grammy censors desecrated his performance. More on that in a bit.
Worst Performance—Aerosmith. Someone in that band must have pissed off the technical crew. I’ve seen it happen many times. The performance was horrific and painful.
Most Ironic Moment—Alicia Keys. During the commercial break after two very demure costume changes, she donned a cleavage-baring outfit split to the navel as she recognized a well-deserving middle school teacher in the audience followed by remarks about educating children. Ahem.
Worst Acceptance Speech—Tyler, the Creator. You would think someone whose very name is creative would blow us away with a riveting talk. But the appearance of a wild fan-Mom, a way too long string of obligatory and boring thank you’s, and the play-off music awkwardly growing in volume as he refused to quit was the height of mundane.
Best Acceptance Speech—None.
Best Surprise—Billie Ellish. A spot-on vocal performance that was creative and felt new. Her brother’s piano stylings were amazing. I rarely listen to music and this was my first chance to hear her. Just wow.
Worst Case of Censorship—The entire show. The network that assaults you with myriad shows of gratuitous violence, blood, gore, and serial murders named CSI bleeps out four-letter words and ruins performances. Mostly nude dancers, boudoir scenes, lingerie, and pole dancers are okay. But how dare an artist use a four-letter word for emphasis. Fuck that, oops, I mean [email protected]#k that!
Best Oops Moment—When Lil’ Nas X—in the middle of a creative and entertaining performance with several stage scenes filled with collaborators—walks into an empty room with a green skull. It seemed like a screw-up and for just a second he looked surprised but he valiantly went on with the show. Oh yeah, and when he tried to hand off his trumpet and no one would take it.
Second Best Oops Moment—When Steven Tyler grabbed two unsuspecting women and tried unsuccessfully to get them to do an impromptu dance with him.
Worst Twitter Moment—When (like many times in the past) I went to the #Grammys feed to look at people’s impromptu comments about the show, it was completely full of ads and paid comments.
Worst Commercial—Every ad about prescription drugs. They should be censored. Have you listened to the lurid descriptions of side-effects? I suppose they figure if anyone needs medication it’s those of us who are artists and who watch this show.
Most Jaw-Dropping Moment—To learn that Tanya Tucker is the same age as me. Yikes!
And with that, the fat lady (oops) shall sing. I told you this post would be politically incorrect. And to further support that claim, I have included an uncensored performance of Gary Clark, Jr’s “This Land” because it is an artistic masterpiece. If you don’t know the story behind the song—you should search it out—particularly if you are from Austin.