Monday, February 14, 2011

Grammy Haul

First things first. What the hell happened to Lee Ann Rimes? Is it me, or is she starting to resemble Norman Fell?

My plan was to watch the Grammy Awards, take notes, and offer up some commentary this morning on the winners, losers, and "history-making collaborations" that can only be seen on award shows of this Mars, Janelle Monae and B.o.B.

By 8:32 P.M., with only one award presented versus 53 notes sung on the word "yeah" during Christina Aguilera's tribute to Aretha, I decided to get up offa that couch....for health reasons...and listen from the other room, so my notes are admittedly all over the place.

I don't like Gaga and I didn't like her new single "Born This Way"...or is it "Born That Way" ...or is it "Express Yourself?"

(Mental note: send nasty letter to those guys that saved Train's career.)

Jeff Beck- Best Rock Album? (He covers "Nessun Dorma" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" for Pete's sake. There isn't a rock song on "Emotion & Commotion.")

Was 10cc nominated for anything? David Werner? Moon Martin? NO?  See, that's what I'm talkin' 'bout!

Lady Antebellum, as my friend Joel somewhat violently put it, "is NOT country."

It was all so much easier in the 70s. Just give everything to Stevie Wonder and Fleetwood Mac.

It is now 10:21, and Esperanza Spalding just beat out Bieber for Best New Artist. That's cool, right? Does it matter that her first album came out in 2006? And another in 2008?

I'm afraid if I watch Mick Jagger, he'll figure out a way to bill me.

I was impressed with Rihanna and Drake's tribute to Jeanette McDonald & Nelson Eddy.

Ooh na na, what’s my name
Ooh na na, what’s my name
Ooh na na, what’s my name
Ooh na na, what’s my name
Ooh na na, what’s my name
whats my name, whats my name

I heard you good with them soft lips
Yeah you know word of mouth
the square root of 69 is 8 something
cuz I’ve been tryna work it out, oooow
good weed, white wine
I come alive in the night time
okay, away we go
only thing we have on is the radio
ooooh, let it play, say you gotta leave
but I know you wanna stay
you just waiting on the traffic jam to finish girl
the things we could do in twenty minutes girl
say my name, say my name
wear it out, its getting hot, crack a window, air it out
I can get you through a mighty long day
Soon as you go, the text that I write is gon say…

I miss Andy Williams.

There is no award show more offensive and disgraceful and neglectful of true artists and talent than the Grammy Awards. It is the most consistent disappointment in music. There, I've said it.

I did enjoy Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, and Bob Dylan.  They were up for "Traditional Jazz Album," right? 

I also liked Arcade Fire, which was odd, because I hate Arcade Fire. That tells you something.

And if I may echo my friend Joel's words, "Lady F****** Antebellum beats Cee Lo? Good Night!!!"


soundsource said...

fortunately I was out celebrating my anniversary / valentine's day so I missed the grammy's (not that I would have watched that's what I count on you for, to ease my pain) but when checking my FB stuff someone had posted the Aretha tribute (ok that'w what they called it not me) so I'll just cut and paste my two comments as regards that and it probably speaks to the rest of the show I never watch.

1.) question for christina aguilera how many syllables are there in the word me

2.) ok girls now you all go back and listen to Aretha sing the originals and thinks about these words restraint, phrasing, and soul (not oversoulin') oh yeah and class. you know what I meaaeanaeanaeaneeaneaneaneaneanean oh yeah.

Thanks for taking the bullet Sal

Shriner said...

I've only watched the first two hours (the rest is on the TIVO for tonight.)

I have to say, for as cynical as I can be about the current music biz...I found all the musical acts in the first two hours (with the exception of Justin Bieber -- who even my 11-year-old daughter didn't care about except for when one of the dancer/acrobats flipped off a riser and landed on his ass) to be quite enjoyable.

Even the Bruno Mars stuff. And Muse (!) And Ce-Lo with the puppets. And "Need You Now" is a great song, regardless of the genre it gets slotted in.

And Dylan's raspy Maggie's Farm was killer, IMO. His voice is *so* out-of-place at these glossy award shows, it's almost irony at this point to have him on.

I think I was just in a good mood last night or something. Even XTina didn't kill it.

Maybe when I hit Streisand in the last hour+ of the show tonight, I'll change my mind.

Sal Nunziato said...


Yes, "Need You Now" is a great song. It's called "Eye In The Sky."

jeff said...

i don't know, Sal. It seems to me that complaining about the grammys is like complaining about the mets not winning the world series. I still remember when everything is beautiful beat out fire and rain for song of the year. that's the grammys.

i think you (we) should declare a grammys boycott. but take the major categories, list your (our) nominees and on grammy night award the Salies.

Sal Nunziato said...


Here's what I was thinking. I looked at my Top Ten of last year. One record received something---Mavis Staples, for Best Americana Album, whatever the hell that means?

That leaves 9 potentially amazing records that went unnoticed. I bet if 50 BW readers all submitted their Top Ten's, nothing would overlap with what was represented on the Grammys.

How is that possible? If it is popularity contest, then fine. Give all the awards to Gaga and Bieber. But it vehemently claims not to be. If it was just about popularity, Saw IV would clean up at the Oscars.

The Grammys are a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

Hey you kids, get outta my yard!!!

Shriner said...

The "Need You Now"/"Eye In the Sky" thing *totally* missed my radar. I heard it in my head the minute I read your post, though..

"good artists copy, great artists steal"?

Sal Nunziato said...

And Lady Antebullem teaches gym.
(Ok there's a joke there somewhere.)

steve simels said...

I was impressed with Rihanna and Drake's tribute to Jeanette McDonald & Nelson Eddy.

I am so stealing that.

allen vella said...

Thank you Sal..what a freakin farce..I was ashamed to be of this society..I don't know why, I was just cringing through the whole mess..get me outta here

Paul said...

I didn't watch and feel the better for it.

joelb53 said...

I'm just happy to be quoted .

joelb53 said...

I'm just happy to be quoted .

There is nothing in the world that irritates me more than fake country music. And Lady Antebellum is one of the worst offenders. There are a lot of excellent country artists slugging away on the road. Why does the radio play these losers?

uptowntrain said...

I tend to not comment on blogs. I certainly appreciate your taste in music and recommendations. On the other hand, for every great album you recommend, there are at least 10 very good ones that either get thrashed or not mentioned at all. Of course it is not your duty to listen to every album or every style of music, but since you have a wide range of taste and write about popular music on a regular basis, I felt the need to comment this time.

I don't take awards seriously. Any organization that puts Justin Bieber among the nominees for Best New Artist clearly favors what's popular over what's substantial. Giving the awards to deserving musicians like Esperanza Spalding every once in a while does not change this general tendency. Now I don't mean popular equals bad. I know you don't believe that either, but most of us still cannot help but trash what people out there are listening to.

I am with Shriner here. Regardless of who received what award, I enjoyed most of the performances. Maybe it was the best broadcast in recent years. Just like you are annoyed by the fact that not everyone is appreciating Mavis Staples' "You Are Not Alone," I am wondering what's not to like about Janelle Monae, Mumford & Sons, Muse, Miranda Lambert. I listen to everything old and new and 95% of it was not represented last night, but I was not expecting to hear them at a national network broadcast anyway.

I don't agree with "Need You Now" is "Eye In The Sky" statement. (Though that Woody Allen gym joke was good!) Popular music has always been about derivatives. There are so many examples of it in jazz, blues, rock. Similar melodies, chord progressions, beats, lyrics. It only seems to bother people when they don't like a song due to its popularity or style. Now if you think the song itself is not good because it's too simple, ordinary or whatever, it's your opinion. I would personally give the award to "Empire State of Mind," but "Need You Now" is still so much better than old winners like "Dance With My Father" and "Daughters," both among the worst songs in Luther Vandross and John Mayer catalogs respectively. I think even John Mayer said he did not want it to be released as a single, but the label insisted on it.

As far as the lyrics of "What's My Name" go, while they are hard to defend, can't you think of rock songs you loved with similar poorly worded or meaningless lyrics?

It's hard to embrace what people are listening to today when you are aware of the great music of the past. I am in my mid 30s and many of my friends are already telling me how music was so much better in the late 80s and 90s. I am sure you weren't very happy with the music scene then either, though I suspect that it still seemed better than today. Youngsters of today will reminisce the good ol' days of Rihanna and Bruno Mars 10 years from now and complain about how these new spacebeat songs lack melodies and lyrics you can make sense out of. While there is a lot of music out there that does nothing for me, I still think right now there is more good music being made than during most of the 90s.

...continues below...

Sal Nunziato said...


Thanks for your commentary.

I know it's easy to immediately see me as the cranky old man, though I am not that old.

If you've read my blog, and it seems like you have, you will see I have praised Mumford & Sons, as well as Muse. Actually paid to see Muse twice live, though I don't think last night did justice to their excellent recordings.

My beef isn't with the performers, per se. Yes, maybe posting the lyrics to "What's My Name" was a cheap shot. But I do want to get a laugh now and then, as well.

The Grammys are "music's biggest night." It seems wrong to put so little into the art. If it were a popularity contest, then I say, give Gaga every award she can carry. But it boasts something else. If the Oscars were about popularity, "Due Date" would win Best Picture. But at least their academy pays some attention.

I've defended pop music on these pages time and time again. I've explained the difference between a good record and a good song. I think "Need You Now" is neither. Sorry. And it's definitely not country. My Grammy rant was about the Grammys.

I love Jeff Beck and gave his record a stellar review. It did NOT deserve a Rock nomimation.

I thought the Leon Russell/Elton John record was a major dssappointment. Seems like I was the only one. Where was that? A record so critically acclaimed and yet it is nowhere to be seen. My frustration will always remain with the industry.

You make some very good points, and I agree with some of them. But, I will stand by my trashing. There have been 34 months of posts on Burning Wood and while I don't expect you to read every one, if you did, you'd see, I don't just trash things because they're popular.

Ken D said...

In case any of you thought it was only the music awards make you think "WTF?" ... As a graphic designer by trade, I have a teeny-weeny bit of curiosity as to the winner of the album packaging award. So I was absolutely stunned to discover that the winner was the Black Keys' "Brothers." Musically, that album might have been my #1 favorite new release of 2010 but the silly "the name of this album is Brothers/the songs on this album are... / the members of the band are..." cover art was a simplistic, one-joke idea that I would have been embarrassed to propose.
Nowadays it seems that the labels pay little attention to the packaging (compared to the past anyway). "Brothers" was one of the few covers that was even notable because it was just so cringingly awful...

I have nothing to offer re the show, the performances, etc. I don't watch, I don't care.
And I look forward to not watching or caring about the Oscars too.

uptowntrain said...

Sal, thank you for your reply. I have been reading your blog for a long time and am aware that you don't trash everything that's popular. Otherwise I would not bother posting. Still I think there are more new and popular music worth hearing than what's reflected here. My words are not just to you, but your readers as well. When you say good words about Muse, Mumford & Sons, and even U2, the response is usually not as cheerful as let's say an underappreciated talent. As you probably agree, people don't even listen closely enough to recent output of U2 to appreciate how good it really is. They made their minds up years ago. I think the same is the case for many of the popular acts who performed last night.

You're right about the Oscars to a degree, but they also completely dismiss comedies, many great foreign films, films with more violent or sexual content than the academy would like. It's also hard to take them completely seriously.

I think Leon Russell/Elton John record was released after the cutoff date for Grammy eligibility. We'll probably see them at next year's Grammys along with Kanye West and Taylor Swift.

I had two more paragraphs on my original post that I submitted separately due to excess # of characters, but looks like it did not go through. let me try one more time:

Since I am already writing, let me also mention my thoughts on Mary J. Blige. She has never been one of my favorites, but I like her. I agree with you on the lack of great vocal skills. When she first appeared on the scene, I thought her sound was unique. It is harder to see it now since there has been so many copycats over the years. Her vocal delivery was far from perfect, but it did not bother me because it suited her music and I liked that new soul sound. I think there is a double standard here as well. I don't see you or any other fan complaining about the vocals of Lemmy or Iggy Pop even though both of their voices lack the qualities expected of a professional singer. Who says when it's soul/r&b/black music perfect pitch is necessary and when it's rock it's OK to turn a blind eye. I enjoy Motorhead and I enjoy Mary J. Blige and no music theory explanation will prevent me from it. The selection on your weekend mix, "Not Gon' Cry," was right on the money to prove your point, mainly because it is a terrible song. When I listen to a song like "All That I Can Say" on the other hand, I am happy.

There are many people out there who only listen to classical music. If you ask them what their thoughts are, many will claim all rock and pop is crap including The Beatles, Stones, and everyone else that we've been listening to over the years. Are they right? Of course not.

Sal Nunziato said...


The difference between Mary J and Lemmy/Iggy is that no one has ever claimed the latter to be good singers. It's not a double-standard. Motorhead is one of my very favorite bands. But I would never foist them on anyone. Same with Iggy. Mary J. has been a cover girl for hip hop and soul. It's undeserving. As you said, "I thought her sound was unique." Hardly a rave.

More than the Grammys, my single pet peeve about current music is the overhype. Artists like Bright Eyes, Arcade Fire, Deerhoof, Hold Steady are just NOT the greatest things since sliced bread that they are made out to be. There is good new music to be found, of course. But there is a reason why the legendary acts remain influential today.

Mary J. Blige has been lauded since day one, as were the subsequent copycats like Angie Stone, India.Arie, etc. The purpose of my mix, which included such b-listers as Reba Russell, Erma Franklin, and Denise Lasalle, was to show that even those not touted as superstars still had near-perfect singing voices.

I agree that many of the "older" people have already made up their minds, and often admit to just not listening. But I do, all the time. And I just don't think there's very much that holds up to the music of the past. The bar has been lowered.

Shriner said...

So, having watched the 2nd half of this, I reiterate my initial impression: I found this Grammy telecast to be quite enjoyable -- probably the best in years.

Yes, I don't personally care for the Rhianna/Drake song, but Eminem was great, Jagger (albeit a bit too long) was in fine voice and even Streisand was pleasant (though should not have immediately followed Jagger...)

Arcade Fire -- a band I don't get -- giving them a shot to perform an unplanned (?) *second* song, was a surprise you wouldn't expect from a show like this and I found myself caught up in the energy of the performance because of it. I can't see any of the other 4 artists doing that had they won. (I still don't get Arcade Fire, though...)

Remember, Grammy telecasts used to contain all the stuff people crabbed about -- Jazz sets, Classical numbers, Opera performances and a slew of presented awards. They've pretty much excised "the chaff" from recent years (I'm surprised they still keep any kind of "folk" performance -- though I wonder if that was just because Dylan was on) and I think it's made the show move on.

Want to watch a bad music awards show? Watch any MTV awards show. You can't scrub that shit off with a wire brush when it's over...

Anonymous said...

you know Sal.....
science & technology have come a long way......
why you would even want to "track" this disaster from another room absolutely boggles my mind....
I mean, if you were giving birth, would you rather have the drugs or
have a stick to bite down on?
I salute you for your bravery!
Mister you ARE a better Man than I!

cooljerk said...

sal...that was great commentary...almost made watching the show worthwhile (in retrospect, of course---it was painful at the time)...steven

uptowntrain said...

I agree with you that overhype is a problem. Even though I think I can usually make a judgement without being influenced by the commercial/critical success of an artist or the lack thereof, I also feel the effect of overhype sometimes. I think Radiohead and Arcade Fire make good music, but they are nowhere near as good as people make them out to be. As a result, when I listen to their music I always feel like something is missing. In these cases the problem lies within me however. It's not the fault of the bands if everyone claims they're the best thing since sliced bread. This might cause some of the egos to skyrocket, but it would probably happen to me too if everyone told me I'm the greatest.

We're all young here, so let's not use the words old and young, but even a 10 year difference in age results in people with different ideas of what good music is. If people don't listen to what's been done in the past, they might as well give up on music. At the same time, I'm not sure if being stuck in the past is much better. I know you're not one of those people. I have two friends both of whom used to follow the music scene closely. Now one only listens to The Dead, the other one plays nothing but Steely Dan and Michael Franks when I go to his place. Then there's another friend who stopped seeing live music after Jerry Garcia died. It makes me sad really. I am personally as excited listening to new music today as I was when trying to get my hands on stuff from 60's and 70's 20 years ago. Some might claim my standards are low, but I don't think so. I guess we agree to disagree that the bar has been lowered.

Rushbo... said...

I admire your tenacity. I despise award shows with a passion that catches me by surprise...
What criteria do people use to dish these meaningless ornaments out? The appreciation of music is ephemeral and subjective - the only quantifiable standard you can use is accuracy of musicianship, in which case, all the awards should have been won by the Muzak corporation or Japanese jazz musicians.

Sal Nunziato said...

"The only quantifiable standard you can use is accuracy of musicianship, in which case, all the awards should have been won by the Muzak corporation or Japanese jazz musicians."

That is the greatest thing I've all week.

cmealha said...

Steve Stoute's open letter in today's Times says it all, although I don,t agree with the Arcade Fire thing. They had just played and the setup was still there and it looked like it was a spur-of-the-moment decision to play out.

Sal Nunziato said...


I don't think Steve Stoute's open letter in the NYT says it all at all. I think he took a golden opportunity and blasted NARAS for the wrong reasons.

His point about giving Steely Dan "Album Of The Year" for work that at best was mediocre, instead of Eminem, whose "Marshall Mathers" LP sold 18 million copies, doesn't make any point, except Eminem sold 15 million more records.

NARAS is indeed, out of touch, but this has nothing to do with the Kanyes or the Bierbers. This has been going since day one. It is just a consistently, inconsistent and lazy awards show.