The Grammies: No Expectations Leads To Pleasant Surprises

by New Music Michael on February 11 2013

blackkeysatrexallInitially I wasn’t even planning on watching The Grammy Awards last night. I’m just not a fan of the more mainstream pop they tend to strut across their stages (big surprise, hey). So I usually avoid it entirely for the most part. As a result, I missed the live broadcast. But then we were trying to get Jameson Yorke to sleep again, and there was nothing else on, so we started watching the west coast feed about halfway through the event.

And it turned out we actually tuned in at exactly the right time. The Black Keys (pictured, performing at Rexall Place in 2012 – photo by yours truly) performed “Lonely Boy” with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and a bizarrely-dressed Dr. John. Shows how much fuller a duo can sound with umpteen backing musicians, including horns. Then there was a Bob Marley tribute featuring Sting and Bruno Mars. And an Elton John-led Levon Helm tribute that we really enjoyed, and also included Zac Brown, Mumford And Sons, Alabama Shakes, and Mavis Staples (who Heather looked at and asked, “didn’t we see her at folk fest?”. Yes, Heather, we did).

Jack White performed with both of his all-male and all-female backup musicians. And The Lumineers got to perform some of their “Hey Ho” track.

I think part of it is that if you go in with zero expectations, and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

The biggest surprise, though, may lie in that, for the third straight year, they actually picked a really good album by a really talented band as the best overall. Perhaps these things go in cycles, but since, say 2005, they started picking extremely safe albums by big acts that had their best work long, long ago. Ray Charles. U2. Dixie Chicks. Herbie Hancock for crying out loud. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. God if I hear that song once more I’m going to scream. And then, to top it all off, miss popularity at the time, Taylor Swift. And if you know me at all you know exactly how I feel about her. I think that’s when I threw in the towel and stopped watching the entire event. Which, for a music fan such as myself, is quite telling.

But then something changed. In 2011 they selected Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs”. Which even made my list that year – would probably still make my desert island list. Of course, a considerable portion of the population went “who is Arcade Fire” – and my blood boiled, turning black and oozing out my ears for a few moments before I realized that most people don’t listen to new music. They listen to the same damned bands they’ve heard forever. Unless they’re told by marketing dollars to pay attention to something else, of course.

Did that sound a little cynical. Undoubtedly.

Then in 2012 they granted the award to Adele. Didn’t make my year-end list, but I certainly appreciated it. I even own the album. And finally, this year, 2013, they gave the award to “Babel” by Mumford And Sons. Again, didn’t make my list, I think their previous effort “Sigh No More” was considerably better. But still, an extremely talented act, and a very solid album that catapulted them to the next level. And one of my wife’s favorites, so there’s that.

Let’s just hope they continue to reward talented musicians instead of mainstream pop crap.

Wait, that was cynical again wasn’t it.

PS – I still don’t get this Frank Ocean adulation stuff.

PPS – Good god how I loathe that stupid Gotye song.

PPPS – worst performance of the night? Hunter Hayes. A completely horrifying failure on all levels.

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