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53rd Annual Grammy Awards Winners & Other Observations

If you would have told me before the Grammy’s aired last night that the “Lady” who was going to have the best night was going to be Lady Antebellum, I probably would have laughed so hard that a change of pants would have been required.And yet there they were at the end of the night, Lady Antebellum beating out Nothin’ on You, Empire State of Mind, Love the Way You Lie, & F*** You for Record of the Year. There they were, Lady Antebellum, beating out Love the Way You Lie and F*** You among others for Song of the Year. They also took home Grammy’s for Best Country Album and Best Country Song. Lady Antebellum certainly was the belle of the ball at last night’s Grammy’s, but I wonder if their limo turned into a pack mule and their champagne turned back into a 6-pack of Schlitz when the clock struck midnight.

I guess now would be a good time to point out that I’m not a fan of country music. Let me rephrase that, I’m not a fan of modern country music. I do enjoy your Hank Williams Jr.’s, your Charlie Daniels’, and even your older Garth Brooks material from time to time. Outside of that, I think it all sounds the same. Somebody loses somebody else, the dog died, their out of beer, and their life will never be the same,  It’s the worst day of their lives. See, I just wrote an entire country song in two sentences. Where’s my Grammy? Don’t get me wrong, nearly anyone who can play an instrument automatically makes them more talented than me so I respect them as a musician regardless of whether or not I enjoy the music they play (did I cover my backside good enough with that?).

Back to the point, Lady Antebellum wasn’t the only surprise winner of the night from my viewpoint. Who in the (insert appropriate swear word here) is Esperanza Spalding?!?! According to the people who decide the winners of each category, she was apparently more impressive than Drake and Justin-Freakin’-Bieber over the past year.

After doing a little research, Esperanza is a young jazz musician who apparently has taken that genre by storm since making her debut back in 2005. Here’s a song from her 2006 debut album Junjo.

Another award “shock” for me was Arcade Fire beating out Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Katy Perry, and Eminem for Album of the Year. It almost seemed like the hidden theme of this year’s Grammy’s was to punish the popular artists for being popular. As if to say, “We don’t care how talented you are, we’ve decided your popularity is enough of an award. We’re going to help the other artists who don’t have a powerhouse marketing firm behind them get their name out there.” And I’m not saying that Mumford & Sons or Arcade Fire are more talented than Eminem or Justin Bieber, that’s a matter of personal preference. What I find a little shady is that they lure the general public to watch the broacast by having Katy Perry, Eminem, Rihanna, & Drake perform but none of them win an award (outside of Eminem). It’s actually pretty smart on their part. Had they promoted performances by Florence and the Machine, Esperanza Spalding, & Neil Young, they would have had about a 1/3 of the audience tune in. Speaking of performances…

The show opened with a tribute to Aretha Franklin performed by Yolanda Adams, Martina McBride, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, & Florence Welch (of Florence & The Machine “fame”). After her national anthem flub at the Super Bowl I was curious to see how Aguilera would handle being on the national stage again so quickly. Fortunately for her, I don’t know the words to any Aretha Franklin songs (although I do know how to spell R-E-S-P-E-C-T because of her), so Christina could have screwed them all up and I would have never known. Of course it was hard to decipher the lyrics Christina sang since she held every note for 20 seconds to show off her range. Hey Christina, we get it, you have an amazing voice, just sing the damn song!

Lady Gaga…oh Lady Gaga. I’d almost guarantee I’m in the minority here, but I just don’t get the whole persona. I think she’s an immensely talented artist and musician, but the getups, the arriving in a cocoon thing, it’s just not my cup of tea. If she’s going for shocking, it’s been done before. If I didn’t know better, I would think her parents are Madonna & Marilyn Manson. Quick side note, I really liked her song Born This Way when it was called Express Yourself by Madonna.

Around 8:00-8:15 it was time for my wife and I to put our kids to bed so I hit record on the DVR and came back about half an hour later to pick up where I left off. I almost zipped through the Mumford & Sons / Avett Brothers / Bob Dylan performance, but after thinking twice, I decided to watch it and I’m glad I did. I’m not a folk music fan, but I thought the individual performances by Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers were really good. The music was uptempo and had a really good groove to it. Unfortunately that came to a screeching halt when Bob Dylan came out for the “super-jam”. I get the fact that Dylan has never been known as a great singer (or even a good singer for that matter). His claim to fame as always been that he is an extremely talented songwriter. Which after hearing him sound like a cat being run through a washing machine, needs to be his main focus from now until the day he dies. There needs to be a point in everyone’s life where you realize there are certain things you shouldn’t do anymore and singing is that thing for Bob Dylan. He could still have a successful career writing songs for other people, perhaps even appear as a guest musician on someone else’s song, but if he starts walking toward a microphone, tackle him.

My vote for best performance of the night goes to Eminem, Rihanna, & Dr. Dre. It wasn’t anything flashy or fancy, but it was powerful. The intensity Eminem brings to the stage when he performs is something special. There were a few moments during his performance where I thought for sure we’d have the first-ever televised Grammy-aneurysm from the blood vessels in face exploding.

Overall, I’d give the 2011 Grammy Awards a C. The performances were the saving grace, but I not so sure that I agree with all the chosen winners. What do you think? Feel free to post your comments below.

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