Grammys 2011: Dawn of a new day for the underdogs
Published: Monday, February 14, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 14, 2011 22:02
After an exceptionally long and lackluster award show, I turned off the TV excited but thankful the boredom was over.
And then I was hit by an unfathomable epiphany.
It is the dawn of a new day.
For those of you unfamiliar with the happenings at the Grammys Sunday night, a couple incredible happenings occurred.
Arcade Fire pulled off a stunning upset and won Album of the Year for "The Suburbs," beating out Eminem, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum.
Next, jazz vocalist and upright bass player Esperanza Spalding beat out Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & The Machine, and Mumford & Sons for Best New Artist.
Finally, Record of the Year went to "Need You Now," which doesn't seem too surprising until you consider a country song beat out B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars, Eminem featuring Rihanna, Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, and the seemingly unstoppable Cee Lo Green.
Let me sum that up in case you missed it.
Country, indie and jazz defeated pop music.
The net was abuzz with news that Eminem had been nominated for ten Grammys, that Justin Bieber was going to claim his fame with best new artist and Lady Gaga was again up against tenacious odds. And when it was all said and done, those artists really meant nothing.
Of course both Gaga and Eminem won something in their individual areas, but at least half the night was taken by the underdog.
Best Pop Collaboration didn't go to Gaga and Beyonce for "Telephone" or B.o.B, Hayley Williams and Eminem for "Airplanes, Part II" or even Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg for "California Gurls." It was taken by the teamwork of Herbie Hancock, PINK, Seal, India.Arie, Jeff Beck, Konono N°1 and Oumou Sangare for the their interpretation of John Lennon's "Imagine."
Pop has now fallen to a stunning revelation. The artists themselves want more in their music.
Each year the Grammy Awards are decided by nominations and then votes from members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. This means the artists themselves are the ones voting and choosing the champions in their field. We, in the general public, are just along for the ride.
The fact the underdogs won suggests artists are wanting more substance in the music of their peers and a little less "baby, baby, baby."
Take the Best New Artist award. During the Grammys itself, Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & The Machine, and Mumford & Sons all participated in live performances during the show. Their songs have been featured in countless movies, commercials, television shows, you name it. Justin Bieber even has his own 3-D movie out about his rise to fame. And as much as it truly pains me to admit, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga are potentially the most dynamic and important artists of modern day.
Not because their music is the most original or because they're the best at what they do, but because of their unreasonably fast rise to fame and unexplainably rabid fan base. I don't think a day goes by that I don't hear the words Gaga or Bieber. Love them or hate them, this makes them important, not only from a pop culture standpoint, but from a marketability standpoint.
And still, Best New Artist went to Esperanza Spalding.
Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Eminem have all dominated the radio. Even Lady Antebellum in winning Record of the Year, Country Album of the Year and Group Country Performance of the Year has proven itself to be a particularly strong act. Yet, when the Academy voted, it was Arcade Fire in their third album with "The Suburbs" that proved substance wins out over the average.
Even the race for Producer of the Year was an upset with the producers of Lady Gaga, Sean Kingston, Kesha, Katy Perry, Adam Lambert and Green Day all losing. And to whom? DJ Danger Mouse, who is one half Broken Bells (with James Mercer of the Shins), previously half of Gnarls Barkley (with Cee Lo Green), previous producer for Gorillaz's Demon Days and produced Brothers with the Black Keys.
Indie beat pop!
I feel the most telling example of this music industry change was the live performances themselves.
In a grueling three and a half hour show, something in the area of 10 total awards were announced. Only about 10. This left the rest of the show dedicated to commercials and performances.
Performance highlights included an Alien homage by Lady Gaga with her new single "Born this Way," a trippy Jim Henson Muppet extravaganza with Cee Lo Green and Gwyneth Paltrow singing "Forget You," and Yolanda Adams, Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride and Florence (and The Machine) Welch paying tribute to Aretha Franklin with a menagerie of her hits.
The rest of the night was an endless stream of too many performers with Rihanna, Drake, John Mayer, Mick Jagger, Katy Perry, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Bob Dylan, Muse, Miranda Lambert, Justin Bieber, Jaden Smith, Usher and Barbra Streisand, among others.
Even Arcade Fire's performance was a lackluster mesh of strobe lights and BMX bikers.
The show itself ended up being less about the artists and the winners and more about marketing and throwing a musical cluster that will spike up viewership ratings.
And most people I talked to had no idea it was even on.
The artists don't want a circus. They want the days of heartfelt melodies with complicated chords and meaningful messages.
They don't want pop; they want art.
And I'm forced to agree.
It's a brand new day and if all signs point true, music is about to change. For the better.