Most of the live performances at the 52nd annual Grammy Awards (Grammy awards 2010) were vulgar, pretentious and self-aggrandizing. In fact, the group performance by rappers Lil Wayne, Drake and Eminem was so saturated with F-bombs and other expletives that the Grammy censors bleeped out most of the lyrics. Indeed, foul-mouthed, crotch-grabbing rappers – who tend to hide their insecurities behind a wall of bluster and bravado – do not belong in prime time. The best thing about the entire evening was that “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon won record of the year (more on that in a moment).
In an insightful article in today’s Los Angeles Times, pop music critic Ann Powers notes that there has been a seismic shift in the music industry. Powers observes that it’s not all about the music anymore; today’s music is, as powers puts it, “increasingly enhanced by visual and dramatic elements that deepen or even change its messages.”
That may well be true, but an over reliance on visuals and other “dramatic elements” can, at the very least, be a huge distraction, and are often reprehensible. As mentioned above, many rappers infuse their songs with filthy language (that is frequently misogynistic) and, during live performances, aggressively stalk the stage with a swagger and menacing stares. But aggression and hatred are not suitable for children and other living things. That such music and live performances are embraced by so many young people today is deeply troubling.
Lady Gaga, who in my view is a hugely gifted singer and songwriter, diminishes the beauty of her voice and music by overusing visual gimmicks and outrageous outfits. This was exemplified in both of her Grammy Awards 2010 performances – her solo effort and her duet with Elton John, who is also obsessed with visuals and over-the-top theatrics.
Powers goes on to note that the incorporation of other art forms (e.g., fashion and dance) into music have “transcended the idea that the literary, privately absorbed version of music – exemplified by the records that played on the gramophone that is the Grammy symbol – matters most.”
This is rubbish. It is the song – and the way it is sung – that matters most. It always has been and it always will be. It is very encouraging that the award for best record of the year went to Kings of Leon for their extraordinary hit “Use Somebody” (interestingly enough, rapper Jay Z has been quoted as saying that “Use Somebody” was his favorite song of 2009). This is truly a wonderful piece of music – fresh and unique yet enormously accessible.
A great song will transcend the temporal and shallow nonsense of obscenity-laced lyrics and showmanship any time.
It’s not all about the music, The Los Angeles Times
Ladies Night at the Grammys, The Los Angeles Times