Rewinding the 52nd Annual Grammys (videos)

While the show proclaimed itself, “ladies’ night”, more noticeable was the theme of robots, metallic fabrics, and the future. The Black Eyed Peas performed “Imma Be” and “I’ve Got a Feeling” with dancers dressed as speakers, Beyonce’s dancers resembled Robocop. Even the head of the recording academy referred to the future in his annual overwrought speech to the public.

Weeks before the event, commercials and print advertisements stated, “We’re All Fans” and featured YouTube clips of covers of the nominees’ hits. However, when the list of nominees were released, controversy erupted that they chosen not because of artistic merit, but to gather desperately needed attention from a younger crowd of viewers. A complaint that should be made now though, is the fact that even though the show ran over three hours in length, only eight awards were televised.

In previous years, commercial breaks were introduced by a list of the winners of lesser-known categories, but all we got this year is brief references to what was won by the presenters and performers. While the performances are often the most memorable part of a show, they completely took over this year. Those whose wins were televised, like Best New Artist winners Zac Brown Band, found their acceptance speeches often ushered out by the wrap-it-up music. The focus was instead put upon performances that most of the time were seemingly made up on the spot and sounded better on paper than they turned out. While Lady Gaga and Elton John’s duet of “Speechless" mixed in with “Your Song” was an unexpected bright spot of the night, other duets like Taylor Swift and Stevie Nicks’ reinterpretation of “Rhiannon” and “You Belong with Me” just didn’t sound good. Other stars just didn’t seem on their A-game. Pink started off strong with “Glitter in the Air", but it then turned into an odd display of ribbons, glittery bodysuits, acrobats, and spraying water. Before that, Beyoncé added to a strong “If I Were a Boy” a cover of Alanis Morisette’s “You Outta Know”, but she wasn’t nearly as good as the original and she forgot some of the words.

Unfortunately, in a year where many deserving people like Leonard Cohen, Loretta Lynn, David “Honeyboy” Edwards, and received Lifetime Achievement Awards, little time were devoted to them. Instead, we got a messy collaboration from Jamie Foxx and Slash and three songs from Bon Jovi, one of which, “Livin’ on a Prayer” was voted by viewers at home to be performed.

Many of the night's presenters were from CBS’ TV shows instead of the music industry, and not many of them really added anything to the event. Amongst the presenters, the most memorable was Ringo Starr, who seemed to make co-presenter Norah Jones nervous by saying that Bobby Darin’s Lifetime Achievement Award was overdue.

By trying to appeal to everyone, the Grammys slightly disappoint everyone. I’ve always said that it would be better if the whole thing were separated into different shows that were based on different genres. However, if they did that there wouldn’t be the chance to do unique, interesting things. The collaboration of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Mary J. Blidge, David Foster, and Andrea Bocelli became available as an iTunes single benefiting the American Red Cross’ Haitian relief efforts. While much hype was made over the 3D images in the Michael Jackson tribute, the floating butterflies and dandelion seeds weren’t as big of a deal as Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Celine Dion, and Smokey Robinson all on one stage. Plus, how many award shows would pair up Placido Domingo and Mos Def as presenters? All in all, the ceremony does befit the music industry as we know it. Despite the fact that we can all think of ways to make it better, it’s still pretty good to begin with.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.