Grammys Fawn over Coldplay and Plant/Krauss, Set Race Relations Back 20 Years
As any self-respecting Grammy live blog will have told you by now, the highlight of last night's occasionally lively fiasco was undoubtedly the "Rap Pack" black-and-white "Swagga Like Us" blowout, ostensibly starring Jay-Z/Kanye/Wayne/T.I. but dominated by a stupendously pregnant M.I.A., rocking some sort of sheer ladybug maternity outfit and gamely thrusting about despite the possibility that her water could break at any moment. This is the stuff of riveting musical drama. Radiohead's dalliance with the USC Marching Band for "15 Step" (lotta Tusk jokes in those live blogs as a consequence) and Lil Wayne's shockingly tasteful and restrained New Orleans tribute (featuring Allen Toussaint and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band) were also quite excellent and eccentric; Sugarland's "Stay," while conspicuously dated at this point, is still a pretty great song.
But nobody pays attention to the Grammys for the sublime. Bring on the ridiculous.
For many this will mean Neil Diamond's three-quarters-asleep slog through fuckin' "Sweet Caroline, or Katy Perry's stupendously garish "I Kissed a Girl" (she emerged from a giant banana, and then things got really unseemly), or the ever-provocative Kid Rock's surly "Amen," a garbled political screed that actually employs the phrase "guilty of being white." (Ian MacKaye was not available for comment, because he will kill you if you ever mention this to him.) But far more damaging to our post-Obama racial utopia was the Jonas Brothers' bum-rushing of Stevie Wonder -- watching the four of them rumble through "Superstition," the Bros' offering peppy words of encouragement (C'MON STEVIE! SHOW 'EM WHAT YOU GOT STEVIE!), was exquisitely painful. For every inspired Wayne/Toussaint pairing, you get Al Green forced to sing with Duffy, John Mayer channeling Bo Diddley, Jay-Z making Coldplay look even cornier, Jamie Foxx and Ne-Yo drafted into the Four Tops.
Of course they love that shit at the Grammys, the chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter thing, which explains the triumphs for Herbie Hancock (for Joni covers), Ray Charles (for tepid duets), and now, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, tonight's big winners for Raising Sand to the surprise of no one. In the pantheon of Grammy winners this is actually way less offensive than usual. And between the live-blog hysteria, the brewing Rihanna-Chris Brown tempest, and a handful of eminently YouTube-able performances were the Grammy folks smart enough to allow them to be YouTubed, this was a better year than usual for our staid, reverse-ageist, heroes. Good luck to Rihanna, and M.I.A., and the music industry as a whole, which is, notwithstanding this little of blip of semi-success, still dead as disco. Hell, that could be next year's theme.