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My Grammy conundrum

| Monday, February 3, 2014

One of the first things that people understand when they really get to know me is that I am a popular music snob.
Don’t get me wrong — I am fully aware that the pop music scene is a shallow, flashy and contrived vortex of “singing,” twerking and attention-grabbing onstage antics. Nevertheless, there’s something about the ridiculousness of it all that I find extraordinarily intriguing and entertaining to watch, satirize and, believe it or not, actually enjoy.
So it naturally goes without saying that the Grammy awards are one of my most anticipated events of the musical year. Billed as “Music’s Biggest Night,” this show has hosted iconic musical moments from Lady EggGa hatching onstage, Elton John singing with Eminem and many others. I looked forward to this year’s ceremony like I had many others. After all the performances, awards and “controversy”, however, I found myself atypically disappointed by the night’s events.
First, the performances. Granted, I know that most pop musicians have the (earned) reputation of not being able to sing live to save their lives, but usually they up the ante when it comes to performing on the single most prestigious awards show the industry has to offer. To this end, I was sorely mistaken.
When Lorde — one of the only breaths of fresh air the industry experienced this year — wasn’t standing in place with unusually breathy and strained vocals, she was spastically “dancing” as if she were trying to swat away a swarm of flies. Katy Perry, who for some reason always seems to be unable to perform live on television (something that confounds me after attending a concert where her vocals were on-point for two hours) made this night no exception as she performed in an outfit that looked like it was from Spencer’s or Hot Topic with a supposedly-controversial red LED cross emblazoned across her chest and the performance ending with her being burned at the stake (I think). Even Beyoncé, Queen B, deliverer of spectacular performances no matter what, struggled to make her performance engaging to the level we are expected to receive from her (thankfully, however, her vocals were spot on).
Second, the awards. I know that these awards aren’t always about quality (and by “aren’t always” I mean “seldom are”), but you know something’ just wrong when Katy Perry’s innovation-less, cliché-filled “Roar” is even nominated in the first place. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis swept all the rap categories they were nominated for, beating out Kendrick Lamar in several categories, leaving the latter Grammy-less despite seven nominations (tying the record for most Grammy noms without a win). Even though I think that the contrived Instagram post of the text Macklemore sent to Kendrick after the show about him being unfairly snubbed of Best Rap Album was contrived beyond belief, there was a kernel of truth to it. You know something’s up when the artist himself — the one who invested blood, sweat and tears into making his vision a reality — doesn’t even believe his own award was fairly won. Thankfully, Lorde walked away with some awards and Kacey Musgraves — the country songstress who shook things up this year with genre-defying lyrics and subject matter — won two.
Third, the Macklemore/Ryan Lewis/Mary Lambert/Madonna/Queen Latifa/Trombone Shorty/34 newlywed couples spectacular. You would have to be rather isolated from any sort of news outlet this week if you didn’t hear about the duo’s performance of “Same Love” medley-ed with Madonna’s “Open Your Heart” and the officiated wedding ceremony of 34 straight, gay, old and young couples by the power invested in Queen Latifah by the State of California.
The fact that Madonna looked and sounded as if she was on the verge of death the entire time (and was literally holding a cane) wasn’t the part I found objectionable. Neither was the fact that the couples were finding happiness in their new companionship. It’s the fact that, when you re-watched the performance and determined the amount of airtime allocated to the supposed “point” of the event (i.e., the Same Love), you’ll find that that actually wasn’t the focus. Rather, the camera was fixed upon the musicians, the band, the backup chorus and the celebrities reacting in the crowd. The performance was over-the-top to a fault — coming off as a self-righteous affirmation of Hollywood’s awesomeness as opposed to a genuine statement of equality.
Fortunately, the whole evening wasn’t a bust for me personally — some of my favorite underdogs won some awards; Chicago brought some melody to the event, Miley wasn’t there to “perform” and Taylor Swift nailed her hair flips and her vocals.
Hopefully next year will involve less self-righteousness, fewer eye-rollable moments and a lot more good singing.

Michael Fliotsos is a sophomore Science-Business major residing in Duncan Hall. Contact Michael at mfliotso@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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