Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Can't let this week go by without commenting on several Grammy performances that pretty much blew me out of the water last weekend. The opening tribute to Aretha Franklin was nothing short of stellar, with Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Hudson, Yolanda Adams, Martina McBride, and Florence Welsh performing some of the queen of soul's old standards and doing one heck of a job of it. Having said that, I felt as if McBride and Welsh (who outdid themselves) were still slightly out of their league compared to the other three, while Aguilera's performance represented a credible effort at redemption (insofar as possible) from her recent Super Bowl debacle with the national anthem. Even if she hadn't forgotten the lyrics, her effort to "make the anthem her own" fell flatter than a pancake for me. Let's face it, changing the melody of the Star Spangled Banner is never a good thing...but the way Christina sang "Ain't No Way" the other night was more than a good thing. It was a GREAT thing.
It's interesting to note that Fantasia of Idol fame boycotted the Grammies altogether this year (despite winning one herself) because she was not included in the tribute. To be honest, I'm not sure why she wasn't. You can bet she would have eclipsed the good-but-not-great efforts of McBride and Welsh. Can't say that Fantasia is a favorite of mine, but she definitely has soul (and pipes) to spare, and if you're gonna cover Aretha, both come in mighty handy!
I won't be putting Lady Gaga on my iPod any time soon, and I'm anything but a fan of her cultural statements, but that girl's creativity is off the charts. I was put off, however, by how much her new song "Born this Way" seems to be a direct rip-off of Madonna's "Express Yourself." Usually a purloined melody only sounds a bit familiar, but this one boasts whole sections that are all but identical. Fortunately for Gaga, Madonna has given the derivative song her blessing, which is pretty magnanimous considering that she could have sued and won in a heartbeat. (Not that she needs the money, but I'm surprised Madonna isn't more protective of her intellectual property.)
Eminem, whose talent is as extensive as his language and content are offensive, was another act that brought the audience to its feet. While I can't support much of what he says and does (I do give him props him for getting sober), there's no denying his ability to wield words and lay down beats. I just wish he were more conscientious in the way he uses that ability.
Bob Dylan wasn't miked well enough, but I thought it was great fun to see him and loved the guys who accompanied him. Bruno Mars, B.O.B., and Janelle Monae did a great ensemble act before splitting off to showcase their individual skills, and I had a lot of fun seeing Jaden Smith on stage. I had less fun with his teeny-bopper heart throb buddy, Bieber. (Is it wrong to be bugged by someone just because his hair is too sleek and shiny?) I know. I'm a bad person.
Finally, I have to stand in awe at what struck me as the best performance of the evening...Mick Jagger's full-body nod at Solomon Burke's classic, "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." At 67 years old, that guy is timeless and ageless. And his performance? Electric! Seriously. I was mesmerized. And oh boy, did that sassy singing and strutting ever take me back. I only wish I had DVRd it so I could watch the whole thing all over again. Again and again. Made me want to see him in concert!