Monday, February 14, 2011

The Grammys and Me

Last night, I finished Janet Malcolm's excellent biography of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. It's not so much a biography in the conventional sense, but rather an exploration of a long-term relationship through investigative journalism and close reading of text. It was around eleven in the evening when I finished the book. I was ready for a late night snack and a little TV to lighten the mind before bed. As I flipped through the channels, I came across the Grammy Awards show. At first, I didn't realize it was the Grammys, because Arcade Fire was performing. What were they doing on the Grammys?

My impression of the Grammy Awards was formed at an early age. My first and strongest memory of the show was watching Christopher Cross win multiple Grammy awards. Even as a 15-year old I could recognize the artistic black hole that was Christopher Cross. No doubt I was a pretentious 15-year old given to reading Esquire magazine (when it was good) and pretending to enjoy European films. But this wasn't about being pretentious. How could anyone recognize "Sailing" and "Ride Like the Wind" as artistic achievements? Sure, the songs are pleasant enough as long as you don't have a strong reaction to insipid shit. From the perch of a teenage music-snob-in-waiting, the Grammys represented the worst in American culture--a celebration of the middle-brow, uninspiring, and money-making facets of "art". Since the Christopher Cross awakening, the Grammys have been the subject of mockery and derision from me.

It turns out Arcade Fire was on the Grammys because The Suburbs had been nominated for album of the year (see previous post where I laud the album). They were competing against Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum (who I had never heard of), and Lady Gaga (I think). All I was thinking was, God I hope Arcade Fire loses. Then all would be okay in the world. Of course, Arcade Fire won, which immediately brought on an existential attack. I kept thinking, the joke's on me, the joke's on me, the joke's on me. I'm not sure what that meant, but it wasn't a good feeling.

So, the only conclusion is the Grammys have changed or I have changed. Perhaps both. I'll be listening to The Suburbs again soon to begin my evaluation. Now about my favorite album of 2010, the Black Keys' Brothers, winning the Grammy for best alternative rock album... Shit... the joke's on me again, the joke's on me, the joke's on me...

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