Here’s a quick question: What is the most ignominious debacle in the history of the Grammy Awards? Is it Elvis Costello losing out to Taste of Honey for Best New Artist, or Metallica getting piccolo-whipped by Jethro Tull for Best Metal Album? (No, Milli Vanilla doesn’t count, you bastards.)
As a closet admirer of the bass line from Taste of Honey’s “Boogie Oogie Oogie,” I’d vote for the latter, not because I’m a worshiper of Metallica, but because there are no flutes allowed in heavy metal.
The Grammys are the perennial turd in your champagne glass, a boring marathon that’s oddly schizophrenic. On the one hand, the Grammys love them some old folks, generally making up for decades of neglect by raining statuettes on seniors nearing the end of their careers (Herbie Hancock, Carlos Santana). On the other hand, they inevitably make the elders swallow a cocktail of indignities. If they no longer have a pulse, all the better.
Right off the bat, at this year’s Grammys, Frank Sinatra’s video image was roped out for an obligatory dead-guy duet with Alicia Keys on “Learnin’ the Blues.” The Chairman reportedly threw a drunken tantrum in his dressing room after the show.
Speaking of corpses, The Time reunited for a performance of “Jungle Love,” and this was a real reunion, meaning Jerome Benton - the greatest mirror-wielding valet in the history of punk-funk - was on board. But before we had a chance to check Morris Day for cosmetic enhancement, Rihanna bogarted the stage with “Umbrella,” and the medley parade was on.
On the presenter front, Cyndi Lauper had to smile her way through patronizing props from Miley Cyrus, which basically amounted to, “Hey, give it up, this old lady used to sing, too!” The Band (or what’s left of it) basked in the glow of their Lifetime Achievement Award for about four seconds, before Tom Hanks yanked our attention away and introduced an endless Beatles tribute. The worst indignity came when Kid Rock subbed for Keely Smith’s old song partner, Louis Prima, on “That Old Black Magic,” and effectively wrecked Smith’s first moment in the spotlight since the Kennedy inauguration. Her grin had gallows humor written all over it.
Fortunately, Amy Winehouse tore it up from a London cabaret, with a fiery yet playful double shot of “You Know I’m No Good” and “Rehab.“ Her performance, and five Grammy wins, almost had the feel of catharsis. I predict they’ll give her Album of the Year in 2049.