Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red Beans and Rice Monday: Grammys 2012 Recap

For the first time since high school (or maybe a year or two of college), I stayed up to watch the entire Grammy telecast.  And as one of my FB friends said it best, now I totally remember why I stopped watching it so many years ago. 

To say that the show sucked might be an overstatement...but it would also be true.  Frankly, as another FB friend pondered, I am not sure if the Grammys haven't always sucked.  It occurred to me that we were all so mesmerized by the pop superstars of the 80s and 90s that we forgot how God-awful boring the rest of the show could be.  So here are a few of the Grammy moments that got the Busy Black Woman's attention (from the good, to the bad to the downright WTF):

1. LL Cool J - Did just alright as the host--which means that he was one of the bright spots of the entire show. He started the show on just the right note with that prayer for Whitney.

2. Bruno Mars - If only he had performed at the half way point...his line about folks getting off their rich a$$es was priceless.

3. The commercials - The best performances of the evening!  I LOVED the two Target commercials and have alternately been singing Alouette and Rolling in the Deep all day.  Oh and since I missed the Superbowl I was not quite sure what to make of that Pepsi ad with Elton John as Jabba the Hut or the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland.  But I liked the Willie Nelson Chipotle ad and I thought that the McDonald's ad with the old guys was hilarious.

4. Jennifer Hudson's tribute to Whitney Houston - simply beautiful.

5. Adele - I am still singing her song, but I suspect that has a lot more to do with the Target ad than it does with her performance.  One of my FB friends commented on her June Cleaver dress and I forgive her because if it had not been for her in that June Cleaver dress and her quip about "rubbish relationships", I might have tuned out after Bruno Mars.

6. Old Guy Radio Reunion - Who exactly in the Grammy target audience cares about the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, the Bruce or Sir Paul anymore?  They all did well enough to receive an honorable mention on my list here, but really, no one who still listens to their music was watching last night.  And while I think that we truly appreciated the Glen Campbell segment, again, I am thinking that the folks who remember "Rhinestone Cowboy" best were watching Downtown Abbey on PBS.

7. The tribute to deceased artists - Twitter went wild when folks began to question why Don Cornelius was left out of the photo montage along with Vesta and Etta James.  Someone suggested that anyone who had died in 2012 was ineligible for a photo tribute, but then there was Whitney whose death the night before clearly meant that the rules could be bent.  The alleged tribute to Don C that followed was just plain wrong on every level imaginable.  And still, not even a photo of Vesta.

8. Etta James tribute - On the one hand, it proves my point that the 'rule' about honoring dead artists who passed in 2011 was bull.  On the other hand, Etta James did not die 24 hours before the show so if someone thought enough of her to organize a tribute, surely they could done better than that tepid segment offered up by Alicia Keyes and Bonnie Raitt (no disrespect to those two who did an admirable job on Sunday Kind of Love; it just could have been a lot better). 

9. Nick Ashford slighted - And this is my final gripe about the dead artist segment, but I think Nick Ashford deserved a lot more than the nothing he got.  I mean, he co-wrote I'm Every Woman, the Busy Black Woman anthem! 

10. Rihanna. Chris Brown. Lil Wayne. Taylor Swift. Etc. - Let me refer back to #6 and the Old Guy Radio Reunion segment to suggest that the music business is in real trouble if any one of these artists receives a lifetime achevement award in 40 years.

11. The untelevised awards - I would be lying if I said that the Grammys should air some of its less popular categories like jazz, world and classical music.  But I am confident that I would have appreciated those a lot more than the above referenced performances.

12. Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross as presenters - Really?

13. Artists who rely too heavily on shock value rather than talent - Because there is nothing unique about crazy costumes, fireworks, aerial stunts, and alter egos in popular music...and that brings me to

14. Nicki Minaj - WTF?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

For Whitney

I have been trying to come back to this blog for a while, but circumstances kept derailing my better intentions. I actually thought that I would return next Tuesday just in time for a snarky Valentine's Day piece...but again, circumstances intervened. 

Whitney Houston regained her voice yesterday.

There is no way for me to properly eulogize Whitney because there is nothing to say that has not already been said about her enormous talent, storybook career, troubled personal life, Icarus-like fall from grace, or her ill-fated attempt at a comeback.  There is nothing left to add or spin differently to make her life story any more or less tragic than what it was.

But I can tell you how my shock, sadness and utter disbelief have now metamorphasized into the firm recognition that God never makes mistakes.  Whitney's voice was once His gift to us; now He has seen fit to give it back to her.  Hallelujah!!!

In the age before music videos, little girls used to sing to themselves in front of bedroom and bathroom mirrors into hairbrushes.  We sang along to the likes of Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Teena Marie and Karen Carpenter.  We sang about love to adoring audiences of younger siblings, dolls and stuffed animals or even to imaginary boyfriends.  For my mirror performances, I borrowed my mother's lipstick and jewelry to really look the part.  And I thought I was something until I heard and saw Whitney Houston. 

Whitney was poised and beautiful and could sang (like the old folks in church would say).  She was the original American Idol.  She had the X factor.  She was The Voice. 

And in spite of everything else--the awkward dancing, the stiff acting, Bobby Brown, and many other questionable lifestyle choices, there was that phenomenal voice.  Until of course, it began to fade...

The last Whitney Houston CD I ever bought was her greatest hits album released several years ago.  I played it constantly to relive some of those hairbrush/mirror memories, but also to marvel at the purity of her voice.  And though it happens to every great singer eventually, there is a point when it became obvious that her voice had changed.  Unfortunately, it was not in a good way, and I finally put the CD away because it was just too depressing to listen anymore.

And in that sense, Whitney's demise is practically biblical--the story of Samson comes to mind.  Blessed with enormous strength, Samson squanders it by giving in to the temptations of Delilah.  After suffering humiliation at the hands of his enemies, Samson gradually regains his strength and uses it in a final triumphant act of desperation that results in both his death and that of his tormentors.  Whitney squandered her magnificent blessing by giving in to the temptations of excess.  She suffered the loss of her career and was ridiculed mercilessly while trying in vain to regain her footing.  But in death, her past mistakes are consigned to the grave.

And her voice is restored!  The most circulated clips from Whitney's past performances were interchangeably the most triumphant from her career: the Star Spangled Banner, the Greatest Love of All, I Will Always Love You, and One Moment in Time.  For those who are too young to understand the grief expressed by millions of now grown hairbrush/mirror singers, the only Whitney Houston they will ever know is the one with the incomparable voice.  And that is how it should be.

Rest in Peace Whitney.