Category Archives: Grammy awards

I Feel A Void: Lady Gaga’s Tribute to Bowie

Yeah, I saw Lady Gaga last night. After realizing I wasn’t going to be at home in time to catch the beginning and a quick text home, I knew I’d be playing with the fast-forward button on my DVR in order to squeeze in the more interesting parts of the Grammy Awards into my evening TV plans. Rest assured, Lady Gaga and Nile were on the top of that list.

Naturally, I watched some of the rest of the awards show as well. I don’t know about anyone else, but it very much felt like a LACK of awards show, and much more about just performances, which is fine…I guess…but it was strange to be five minutes into the broadcast and have LL Cool J announce that Lamar Kendrick had already won five awards. What the hell?  Maybe that’s just me.

As I continued fast forwarding whenever possible, I finally got to the Bowie tribute. Here is where things get tricky for me. First of all, I wouldn’t dare call myself a huge Bowie fan. I have dear friends who are huge Bowie fans, and it would be unfair to put myself in that same category. I will say that I have become far more of a fan since his passing, and that’s probably a subject for a much different blog post that has more to do with art than fandom. Moving on…

Performing something called a tribute is a very difficult balancing act. The goal of course is to honor the artist. That artist might be honored posthumously, as in the case of David Bowie…or they might be watching in person, as in the case of Lionel Richie last night. Either way, I truly believe that the people performing do so in an attempt to honor.  Do fair justice and respect to the work without making the performance about you (the performer) when it should be about the artist being honored. Make it too much about the person you’re honoring, and it can end up looking like a mockery of the very person(s) you’re trying to honor.

This goes as much for tribute bands, who make a living (or try to do so!) playing onstage in the persona of the band/artist they honor as it would for something like the Grammy’s where a huge portion of the show was dedicated to tributes (like last night). When I go to see a tribute band (I go often and have seen many, from Elvis and the Beatles to Oingo Boingo, Depeche Mode and Duran Duran to name but a few), the acts that are the most successful are the ones that take it seriously without going over the edge into ridiculous. Make too many jokes about the band you’re paying tribute to – and you’ve just taken that down a road that fans will not like. Play too much like your real-self, changing the original music and arrangements to suit your own taste, and you’re just a cover band, which is fine, but don’t call yourself a tribute act. There’s always a fine line to walk, and many bands do not do it well.

So, with that in mind, I watched intently as Lady Gaga’s face appeared on my TV screen and became painted like the Starman. She came on stage with beautiful red-hair and sang incredibly.  Had she just done that: relied on her voice, her obvious love for Bowie’s style, music and art, I think it would have been fine, I really do. But somewhere along the line, either she decided or someone told her that she should try to completely embody Bowie. And that’s where it all went wrong for me. I am not even a huge Bowie fan, and yet I couldn’t help feeling as though I was watching a poorly executed Vegas act in certain moments of the performance. It wasn’t her voice, gosh no. She was incredibly strong and did a beautiful job. It was theatrics that really got me. No one need point out that Bowie himself was theatrical. Believe me, the point has not been overlooked. The problem is, in recreating that drama, it felt very over-the-top, sliding down the steep terrain into mockery. It was pointed out to me by Katy Krassner that she really didn’t seem to be doing that intentionally (and I am sure she wasn’t), but I struggled with how to describe it all.  Campy is the right word. Picture a Vegas lounge act, and I think we’re on the right track.

Here’s the thing, at least for me: Lady Gaga sang beautifully last night. I want to make sure that point comes across. As much as I disliked and was confused by what was going on visually, her voice completely blew me away. I really don’t know that they could have found anyone else to do the job as well when it came to singing the songs. I loved seeing Nile every time he was given precious camera time, and I was thrilled to hear just a few bars of “Let’s Dance”.  I just don’t understand why her voice and Nile’s obvious talent and emotion for his friend weren’t enough without the theatrics.

The difference between Gaga and Bowie comes down to artistry. Bowie just knew how to make it all work together without one overshadowing the other, and he did it with ease. Bowie’s work never really looked like he was forcing it into being a spectacle, in my opinion. Even at the time of his death and in the making of the videos for “Blackstar” and “Lazarus”, he was able to work in those deep, hidden messages without changing the intention of his work. Hell, I fell in love with Lazarus before I even realized what it was truly about. That it ended up being this lasting message to fans about the end of his life on this earth, and the idea that he made his death into this gorgeous supernova which becomes a black star (another word for a black hole) that will live on, just makes me long for more. (I could write and talk for hours about that single album and its artistic references. I mean, the man turned his death into a fucking multimedia event. Who does that?!?) When Bowie sang Starman, for instance, it wasn’t campy or in danger of becoming a late-night lounge act on the Vegas strip. It was just enough without going over the edge. That’s where the real art lies, and for me, that’s what last night’s performance was missing.

I’ll end with this thought: should the day come when it is Duran Duran being honored, I would hope that it would be done with the utmost in care and respect. I don’t need to see a full-mock up of the yacht from Rio, military suits, tigers, leopards, or a scene from Wild Boys on stage to honor them. I simply want to see respect from an industry that has offered them very, very little over the years. I would think that is all any fan would want.

-R

Todays Date in Duran History – 1986 Grammy Awards

Hey, what were YOU doing on this date in 1986?

Nick Rhodes was presenting a Grammy Award to Sheena Easton for Song of the Year!

On this date in 1986 I was 15 years old and in the 10th grade, which meant that I was a sophomore in high school. I can remember seeing Nick give the award – I liked his hair. (An important note, right?) And that was the most exciting part of that entire evening for me….and probably a lot of you.  Little did we realize (Maybe some knew. I’ve thought about this and I don’t believe that at the time of the Grammy’s I really knew/understood that Andy & Roger weren’t coming back.)  that later that year Notorious would be released (November of 1986) and the Fab Five would really and truly be down to just three.

Now that I’ve brought you all down, you can go read Nick and Katy’s Oscar Picks to bring you back up!!

 

Out Of My TV

I didn’t watch the Grammy’s last night.  I realize that for most of you, this is probably not groundbreaking news. Maybe you stopped watching after Nick was there presenting an award in what…1986 or so?  For me, I was hardcore. I watched all of those cheesy damn award shows every single year, cringing through much of it, but insisting that I had to keep trying. I kept that up right through 2013, up until Miley did her deal at the VMA’s.  Something else happened that night though, something far less visible, far more subtle…and probably a lot less important to everyone in the world but me. I stopped caring.

There is a part of me that would like to kick myself this morning, because out of all the years to stop caring – this doesn’t seem like it should have been the year. I actually tolerate Macklemore…sort of. (for me, this is a miracle, as I am not a fan of Rap or Hip-Hop)  I really enjoy Daft Punk.  (Enjoy is probably not the right word – Nile is amazing and without him, they’d likely just be a gimmick. You can’t help but hear his wonderful influence all over that album, which is why I love it so.) I love Lorde – she reminds me a little bit of the teenager that lurked within (me) back in the 80s, and I think her music has integrity – something that tends to lack these days.  And, I did miss seeing Ringo and Paul onstage together – even though they didn’t perform a Beatles song, instead doing a song off of McCartney’s latest album.   That said, I’m glad I didn’t sit around to watch Madonna continue her attempt at keeping up with the “younguns” and staying cool – that ship sailed a few years ago, and now it’s just getting sad.  I didn’t need to see Beyoncé and Jay Z – quite frankly they bore the hell out of me, no matter what the rest of the world says.

The only question I’m really asking myself this morning is why I stopped caring. I’ve always loved music. Still do. I think though, I got tired of watching the dog and pony show. I miss the days when talent spoke louder than gimmick, when the music made the hair on the back of my neck stand up or when I’d get goosebumps from something I heard.  Maybe though, those days only existed in my head. I suppose gimmick has always played it’s part – but the question is whether or not gimmick outweighed the music or the message.  I find myself looking for the music that’s off-the-beaten-path nowadays. I’m much more apt to buy the music I can’t hear on the radio than I am to buy songs that I hear every time I get into the car. I like supporting the little-known, the obscure, the new.  There is absolutely nothing like the feeling when I hear music that speaks to me – the hair stands up on end, the goosebumps still wash over me, and I feel like I’m being taken on an escape.

So perhaps it isn’t that I’ve stopped caring, perhaps its just that right now I want more than the spectacle or the show.  I want something to savor, to contemplate.  It doesn’t have to always be that way. Sometimes fast food works, and other times, I want the well-thought out, slow-cooked gourmet.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt much if Duran Duran happened to hit an award show one of these days, either!

-R

This blog should come with a warning…

My apologies to those who have tried to post a comment lately, only to pour their hearts and souls and have that comment taken to the great beyond and eaten as though it was yesterday’s leftovers.  Blogger should be spanked.  Take heed my friends, as Rhonda will be looking into “other arrangements” for the blog as time permits.

Time?  What’s that, anyway?  Lately I have had very little of that particular noun.  It seems I’m always off running, and if not running, driving.  Let me share a little story from yesterday evening with you though, simply for your laughter and enjoyment.  My oldest was at a show for one of her friends last night and the plan was that my husband was going to go and pick her up while I got the little one into bed and lit a fire under our son, the video game addict, so that he would go and have a little quality time with some water and soap in the shower.  He’s 12 and sees absolutely no reason to be clean, deal with any kind of hygiene, or leave the computer for that matter.  It’s a joyous age, I must say.  As I crawled out of my youngest’s bedroom having read 4 books to her, finally convincing her that yes, it was imperative that mommy now be allowed to go upstairs herself; I knew I’d saved the tough part for last – I had to get that boy into a shower.  I wearily made it upstairs and told him he had 30 seconds to get himself to the shower or else he’d have to sleep outside in the back of Dad’s truck because he was too dirty to be in my house.  He sighed that sigh that only 12 year old boys can muster, and walked into our room.  One thing about my son, when he’s resigned himself to doing something, he wants to get it done.  Fast.  That’s a lot like me, and so I get where he’s coming from and stay out of his way.  The next thing I know the boy is calling me to the shower, and saying “You’d better look at this.”  I look down at the spigot to see that the water is not coming out of the spigot as much as it’s coming out from the spot where the spigot meets the tile.  Then he switches on the shower with bravado, and the water starts SPRAYING out from the wall.  Then he looks at me with that “Seriously mom, are you kidding me?” look that I tend to give my children.  *sigh*  After cursing quite beautifully (and with my very own special bravado, I might add), I tell him to take a shower downstairs.  My husband comes home and I announce that he needs to come see the shower – and naturally he’s following me asking me what I’ve done “now”.  Really?  REALLY?  I turn on the water and he very quickly realizes that there’s trouble afoot.  Then he quickly untwists the spigot off the wall – hey I didn’t even know it DID that – and announces that the pipe has completely rusted through.  Oh joy.  He has some genius master plan that involves going into the wall through our oldest daughter’s bedroom closet (she is not amused) and fixing the whole thing himself.  I was issued a stern warning not to use the shower (um, I’m thinking that’s not going to be a problem since the entire spigot and shower knob have been pulled off the wall….but whatever, right?) until he fixes it.  He was also thoroughly offended that I dare suggest we call a plumber, and perhaps even our insurance company.  I see trouble coming with a capital T.  I might not have much time, but trouble?  Absolutely!!!  I will keep you updated!

After all of this insanity I chose to go for a brisk walk this morning.  I live in a fairly hilly area, so a good walk will work some of this stress off in most cases and today was blessedly no exception.  As I was walking this morning I was thinking about what I needed to blog about today, and I remembered a thread I’d read yesterday.  Some very kind fan out there brought up the possibility of Duran Duran being nominated for a Grammy for All You Need is Now.  This person rightfully feels that the band pulled off an amazing album, and that perhaps now is the time.  I have to tell you that when I read that thread, my immediate reaction was “Absolutely not.  They don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting a nomination!”, and I meant it.    Bands who are nominated and especially those that win a Grammy are typically “accepted”.  They get radio play, people know their work (new and old), and while I don’t know if critics always love them – they are talked about.  They are commercialized “establishment” types of bands, and quite honestly – that’s never been Duran Duran.  Even back in the 80’s when, for a relatively short time things were super hot for them, they were never given more than a nod or two by “the establishment”.  We all know they were never a critical favorite, and while they might have gotten quite a bit of airplay back in that day – that was *gulp* nearly 30 years ago at this point.  The punchline to this joke is that All You Need is Now is probably one of the very best works of their career.  Mark Ronson did a fine job with the album, and I would expect to hear him be nominated one of these days – but not for his work with Duran Duran.  The very same reasons why Duran Duran will likely never be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would enter in here – and once again, I don’t think it has anything at all to do with the quality of their work, whether that’s current or their back catalog.  I know the band has stood up and said that they aren’t sure whether they’d ever really seek that sort of acknowledgement out simply because it’s so mainstream establishment – and by wanting that acknowledgement you’re sort of giving credence to the idea it must matter, and I would have to agree.  While I feel as though the band does deserve quite a bit of acknowledgement and accolades for the work they’ve done as well as the innovation they’ve brought to the industry, I don’t know that winning a Grammy counts for much more than stroking the collective egos of those whose career depends on such things.

I’m off in search of new pastures for this blog!
-R