Monday, February 11, 2008

Grammy Thoughts

Awards presented by organizations like the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences being what they are, I don't usually put too much stock in the Grammys — although it's always nice when someone like Ornette Coleman is recognized like he was last year. That said, the online "dialogue" following last night's awards presentation is fascinating for the level of vitriol, subtle racism and outright stupidity directed at award winners like Amy Winehouse, Herbie Hancock and Kanye West. If you need an indication of why the music industry is in such a mess, you need look no further than the polarization in evidence on sites ranging from Canada's national newspaper, the Globe and Mail to the mud-slinging Perez Hilton and celebrity-gawking TMZ.

"Who the fuck is Herbie Hancock?" is one of the more intelligent remarks aimed at the pianist who has dominated the jazz world since the mid-'60s — despite the fact that his Grammy-winning recording is more pop than jazz, with contributions by popular singers like Norah Jones and Corinne Bailey-Rae.

Most of the insults hurled at Hancock came from those who were upset that he blocked the troubled British soul singer Amy Winehouse from a sweep of the six categories in which she was nominated. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who seem to be whipped into a frenzy by Winehouse's beehive hairdo, tattoos and much-publicized drug habit. That latter peccadillo draws some particularly ironic insults. People hurl terms like "crack whore" around like Winehouse was the first musician to have a habit.

As for Kanye ("We live here now") West, you have to feel for a guy who has to shush the musicians in the orchestra pit to get in a few words about his late mother, but his boasts about his Grammy prowess wear a little thin after awhile. You might think his grief would take the edge off his braggadocio for a few months — apparently not. The best line of the night definitely goes to country singer Vince Gill, who quickly recovered from what seemed like genuine awe at getting his award from Ringo Starr to ask West if the rapper had ever received a Grammy from a Beatle.

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