Monday, February 13, 2012



By Wayne Robins
Since we do not tweet here on Wayne's Words, nor are we driven by deadlines as we were in the old days when we received a nice salary to do the work we now do for free—oh, but I was so much older then!—here are some thoughts and comments about the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, telecast Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, by CBS.

LL COOL J. Let's hear it for the host. LL Cool J was top-notch from start to finish. His forceful opening provided a compassionate frame for this difficult evening. Whitney Houston's death, just 24 hours earlier and barely just before she was to have an honored spot at mentor Clive J. Davis' annual pre-Grammy party, could have left the proceedings shrouded in sadness and sentimentality. LL Cool J addressed Houston's death and the decisiveness that his character, Sam Hanna, an ex-Navy Seal, dispatches with terrorists and other bad guys in "NCIS: Los Angeles." With great dignity, LL Cool J acknowledged Houston's death, said a prayer, and then gave everyone the head's up that they were there to celebrate music.

BRUNO MARS. A stopwatch-choreographed postmodern chitlin circuit revue performance showed the limitless potential of this young entertainer, who appears to be following in the frenetic footsteps of Jackie Wilson, James Brown, Michael Jackson and Prince. He's a fabulous dancer. He looks great, and his band's vamping verged on exciting. And one cherishes his connection to 1950s street corner vocal magic, as indicated by his album "Doo-Wops & Hooligans." But none of his songs are memorable, and most are mediocre at this stage. An "A" for showmanship, but Mars' material needs to be much better for him to break beyond the teenyboppers.

ALICIA KEYS and BONNIE RAITT. This unexpectedly well-matched duo performed an understated tribute to the late Etta James. But the song choice, the 1950s doo-wop favorite, "A Sunday Kind of Love" was weird. I'm not familiar with Etta James' version, and it is not a song with which she is strongly associated. Raitt was great: some thought her singing upstaged that of Keys, and that's a fact.

CHRIS BROWN. The performances of Brown and his ex Rihanna a half hour apart had the gossip blogs buzzing: It was almost exactly three years ago that Brown was said to have assaulted Rihanna right after a heated dispute . . . at Clive Davis' 2009 pre-Grammy party. I don't see the big deal about Chris Brown: his performance sounded like a tribute to ProTools. And his win of Best R&B Album for "F.A.M.E." showed just how lame, amorphous and far from its roots r&b has become. (None of the others, by El DeBarge, R. Kelly, Ledisi or Kelly Price, earned the right to be called "best r&b album" of this or any other year.) Speaking of which. . .

FOO FIGHTERS. Here's the thing. I like Foo Fighters. I respect Foo Fighters. I understand and believe that Dave Grohl is about as nice and responsible as any rock star you'd ever want to meet. The band's music is good, fundamentally solid, carefully crafted and, as Grohl reminded us in one of the evening's best spoken moments, it comes from the heart and the head. And Foo Fighters swept every major rock category against, it must be said, anemic competition. Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance was "Walk," from Foo's "Wasting Light," which was Best Rock Album; the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance was "White Limo," from the same album. The competition was strongest in the hard rock/metal category, with niche bands Mastodon, Megadeth and Dream Theater in the running, with Sum 41 an outlier.
But if "Wasting Light" is the Best Rock Album, we might as well declare the death of the rock album, or the end of the rock album era. "The Whole Love" by Wilco was the only other really first rate rock album in the category. Red Hot Chili Peppers "I'm With You" certainly merited consideration, but was far from the band's best work; ditto for "Come Around Sundown" by Kings of Leon. The fifth entry, Jeff Beck's "Rock 'n' Roll Party Honoring Les Paul" might have been chosen randomly by a computer program seeking the key phrase "rock 'n' roll." The sturdy but unexceptional "Walk" was the Best Rock Song against "Down by the Water" by the Decemberists, which would've been my choice. The others, album tracks by Coldplay, Radiohead and Mumford & Sons, aren't even real rock songs, but resemble rock songs in structure. This is no insult to Mumford, a fine up and coming pop-folk-rock band with good tunes.

THE BEACH BOYS. Mike Love just gets more lovable every year, doesn't he? Brian Wilson just looks more and more comfortable on stage, doesn't he? Not! and Not! I know there is a kind of twentysomething gal that thinks Adam Levine of Maroon 5 ("Surfer Girl") is like the perfect man or something, but I am not that kind of gal. And Foster the People? What's their story, anyway? But you know, if my make believe girlfriend Pauley Perrette (Abby Sciuto from the regular "NCIS") can bring out Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham of the SUPER BOWL CHAMPION NEW YORK GIANTS; and if Cruz was willing to do his touchdown salsa dance; should that not have created an opportunity for the Grammy Awards to feature some Latin music on the TV show?

KATY PERRY, NICKI MINAJ, RIHANNA AND ADELE. Both Katy Perry, who should know better, and Nicki Minaj, who doesn't seem to have a clue, staged deliriously awful spectacles that looked like the Super Bowl halftime show, if the Super Bowl featured two Texas high school teams, something out of "Friday Night Lights." Rihanna, alone and with Coldplay, seemed to be dressed as a teenage hooker from the movie "Taxi Driver." Adele, self-contained and believing in her talent, was no frills, all thrills. She earned each of the major category Grammy awards she swept, and was twice as sexy as Perry, Minaj and Rihanna combined.

(c) 2012, all rights reserved by author

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