BEST NEW ARTIST - 2011
Vocalist, Musician, Composer
The recent 53rd Grammy Awards 2011 televised program moved at a refreshingly rapid pace for such shows. Almost constant musically entertaining action with tight time limits on everything in between performances accounted for this feat. The production also contained more disconcerting blipped content than I’ve ever heard on any one program. Eventually, I became distracted, then irritated, as I began to wish either all those censored words would be aired, or the entertainers would use some that could be aired. I won’t go into word censorship pros and cons now.
The show proceeded with the introduction of music world celebrities, who then received momentary audience adulation, before announcing the nominees, followed by each nominated individuals or groups performance. Declared award winners were strictly limited to very brief acceptance speeches allowing this lengthy 3 ½ hour program to proceed so rapidly. Maybe some of this time limiting would be welcomed for other televised awards shows of shorter duration.
Much of the music performed accurately reflected that aspect of the past decades pop tastes for mostly aggressive sounding music. The constant nature of the various songs’ lyrics consisted of stories often focused on only life’s harsh realities, though some were occasionally poetic. Personally, I could enjoy the musical choices offering a little more romanticism, idealism and fantasy.
Also, I certainly recognize the significance of physical sex to humankind, but the performers seemed to have a pressing need to overtly sexualize their words and body choreography. Perhaps their music is a reflection of thoughts most on the mind of the Grammys predominately youth-skewed artists. I also heard mostly loud belting singers voicing similar to each other yodel-like pitch changes with an over emphasis on wavering vibrato. Music instrumentation uniformly was characterized by the incessant heaviness of over-powering drum beating which continues to be so prevalent in much current music.
The highly touted appearance of Mick Jagger was characterized by his energy exhibited while shouting-singing with his striding parade back and forth across the stage. He effectively meshed the loud heavy musical bass beats with the song’s lyrics he sang that seemed to consist of little more than the same phrase persistently repeated. Some reviewers have snidely commented on his age, as they did about Barbra Streisand’s, but that has nothing to do with my comments about the actual music. I do have little regard for those critics or reviewers in the music, or any other industry, whose jibing comments are demeaning based on an individual’s age.
Every decade I’ve enjoyed a varying number of song choices from most every genre, including pop music. Recent decades I've heard fewer pop tune selections that appeal to me, but I’m always interested in listening to the offerings.
The Record of the Year, “Need You Now,” by Lady Antebellum also won Best Country Album and Song of the Year as I had guessed it might. Interesting to me, was that the initial lyrics seemed like a variation with a different rhythm of an old pop romantic ballad written by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen often associated with vocalists Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, “One For My Baby,”:
--- “It’s quarter to three and there’s no one in the place…”
Lady Antebellum’s initial “Need You Now” words, before some more original lyrics followed:
--- “It’s a quarter after one and I’m all alone...”
“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire won Album of the Year, another choice I had, surprisingly to me, correctly selected.
Excepting the songs mentioned here, there was a sameness to most all the Grammy Awards music – loud and louder, fast and faster, with high and higher tension building toward increasingly extravagant special effects, pyrotechnics and often all sorts of grandiose dance gymnastics. Just doesn’t seem enough to have vocal talent and music skills without all the other ‘couterments ala Lady Gaga’s egg. I’ve often wondered if such distractions serve to mask vocal quality weaknesses and/or music skills, but listeners would have to arrive at their own individual perceptions and preferences on that topic.
I simply didn’t experience the Grammy program as having an overall musical variety, much less including many songs that created feelings of warmth, calmness and reflection until Barbra Streisand sang a rendition of her original composition, “Evergreen.” I welcomed hearing a tender romantic poetically uplifting melody backed by an orchestra with integrated unobtrusive drumming beats.
Introduced with Kris Kristofferson, Ms Streisand was briefly honored as MusiCares Person of the Year, sang "Evergreen, then quickly moved off stage. Her appearance seemed almost like a last minute injected footnote.
MusiCares is a non-profit organization offering assistance to musicians in crisis and seemed deserving of a minute or two more attention from those present. I wondered if the audience, with the optimism of youth, failed to recognize MusiCares significance, much less that some of the entertainers among them would likely eventually need to receive the organizations help.
Here’s Barbra Streisand singing “Evergreen” Live in Concert – 2000:
The Grammy Show's highlight for me wasBest New Artist -- Esperanza Spalding. Her selection was surprising to many of the music world pundits. I was delighted with her well-deserved recognition as I recalled being so impressed upon first hearing her music a year or more ago. I couldn’t describe better than this quote from her myspace web site that refers to her as a “jazz fushion artist.”
“If “esperanza” is the Spanish word for hope, then bassist, vocalist and composer Esperanza Spalding could not have been given a more fitting name at birth. Blessed with uncanny instrumental chops, a multi-lingual voice that is part angel and part siren, and a natural beauty that borders on the hypnotic, the 25-year-old prodigy-turned-pro might well be the hope for the future of jazz and instrumental music.”
(A video of her performance on David Letterman’s Show, and also a free download is available there.)
“Musician and rising star Esperanza Spalding performs ‘Tell Him’ on the double bass at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009. “
I confess to musical bias for the upright bass since this was my husband’s instrument as I’ve noted here earlier, including in this most recent February piece. An upright bass is an uncommon instrument for women musicians, but attractive Ms Spalding is exceptionally talented playing and singing -- well deserving of her 2011 Grammy Award as Best New Artist.