Maybe you did not notice, but the only references at all to actual rock n’ roll/soul/funk bands in the Grammys last night was in tributes to now deceased musicians: 1) Glenn Frey of the Eagles; 2) Maurice White founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire;3) B.B. King, the best of the tributes, with Bonnie Raitt and Gary Clark and Chris Stapelton (from Ky.) doing ‘The Thrill is Gone’; 4) an homage to David Bowie by the irrepressible Lady Gaga. There was a career retrospective for Lionel Ritchie, done by other musicians, with Lionel allowed to join in briefly for two minutes at the end. Was there anything from still active rock bands from the 70s— say Toto or Journey? Nope, unless you count the rave up at the end by Joe Perry,Alice Cooper, and Jonny Depp (yep that Depp) calling themselves the Hollywood Vampires. Of course they were not a band together in the 70s. Was there anything from bands which began in the 80s and 90s— say U2, or Muse, or Coldplay (now of Super Bowl fame)? Nope, none of that either (a cameo by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters is not worth mentioning). Anything from heavy metal, or folk rock of the whole rock era— nope? Anything from 1990s and 21rst century rock bands like Train, or My Morning Jacket, or Florence and the Machine or, or, or….. Nope. Alabama Shakes is interesting, but is a blues or roots band, not a rock n’ roll band.
Sadly what we got instead of any of that was some reasonably good pop (Taylor Swift) some o.k. country (Carrie Underwood), and plenty of rap (Kendrick Lamar setting the stage on fire), some hip hop (including an homage to Run DMC), some torch singing (e.g. Adele, of course with that voice which is so huge it short-circuited the microphone!– just kidding). What was noticeable was we are now dealing with far too many artists, perhaps because of the popularity of The Voice and American Idol, who are simply singers, or at best singer songwriters, or rhythmic talkers with back-up music (i.e. rap artists). They are not musicians, can’t read music, but they can open their mouths and sometimes good things come out, and sometimes anger and expletives come out. And definitely we didn’t have any contemporary Christian or tradition Gospel or jazz on the show.
In the age of the downloads albums have become an endangered species, only slightly kept alive by an uptick in interest in vinyl and in country music. The technology is better now, but sadly the popular music is mostly not better. Because the technology is so great, you can create sounds and music with full orchestra or jazz band etc. with no actual musicians on stage except the singer, and even he or she may be auto-tuned. And classic rock is of course treated as dead, though it isn’t. They tried to bury it with the tributes in this show, but unsuccessfully. The coarsening of the culture in general (see e.g. foul mouthed politicians running for President), and general anger in the land has affected and infected popular music, not surprisingly. And we saw this live and in color for 3 plus hours last night. We even had a lesbian love song sung by a country band. This deserves a wow. This was not a Grammys for my Grammy. She would have said ‘great jumpin Jehosaphat!’ We need a revival in the land that will even wash over the music industry. Music simply reflects the cultural milieu in general. And right now, I’m thinking of an old Baha Men song when I think of various parts of last night’s show. You know the song I mean— ‘Who let the dogs out?’