Representation of Pop Music at the Grammys

It has been about 2 weeks since the Grammy Awards, and for some reason, I came to thinking about the nominees. I’ve always been a lover of pop music; I make no qualms about it. And when it comes to the Grammys, you will usually expect me to be excited most about the pop categories. I’ve had my problems about the pop categories at the Grammys for some time now. I mean almost anything can qualify as pop it seems, even if it belongs in another genre category. Or even if that same artist is actually nominated for a different song, in a different genre. What actually qualifies as “Pop” then?

That was before, when the male and female performances, plus the group and collaboration performances were their own award. Now, with the awards for male and female being merged into one, and the group and collaboration awards merged into one, you would think that it’d be: a) more competitive as to what were the best songs of the past year; and b) more definitive of what pop is considered as.

I mentioned in the Grammy winners post how weird I thought that Coldplay and The Black Keys were nominated alongside Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera and Tony Bennett/Amy Winehouse. Granted, there aren’t that many pop groups out there, but surely they didn’t need to reach out far to get the 5 nominees?

This year my biggest pet peeve was with the Best Pop Vocal Performance. Like I said previously, I’m glad Adele won and deservedly so. But it seemed to me that all of this year’s nominees were 5 of the most popular songs of the past year, though in my opinion, not particularly the best (except for Adele of course). For most other music award shows (American Music Awards, MTV VMAs, Billboard Awards), popularity is a key factor in awarding the winners. The Grammys are supposed to be about more than popularity – it’s supposed to be about the music.

I rant about this because there are a lot of artists out there, who by Grammy standards should be eligible for the awards. Based on the nominees, it seems like you have to be very well-known to be considered; there doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. There’s a lot of talent out there that goes unrecognized and wouldn’t it be nice for them to FINALLY get recognized for their hard work. Sure, some artists could care less about winning a Grammy, but as a fan, I’d like to see my favourites get some support and win awards for being great musicians + writing great songs. And don’t we all just want to get recognition for our hard work, whether we’re musicians, actors, or general office folk?

I could understand the omission of say, Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts” from this year’s awards because technically speaking, it was released July 2010 so it was eligible for last year’s show. But what about Matt Nathanson’s “Faster”, Colbie Caillat’s “Brighter Than the Sun”, James Morrison’s “I Won’t Let You Go” or “Slave to the Music” and Sara Bareilles’ “Uncharted” or “Gonna Get Over You”? Yes, I am fully aware that I’m speaking as a biased fan of all these artists, but these songs were better than “Firework” and even “Perfect”.

Maybe this all stems from the fact that these songs were extremely overplayed on radio, making me give a rather negative feeling towards them. But the point of the matter is, I’d like to see the wealth being shared, with a more diverse group of pop artists being nominated. Not all artists get the luxury or luck of commercial success. Maybe the Grammys can actually give others that chance of greater success by acknowledging their work.

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The Now + Then of Music

It’s a subject that I often think about, most often when listening to the radio, and that’s how music has changed over the years. I’m a person who doesn’t particularly like listening to the radio, but seeing how part of my job involves driving around everywhere in a car that isn’t mine, I’m forced to listen to the radio. Honestly, my dislike of listening to the radio really has more to do with my frustrations with it. A lot of the more popular stations in my area (and I’m sure this applies in a lot of places) seem to play the same songs over and over again. This summer, I consider it a good day/drive if I didn’t have to hear a song featuring any one of the following artists – Pitbull, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, LMFAO, Rihanna…the list could go on, but the point is my idea of a good day has been rare. Also, you know it’s a bad thing when the radio can turn a song from one of your favourite artists and make you not like it because of the song being overplayed – in this case, it’s Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” The last time this happened was when Sara Bareilles was hitting it big with “Love Song” and everyone was playing it. It was a lengthy amount of time before I could actually listen to that song again.

I’m very well aware that the radio stations I choose to listen to are the popular ones, so they will be playing a lot of Top 40 stuff. At the same time, is it too much to ask for a variety of songs? I find it kind of sad that I have to listen to a radio station from Buffalo (if I can pick up the signal) to get an actually good variety of music. When I can actually pick up the signal for this station (Star 102.5), I get to hear, for example, Colbie Caillat, Sara Bareilles, Matt Nathanson. And it’s not just the songs that they’re famous for (“Bubbly,” “Love Song,” “Come on Get Higher” respectively) but their newer songs (“Brighter Than the Sun, ” “Uncharted,” “Faster”)! Of the more popular stations in this area, if I had to choose, I would listen to CHUM 104.5 and Magic 106.1 more often than 91.5 The Beat, Z103.5, and Virgin 99.9 because they give me a slightly better variety of music. Sure they’ll play the Top 40 stuff, but they also play older songs, which I appreciate.

Yes, this is all preference and people’s definition of what is considered good music varies; this is strictly my opinion, my thoughts. Fact of the matter is, these stations that play a better variety of music, both old and new music, gets me thinking about the songs I grew up with, because these stations plays those songs.

I’m 23 now, and if I look back on the past 10-15 years of music, and compare it to now, I would much prefer listening to the older songs. If you really think about it, the early 2000s were great years for music. We can laugh about the whole boy band thing that started in the 90s and continued on, but you can’t tell me that an album like NSYNC’s “Celebrity” doesn’t hold up today. You listen to some of the singles off that album (“Gone”, “Girlfriend”) and you can still hear it on the radio today. If we want to talk R&B, I would gladly listen to Usher’s “My Way” and “You Make Me Wanna” over his newer stuff. I would pick Aaliyah over anything these days. Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy” over “Run The World (Girls).”

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never been particularly fond of the dance music genre, but I look at the songs from back then (making it seem like it was THAT long ago, but it kind of wasn’t) and they seem to have a timeless quality to it as opposed to a lot of songs these days. These songs come on the radio and I still enjoy it as I did 10 years ago. I could just be cynical, but I can’t imagine the popular songs of today, holding up well, and still be good 10 years from now. With a lot of artists these days trying to make dance music, it feels almost dated. It’s a little hard to explain. All I know is that, now more than ever, I love and appreciate the artists who write music with meaning and heart, and they really try to make good music and not just follow what’s popular. Don’t get me wrong, I get that every artist wants to grow and experiment with new sounds at some point. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking with what you know, what you do best, and showing what you’ve learned through your songwriting.

Music, like everything else, goes through cycles. So maybe right now, we’re in a little bit of a lull. And while a sizable group of popular artists are trying to make a dance record/album/song or trying to make everything a big spectacle, others are falling through the cracks of people’s consciousness, despite releasing albums with great music/songwriting/intentions. And honestly, this really just goes back to my longstanding wish that more artists get the recognition they deserve. Plus hopes that I can turn on the radio and not hear the same 10 songs or so, ALL THE FREAKIN’ TIME.

Rant over? For now…

Grammy Awards 2010

It’s Grammy night! For any music fan, this is THE night. Granted some could care less about the Grammys, but with this music fan, I always look forward to the Grammys. Nothing gets between me and my Grammy watching. As I did with the Golden Globes post, I’ll be writing this post as I watch the show, so comments will be made in the order in which they occurred on the show. Any awards given out during the pre-telecast (that I have any comments on) will be posted first (it comes before the actual show, so makes sense no?)

Pre-Telecast Awards

  • Best Female Country Vocal Solo: Taylor Swift “White Horse” – I like Taylor Swift but best vocal? Not so much. Especially considering she was up against the likes of Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride
  • Best Country Song: Taylor Swift “White Horse” – Good for Taylor. I can get behind her winning here.
  • Best Dance Recording: Lady Gaga “Poker Face” – It’s too bad Britney couldn’t win here for Womanizer, but there was no doubt how big a song Poker Face was.
  • Best Rap Song: Jay-Z, Kanye West & Rihanna “Run This Town” – Well deserved, although Dead and Gone was equally deserving.
  • Best Rock Song & Best Rock Performance by a Duo/Group with Vocals: Kings of Leon “Use Somebody” – Definitely well deserved. Such a fantastic song.
  • Best Male Pop Vocal Solo Performance: Jason Mraz “Make It Mine” – Jason Mraz was the only one who, in all honesty, should have won this award, so I’m extremely happy to see him win. The other nominees in the category, although being great artists, are not really considered “pop.”
  • Best Pop Vocal Collaboration with Vocals: Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat “Lucky” – Lucky is such a great song, so I’m really happy that they won. Also, it’s Colbie Caillat’s first Grammy award so it’s just a great win overall.
  • Best Pop Vocal Album: The Black Eyed Peas “The E.N.D.” – Kelly Clarkson should have won for All I Ever Wanted. Truthfully though, The E.N.D. is more of a dance album than pop. Meh I’m just disappointed that Kelly didn’t get nominated for more awards.

Actual Awards Show

  • Lady Gaga opens up the show with an All That Jazz-sampled intro, a medley of Poker Face & Speechless, the latter song being a duet with Elton John. Not a fan of Gaga, but that duet was kinda cool.
  • Stephen Colbert: “The Grammy awards, the highest honour that can be bestowed to an artist. Next to being covered by the kids of Glee.” LOL one of many lines by him. He should host something, or maybe I should just watch the Colbert Report more often ahaha
  • Song of The Year: Beyonce “Single Ladies” – This award is for songwriting, so I really think Kings of Leon should have won. But it’s alright, Single Ladies was quite the ubiquitous song of 2009; there’s no denying that.
  • Green Day & the cast of American Idiot performing 21 Guns. I definitely think this performance is making the song even more superb than it is. But then again, with the success of Glee, everything sounds better when sung as a group and on the verge of turning into a showtune. Still an awesome performance
  • Best Country Album: Taylor Swift “Fearless” – Obvious choice. Can’t deny how sweet/humble she is when accepting awards though.
  • Is it just me or is Simon Baker always here? Didn’t he present last year too? I mean, he’s not even a musician. He’s an actor.  Hmmm…
  • Beyonce commanding the full stage for her performance. If I Were A Boy gets a new, and dare I say better, arrangement. I really like the rockier edge given to the song. And a slight cover of You Oughta Know mixed in there? Interesting…I’m kind of suprised though that she left it at that. I was expecting more of a medley, breaking into Single Ladies or something.
  • Pink performs Glitter In The Air. Really incredible and cool performance. Not much else to say about it.
  • Best New Artist: Zac  Brown Band – Can’t comment much about them. I don’t really listen to them so can’t say much. Good for them I guess. I was disappointed in the nominations for this award to begin with, but I’m pretty sure it would’ve been either them or Keri Hilson anyways.
  • Black Eyed Peas performs Im’ma Be and I Gotta Feeling. The whole performance should have been just I Gotta Feeling, even though I was complete annoyed with the song during the summer becuase it was incredibly overplayed. Taboo looked kinda bored at one part. And I’m pretty sure those videos on the screen also included some other musicians (Timbaland? 50 Cent? I think so…)
  • another commercial break and I kind of want to see some more awards handed out? I mean it is called the Grammy Awards. I don’t want the whole show to be just awards being given out, but would it hurt to have a more balanced ratio?
  • Lady Antebellum performs Need You Now. Again, I’m not really well-versed in the country music scene. I know the names of the artists, but there are very few who I actually listen to. After this performance, I think I might have to give Lady Antebellum a full album listen now.
  • Best Comedy Album: Stephen Colbert “A Colbert Christmas” – Usually an award that gets awarded during the pre-telecast, so it seems kind of out of place during the actual show.
  • Record of the Year: Kings of Leon “Use Somebody” – ahaha “happy drunk” KOL. Awesome win! REALLY well-deserved.
  • Jamie Foxx & T-Pain performs Blame It. There was no doubt that that was T-Pain in the white wig lol. For a song that pretty much entirely auto-tuned, this performance wasn’t half bad. At the very least, it’s better than when it was performed on American Idol last year. That’s not saying much.
  • Justin Bieber has no right in being at the Grammys. He may be a fellow Canadian, but he needs to go away.
  • Best Rock Album: Green Day “21st Century Breakdown”
  • CBS really is pimping out all their shows huh?
  • Zac Brown Band performs with Leon Russell
  • Taylor Swift up next, starting with her new song Today Was A Fairytale, from the upcoming movie “Valentine’s Day.” Short and sweet, because we gotta get to Stevie Nicks joining Taylor on stage. And I’m sorry to say, but this performance is kind of making my point that she’s not the greatest vocalist. *See pre-telecast awards comments above*
  • Michael Jackson Tribute…in 3D! Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Usher are performing. Followed by MJ’s kids receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award on his behalf.
  • Bon Jovi performing for the first time at the Grammys. Seriously? In their entire music career, they’ve never performed on the Grammys? Wow. They start off with their latest hit We Weren’t Born to Follow and go into Who Says You Can’t Go Home, a duet with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. And then for the fan voted song, it’s Livin’ On A Prayer! Classic Bon Jovi. Although I partially wanted It’s My Life for one reason only: the fact that it now reminds me of Glee and that awesome mash-up lol.
  • Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: Jay-Z, Kanye West & Rihanna “Run This Town” – I guess they deserved it, especially Rihanna after the year she’s had. And Kanye couldn’t really lose, he was nominated 3 times in the category. But again, I still think T.I. & Justin should have won for Dead and Gone. It’s just a really good song, regardless of the fact that Justin’s a part of it.  Although it would’ve been HILARIOUS if I’m On A Boat won. And last thing, who’s kid was that? Too cute!
  • Mary J. Blige & Andrea Boccelli perform a new version of Bridge Over Troubled Water for Haiti. Amazing.
  • Dave Matthews Band performs, introduced by Adam Sandler.
  • Ricky Martin? But yay Lea Michele!!
  • Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: Beyonce “Halo” – I wonder what would’ve happened if Kelly Clarkson was nominated in this category for Already Gone? Would the votes cancel out due to their slight likeness? Or would Kelly have come out victorious? We will never know. Sidenote, I totally just realized how awesome/funny it is that Lea got to give that award to Beyonce, considering the Halo/Walking on Sunshine mash-up on Glee. hehe.
  • Maxwell performs Pretty Wings. Great song. He is then joined onstage by Roberta Flack.
  • Les Paul tribute featuring Jeff Beck. I would like to know who that girl singing was though. She was kinda awesome.
  • Quentin Tarentino can be the funniest dude sometimes.
  • Drake, Lil Wayne & Eminem performs Forever. Travis Barker on drums. The only thing I don’t like? The fact that there is so much censoring on this song. Total, I think a good 30 seconds to a minute of the song was censored. I can’t enjoy the song when I know the sound gets cut out.
  • Album of the Year: Taylor Swift “Fearless” – Good for her. I absolutely love how Colbie got a mention, and that on the screen where it says the winner, it was written as Taylor Swift & Colbie Caillat. Love.

Well, at the end of it all, no surprise, Beyonce and Taylor Swift were the big winners. Beyonce had the most wins with 6. Taylor Swift won 4 including obviously, the big one. Kings of Leon right behind with 3 awards. Overall, it was a slightly uneventful show. We had some great performances, and some not so great. Here’s to hoping that 2010 will be chock full of great music options so we can get a better show in 2011.