TAKE NOTES – 2010 Grammy Musings

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Hello Music Lovers-

So I feel I would be remiss if I did not comment a bit on last Sunday’s Grammys. It was a wild ride but I must say that at the end of it all…looking back on it the next day, my vibe was overall pretty positive on the Grammys and the music establishment in general.

Follow me and all the action as it happens on the Twitter @clemmusic

Some observations…

Let’s start with the best thing first. ARCADE FIRE winning for Album of the Year was as big a surprise to me as it was to all of those people tweeting…”who the hell is Arcade Fire?”…”who are these hippies” and “(fill in the blank) was robbed!!!”. Truth be told I was happy that they were even noticed enough for the nomination but not in my wildest audiophile dreams did I think they would win. I actually forgot they were even nominated it was such a far off possibility to me. I was pulling for EMINEM as I think Recovery (I was glad Shady took home the truly deserved Best Rap Album award for this) really is a masterwork. I love The Suburbs and I was lucky enough to see ARCADE FIRE live twice last year. It is a live concert energy like nothing I have ever seen or felt. So now that they are full-fledged in the mainstream, hopefully you will get a chance to catch them live and hear their truly terrific work. They will open for U2 a bit, tour on their own and make an appearance at Bonnaroo.

OK…so whether you like it or not you knew this was coming…my thoughts about Lady…(shhhh don’t say her name)…um… she who shall not be named. Rather than my normal rambling run-on paragraph, I’ll just make a few statements…

1)   She won for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance…I actually agree with that.

2)   Someone must have showed her the original episode of Mork and Mindy and thus the red carpet “egg entrance”…REALLY????…oh please!

3)   I think her remake of Madonna’s Express Yourself is pretty good…wait…she’s claiming that it is an original song????

4)   Once again ambiguity does not become the Lady…3 days before the Grammy’s, on the CNN news scroll it said…”Lady Gaga quoted as saying ‘I have one of the best voices of all time.’” (I promise I saw this) Then on the Grammys she claimed in faux humility…” I didn’t think I had the voice to sing this record and that is why I imagined Whitney Houston singing it.” Which is it sister???…do you REALLY see yourself up there with Whitney, Mariah, Aretha, Stevie, Celine, Luther, Streisand and the other greats? Just the tiniest dose of true humility would serve you well.

5)   While her 15 minutes may extend to another album or so, my prediction is even those who are her myriad legion of fans will wake up soon and realize that we were duped by the dark force that WAS the mainstream music machine. 5 years from now many of us will be looking back and exclaiming…”how did I ever think this good?” while the rest of us will be debating and/or extolling the merits of the newest album from THE ARCADE FIRE or MUSE.

Best New Artist was ACTUALLY a great race this year with 4 of the 5 nominees being truly worthy of winning the award. It was almost a year ago now when a friend texted me while I was at Bonnaroo to tell me I would be a fool to miss MUMFORD AND SONS while there. It’s no secret how much I LOVE these harmony singin’ acoustic instrument pickin’ brits that sound like they could be from Nashville or Belfast. FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE are just a force of nature in the alt rock world with Florence Welch’s vocals being one of the things that make them great. DRAKE made a really good rap/hip-hop record and ESPERANZA SPAULDING is a truly gifted singer/composer/instrumentalist from the jazz world. Grammy loves to do the unexpected with people from the jazz world as SPAULDING walked home with the award. (Herbie Hancock came seemingly out of nowhere a few years ago to take Album of the Year and Al Jarreau took a similar honor about 20 years back.) What?…oh did I leave someone out?…oh, where’s THE BIEBS? In a category he shouldn’t have been… that’s where! Look, he is a talented kid and I do get the appeal but the award is Best New Artist NOT Most Popular New Artist…that I would give him. He’s just not even in the same solar system as these other artists and whoever his management is that let him go on stage with Usher should be flogged. You don’t put even Julliard’s most recent and best voice graduate on stage at The Met just yet and you should not let even a very talented young kid on stage with one of the most dynamic performers in the business. It just plain looked stupid…I don’t care how cool you think his hair is. Also, for your big solo moment at the Grammys would you choose the song where 75% of the lyric is either “ooh yeah” or “baby”…another management misstep.

I know you are sick to death of hearing espouse the virtues of MUSE but I am hoping that their winning of the Best Rock Album Grammy and their performance will show the world what I believe which is that they are one of the most talented bands on the planet, truly one of the best live acts out there and that they are just 1 or 2 big radio hits away from a U2 type place in musical history.

It was pretty much a given that THE BLACK KEYS Brother’s album would win Best Alternative Album but once again all the nominees were truly deserving. It is odd however that ARCADE FIRE’S Suburbs won Album of the Year and not it’s true category…spread the wealth I guess.  The lush beautiful Infinite Arms by BAND OF HORSES and the electro-funky self titled BROKEN BELLS are great records. I could go either way on VAMPIRE WEEKEND’s Contra. I love the white boy channeling Fela tunes, but is it really more worthy than the efforts by FOALS, SLEIGH BELLS and maybe most overlooked Halcyon Digest by DEERHUNTER. I guess we should just be glad they have a Best Alternative category…another feint light in the distance marking hope for other forms of great music.

I felt JOHN LEGEND and THE ROOTS were truly deserving of all the R and B awards for Wake Up as it was a GREAT album that while getting much notice at first, quickly seemed to go off the radar. Let’s hope this brings it back. In other R and B news… I LOVED CEE-LO GREEN…there, I said it and I’m stickin’ to it! He’s truly a great modern R and B artist not masquerading as hip-hop in a R and B mask. He took a simple sentiment that we have all felt on numerous occasions, wrapped it around some fun, catchy and solid music, added some muppets live and gave us one of the year’s best singles.

Ah Country music…how you perplex me. Look, we all know that as screwed up as the music business is in general, the Nashville facet is messed up six ways from Sunday (that’s redneck for it’s REALLY bad). My girl MIRANDA LAMBERT got some juice with prominent apperances and the golden victrola for Best Country Female Vocal…..but in many ways, LADY ANTEBELLUM quietly became the big winner of the night. I think they’re fine but Grammy and the music industry will always do whatever it can to save itself. They LOVE to find a mediocre act that they see can cross genres and boost sales on a couple of different Soundscan and Billboard categories. There is no way I will ever believe LADY ANTEBELLUM’s effort was superior to all the folks they beat. It’s not that they’re bad…I just find them…well…boring and void of any musical passion. A minor win for ZAC BROWN and no win for the nominated JAMEY JOHNSON (along with Elizabeth Cook I believe Zac and Jamey to be the saviors of Country Music) again, made me happy that at least some of the good stuff was noticed. But no mention for Elizabeth Cook, Justin Townes Earle, Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green or maybe even the truest country artist there is Dwight Yokum? HEY COUNTRY MUSIC GOOD OLE BOYS, DJs, AND PROGRAMMERS…LARRY GATLIN AND THE GATLIN BROS. had a major label release this year and it was REALLY good!…DID YOU EVEN NOTICE??? Larry Gatlin STILL sings circles around most major country artists. Let’s all keep searching for the good in country music (as hard as it is to find) and let the CMAs and Grammy’s continue to reward the mediocre and mundane.

And let’s hear it for the old guys with JEFF BECK, IRON MAIDEN, NEIL YOUNG and JOHN PAUL JONES (of THEM CROOKED VULTURES) all taking home their various statuettes.  All made good music this year and probably will continue to but I would be most excited about another album from THEM CROOKED VULTURES, that is if drummer Dave Grohl can squeeze it in between new records and tours with Queens of the Stoneage and The Foo Fighters. Even while feeling like it was written recorded and produced in a day THEM CROOKED VULTURES’ self-titled innagural effort was a great record and one wonders what would they come up with if they really took their time. To see one of the fathers of Rock and Roll and one of his offspring at Coachella last year was bliss. The other “Vultures” in that band are no slouches either.

Ok…so maybe I am somewhat bitter on some things but certainly not as much so as in years past. As I said before, I see this year’s Grammys as reason for hope in part due to many of the nominees. Maybe next year The Grammys will go back to rewarding the same old crap as in years past but with Album of the Year going to a truly deserving “indie” group, I have decided to give Grammy another chance. Who knows…maybe next year at this time, all the “tweeters” and “bloggers” will be saying…who the hell are the The Decemberists?

Keep Taking Notes!

Dave Clemmons

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Clem emerged from the underbelly of NashVegas where he began his love of ALL things musical. College found him in the commercial music program at the University of Miami where he actually learned what the hell he was doing. New York was next and whether he “made it there” is still up for debate. From playing in the honky-tonks of Nashville and the dance clubs of Miami to Broadway and theatrical stages around the country, to Carnegie Hall (while practicing one day somebody told him how to get there) and the recording studios of New York and L.A., Clem’s variety of musical experience has transcended the boundaries of genre. He owns a production company, lectures on music in colleges across the country and is on the visiting faculty of Elon Univ. He has a port-o-johns named after him at Bonnaroo, Coachella and Lollapalooza.