The striking Writers Guild of America granted special waiver last week for the 50th annual Grammy Award telecast to go on, allowing such "actor" musicians as Justin Timberlake, Tim McGraw, Jon Bon Jovi and Fantasia to cross the picket line. This is probably because none of them have ever been in movies anyone has seen ... and, besides, most National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences voters over the age of 90 are confused by all this because Fantasia actually was a movie (reportedly, as legend has it, a good one to watch while on LSD, in fact).
All the Grammy Awards require now is a waiver to allow WGA writers to script the show. Come again? You need writers to put on the Grammys? You mean all those awkward "get jiggy" exchanges between the likes of Danny DeVito and P. Diddy — those moments are actually written out? By writers? Hold on a sec; I've got to sit down and catch my bearings. You, my friends, have just rocked my world.
Yeesh. The only thing that makes this predictable show tolerable is the unscripted moments. When you see a drunk Ol' Dirty Bastard wandering onstage during Shawn Colvin's acceptance speech to insist that "Wu Tang is for the children," or watch an almost naked guy dancing during a Dylan performance with the words "Soy Bomb" scrawled on his chest, you've always assumed that writers didn't have a hand in that. And you'd be wrong. More wrong than Jethro Tull getting the Grammy for Best Metal Group.
At this very moment, in the offices of NARAS, there is a director's rundown sheet of every spontaneous moment, every flubbed introduction, every misguided evening gown, and every orchestra miscue. Nothing, not even mistakes, is left to chance. The acceptance speeches that seem genuinely from the heart are, in fact, your WGA dollars at work each year, scripted out weeks in advance and flashed across the teleprompter, advising winners when to squint, scan the audience for their producer, and when to thank the Almighty for making all things possible.
Don't believe us? Well, our spies got ahold of that very rundown sheet and barring an act of God — or an award engraver's strike — this is some of whatcha gonna see at L.A's Staples Center come Grammy night:
8:00: Awards ceremony begins.
8:03: Ceremony already running three minutes over.
8:04: Replicating last year's Gorillaz and Madonna opener, we've got the reunited Archies (who receive a special Lifetime Achievement Grammy tonight) singing with Fergie. (Note to production manager: Check CBS standards and practices to see if "Bang Shang A Lang" is considered offensive.) Fergie, Betty and Veronica have even worked up some "Clumsy" pop-up book choreography, Jughead's idea probably, so we'll need a camera with collapsible legs.
8:09: Presenting the Best Female Pop Vocal Award is last year's recipient Kelly Clarkson, who's led out on a leash by BMG U.S. Chairman Clive Davis. Clive jokes that the dog collar is the only thing he allowed Kelly to retain from her "Goth adventure." After some awkward banter between them about how well the recording of her country album is going, Kelly sits at attention while Davis reads the nominees. The winner will be Feist, who comes up to accept the statuette with all 100 dancers from her "1234" video. Please note: If one of them falls on the way up, they have to do it all over again so we'll get one long continuous take.
8:15: "Feist? That looked more like a heist," jokes Ellen DeGeneres to her co-presenter LL Cool J. Then, looking extremely uncomfortable, LL says, "That's what the cops claim every time they see me driving my Lamborghini." Then he'll make eye contact with Ellen for the first time and shrug, "I don't even own a Lamborghini." This is done to prove that the show, in fact, does have writers. When Kanye West wins for this year's Best Rap Song, he will use this as an opportunity to lambast the show's producers for letting a bunch of cartoons open the show instead of him.
8:25: In celebration of the Grammys' 50-year history, we have the first of several mash-ups featuring 2008 Song of the Year nominees and past Grammy winners. When Rhianna sings "umber-ella-ella-ella-ella," we'll cut to a giant animatronic Ella Fitzgerald bursting out from the stage floor to sing "Come Rain or Come Shine." Cue the onion gas in the arena to insure there isn't a dry eye in the house.
8:35: Feist will beat out Amy Winehouse in the Best New Artist category. In her acceptance speech, Feist acknowledges this award officially cements her "one-hit wonder status," just as it did such previous winners as Paula Cole, the Starland Vocal Band, Marvin Hamlisch, Marc Cohn, Debbie Boone and A Taste of Honey. Feist then weeps uncontrollably. Make sure she gets a full onion gas inhaler, please.
9:10: To drive home the 2008 message that "Downloading Music is Still Stealing Even Now," Neil Portnow (who?), the president of NARAS, unveils "The RIAA National Deficit Clock," which offers an up-to-the-second tally of how much money the music industry is losing. Then he urges people to support a proposed stimulus package which will go toward buying advance copies of Metallica's next LP.
9:15: Confusion ensues when Usher — who once infamously introduced the spokesperson of a generation as "Bill Dylan" — announces the winner of the Best Female Country Vocal Performance as "Trisha Underwood."
9:30: Next Song of the Year Mash-up: Plain White T's ''Hey There, Delilah'' is matched up with Best New Artist of 1966 Tom Jones, who proceeds to stab Delilah so she'll laugh no more. First standing ovation of the night.
9:40: U2 wins their obligatory annual Grammy for ''Window In The Skies,'' a song nobody's even heard, just so Bono can give one of his modest career assessments: "U2 is really just a little dance band. A megalomaniacal, self-aggrandizing, messianic and filthy rich little dance band."
10:20: This year's obligatory gospel set misses a perfect opportunity to honor the Staple Singers in the Staples Center. Instead, it honors Aretha Franklin as the MusiCares Person of the Year. She'll perform with Mary J. Blige and a bunch of people in the gospel field no one is expected to know. Good time to make a sandwich, as (per our sponsor, Hellman's Mayonnaise's request), we placed a commercial featuring a sandwich made with mayonnaise right beforehand.
10:26: Aretha wardrobe malfunction! Everybody run for your lives!
10:45: Just before winning Song of the Year, Amy Winehouse makes a surprise appearance, performing "Rehab" with a hologram of Charlie Parker. The song, however, is stopped midway when an out-of-it Daniel Baldwin, fresh from VH1's Celebrity Rehab, ambles onstage to tell Amy that "This song is compromising my sobriety!"
11:00: Presenting the Song and Album of the Year Award is another coup via the first televised appearance of the reclusive and out-of-shape Eminem, giving lie to the impression that he just vanished into thin air. He's been preparing all year for this role, methodically eating the wrong foods and studying tapes of previous Aretha Franklin Grammy appearances.Serene Dominic often satirizes the music world in these pages. Send comments to him at [email protected]