I’ll confess. I’m a Grammy watcher. Not because I attach even a fleeting importance to what gets awarded — no one really cares who wins Grammys but the artists, the record execs and the engravers. No, I watch for the same reason some folks go to air shows — because once in a while you get to see somebody crash and burn.
Unfortunately, there was no moment this year as bewildering as Wu-Tang’s 1998 acceptance speech for Best Rap Album since they didn’t even win that award. ODB ambled onstage just as Shawn Colvin was getting her award for Song Of The Year, moaning, “Puff is good but Wu-Tang is for the children.” And nobody stepped up to the podium to stop him. Maybe security was racing around frantically backstage asking if this guy was East Coast or West Coast.
As a barometer of pop taste, the MTV Awards, the Country Music Awards and the Image Awards are much more accurate, probably because you don’t have voting by members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences who still remember cutting school to go hear Rudy Vallee sing. Yet with those people dying off, the proceedings have gotten far too sensible. But the 2003 Grammy awards did offer a few shining shameful moments. Here are some categories that really mean something to people, followed by Grammy bloopers from days of yore.
The John Denver Memorial Award for Most Out Of Touch Hipster
Dustin Hoffman brought our whole divided nation together, if only just to say, “Dad, you’re embarrassing me in front of my friends.” First, he gives a shout out to “Bruce Springstreet.” Then he performs No Doubt’s “Hey Baby Hey Baby” as “Say Baby” complete with chilling Gwen Stefani hand choreography. Then he sends an unconvincing “wussup Detroit” out to Eminem and then lauds Simon and Garfunkel’s so-so performance so profusely — probably coz the last record he added to his collection was the soundtrack to The Graduate.
Best Unintended Tribute to A Lifetime Achiever
When Lou Reed bowed down to speak into the mike while Dave Grohl stood behind him, they inadvertently re-created the Bridge Over Troubled Water album cover. Wow!
Most Grateful to Mama (by an R&B or Country Artist)
Grammy is always pro-Mama — that’s why Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet” was passed over in favor of “Without Me.” Nora Jones thanked her mom but took all five opportunities to snub biological father Ravi Shankar. Darn you, Sitar Dad!
Most Unfortunate No-Show
Best Security Risk If G.W. was in the House
If Erykah Badu wore her traditional firearms-smuggling headdress with her Dead Prez T-shirt, the CIA would’ve wrestled her to the ground.
Award Recipients With the Least Chemistry
After 10 years of no contact whatsoever, Simon and Garfunkel sing “The Sounds of Silence” and no longer sound like they’re hanging on each other’s breath intake. Midway through, Simon starts performing his solo version and Artie’s gotta play catch up. Old friends, please!
Grammy Presenters With the Least Chemistry
P. Diddy meets “Sex in the City” (Kim Cattrall) and makes more eye contact with the TelePrompTer. Also, Justin Timberlake asks Kylie Minogue if he could squeeze her ass again; he’s given a polite, firm and luscious “nooo.” That’s how nine out of 10 marriages end in this country.
Grammy Presenters Most Likely to get Their Own Reality Show
There was almost too much chemistry between Rod Stewart and Harv Feinstein as Stewart squeezed Feinstein’s drag ass and pawed his little lap pooch. Maybe someone ought to check Rod the Mod’s stomach for Chihuahua semen.
Most Crestfallen-Looking Award Winner
Eminem looked like someone told him he had to spend the rest of his life being Moby when he accepted his Best Rap Album Grammy. But luckily his tag-along posse had the time of their life repeatedly kissing presenter Kim Cattrall.
The Couldn’t You Have Dressed Up Grammy
Drive-by shooters have more sense of the occasion than Fred “D’uh” Durst, whose sweats and omnipresent baseball cap ensemble still got more laughs than the Best Comedy Album winner, Robin Williams.
Best Oscar-Worthy Grammy Dress
Vanessa Carlton, Kylie Minogue, Ashanti and Faith Hill had elegant gammy evening gowns sure to turn heads at any Academy Awards runway. But if it’s tacky Oscar wear you want, you had Pink’s slit up the side to reveal a “Misunderstood” tattoo that looked like a train of Madagascar leeches running up her chunky-style leg. And of course, if the Michelin Man ever became a cross-dresser, Aretha Franklin would be looking to him as a fashion consultant. When she hugged Norah Jones, the Best New Artist looked as if she’d disappeared in a New York snowdrift.
Best Dis-R-E-S-P-E-C-T to a Lifetime Achiever
That all the Lifetime Achievement Winners weren’t invited onstage leads you to believe they all are dead. But having wedding-cake impersonator Aretha Franklin give props to Etta James was especially Diva-sive, since Etta was called the Queen of Soul as early as 1962 before Aretha swiped the crown. Grrrrlll!
Grammy Recipient with Best Anti-War Mixed Message
Gwen Stefani had a top that said “Love” but wore cut-off war-ready fatigues. And Sheryl Crow’s guitar strap read “NO WAR” but her hair kept covering the first part. C’mon, c’mon!
Most Overly Enthused Acceptance Speech
The way the Dixie Chicks and Natalie Maines’ dad tag-teamed and conferred their acceptance speech, you expected someone to cue up the “Family Feud” theme when they left the stage, which is what most of their albums sound like anyway.
Most Unfortunate Non-Televised Grammy Recipient
Why didn’t they televise the Best Gospel Album Award? Coz it was won by The Five Blind Boys of Alabama. Maybe they couldn’t get enough aisle clearance for Five Seeing-Eye Dogs of Alabama.
Best Reason Not to Televise the President of the Recording Academy
Why have another tux telling us that music is alive and well when we can prove it by finally televising the hotly contested Best Polka Album Category for the first time in 45 years? Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones could be in your living room singing “My Father’s Shoes” right now!
Longest Acceptance Speech
When the Nora Jones gang came on for Record of the Year and thanked the caterers and everyone else they’d already thanked individually.
Grammy’s Bloopers and Blunders
In case you’re too young to remember when rock offended old people, here are some of Grammy’s biggest boneheaded decisions.
Best Contemporary Rock and Roll Disc, 1965
And the winner was… “King of the Road” by Roger Miller, which also wins Best Country and Western Single! In a year when the Statler Brothers could snag Best Rock and Roll Performance by a Vocal Group, anything’s possible. Since the Supremes didn’t get nominated in the Best C&W Performance by a Female, a case could’ve easily been made for reverse discrimination.
Best Performance By A Vocal Group, 1966
Against the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and the Mamas and the Papas “Monday, Monday,” the winner was … the Anita Kerr Singers for “A Man And A Woman” — a song that never even charted in the Top 40! The same Ms. Kerr-age of justice took place the previous year when the Kerr Singers’ equally obscure “We Dig Mancini” demolished the Beatles’ “Help!” in this same category. Could the fact that Ms. Kerr was the vice president of the Nashville chapter of NARAS have anything to do with the voting? Nah!
Album, Song and Record of the Year, Best New Artist, 1980
This unbelievable sweep belonged to the somnambulant song stylings of … Christopher Cross! Never before had Grammy’s top three honors been awarded to an artist with such zip star quality. Rumor has it that whenever he put down those statuettes backstage, he was constantly being mistaken for the caterer.
Record of the Year/Album of the Year, 1983
This Toto eclipse of good art resulted in six Grammys for blandishments like Toto IV and “Roseanna.” Any group that names itself Toto and doesn’t have the natural smarts to name their second album Toto II doesn’t deserve to win anything!
Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, 1988
The first year the Grammys deigned to acknowledge heavy-metal music with its own category and nominations for Metallica, Jane’s Addiction and AC/DC, it gives this most coveted prize to … Jethro Tull for its Crest of a Knave album! Guess Kenny G. was too busy to record a heavy-metal album that year.
Best New Artist, 1989
Once Milli Vanilli’s forgery was exposed, it became the only time NARAS demanded an award be returned. This was just a wee bit hypocritical since they’ve nominated nonexistent groups in the past like the Partridge Family (who weren’t really a group) and the Chipmunks (who weren’t even really chipmunks).
Album, Record and Song of the Year, 1991
When Natalie Cole sang “Unforgettable” with her dad posthumously, they might as well have not have even bothered putting the announcement in an envelope. True, it was Grammy’s way of bestowing honor to a great singer like Nat King Cole, who died of cancer in 1965, but maybe the Academy should’ve created a new category for this one, like an After-Lifetime Achievement Award!Serene Dominic writes about music for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]