Monday, February 13, 2012

54th Grammy Awards in Review

Sunday night marked the 54th Grammy Award ceremony. The show had a tinge of sadness cast upon it as Whitney Houston's passing on Saturday affected the mood. LL Cool J, who hosted the event, started the show with a prayer and a short clip of Houston singing one of her greatest hits, "I Will Always Love You." The song was later performed by Jennifer Hudson, who offered a restrained and respectful take on it. Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt also paid tribute to the late Etta James with a performance of "Sunday Kind of Love."

Performance-wise, the night kicked off with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing "We Take Care of Our Own." Although no horn section was included, I'm sure that the band felt the missing presence of late saxophonist Clarence Clemons. Bruno Mars performed a fun and rousing rendition of "Runaway Baby," in which he urged the crowd to "get off [their] rich asses and have some fun."

The first televised award went to Adele, as did many of the other awards, including "Record of the Year" and "Album of the Year" for "Rolling in the Deep" and 21, respectively. The night truly belonged to her as she also gave a wonderful performance of "Rolling in the Deep" and received a standing ovation. The singer recently had surgery on her vocal cords, but they sounded in top shape. She easily had the best performance of the night. An award went to Bon Iver for Best New Artist. Despite frontman Justin Vernon's apprehension about attending and accepting his award, he assured the crowd that he was honored. Best Rap Performance was won by "Otis" by Jay-Z and Kanye West who were both absent from the ceremony.

Rock music was also brought to the ceremony in the form of the Foo Fighters who performed twice, the first being the hit "Walk" and a the second being a performance and remix of "Rope" during a dance portion, which was strangely dedicated to the late Don Cornelius (Soul Train). The band also won Best Rock Performance and singer/guitarist Dave Grohl made an inspiring speech about the "human element" of music and not sounding perfect, but "singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft." Sure, he sounded a little pretentious and he went on to perform with Deadmau5, but his sentiment was still nice.

Also receiving two performances were Paul McCartney and Chris Brown, which marked the latter's return to the ceremony since the Rihanna incident in 2009. Brown danced on a box set to his hit "Beautiful People." His performances remain consistently good if you're a fan, but his lip-syncing cannot be overlooked. The singer also won the award for Best R&B album for F.A.M.E. The second included a performance of "I Can Only Imagine" with dance DJ David Guetta and Lil Wayne. The whole dance portion of the show that also included Deadmau5 seemed like an attempt to appeal to the younger crowd, but it was a somewhat enjoyable change of pace. Stevie Wonder introduced McCartney who performed a new song called "My Valentine." He also closed out the show with some lesser known Beatles songs from Abbey Road, including "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End," which included Joe Walsh of the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl. The six guitarists present on stage by the end proved to be a fun and high energy ending to the show.

It was nice to see an up and coming band like The Civil Wars do a short performance and showcase their talents before introducing Taylor Swift. The country starlet sang her hit bully-bashing song "Mean" atop of a hillbilly set.

As has been Grammy tradition, there were a couple of duets between artists. Rihanna performed an impressive vocal and dance-heavy version of "We Found Love," and then took the stage with Coldplay for a short acoustic rendition of their song "Princess of China." Both Chris Martin and Rihanna's vocals were shaky, which carried through to Coldplay's performance of their hit "Paradise." Also, to celebrate the Beach Boys reuniting, rather than just bringing them on the stage, Maroon 5 and Foster the People performed "Surfer Girl" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" respectively. Then The Beach Boys came out showed us how vocal harmonies are done and did their seminal classic "Good Vibrations." Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean performed "Don't You Wanna Stay." Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood got together and sang a nice version of "It Had to Be You."

The night's most bizarre performance did not come from Lady Gaga, whose presence was mostly absent from the ceremony. Nicki Minaj tried her best to fill that void, with an over-the-top performance of "Roman's Revenge" and new song "Roman Holiday." The theme of the performance was the exorcism of Roman Zolanski, Minaj's alter ego. The performance was messy and disjointed, but it was surely one of the more memorable ones. Katy Perry also tried to make an interesting performance, but ultimately fell very flat. She started out with "ET" before going into a first-time performance of break-up anthem "Part of Me," which sounds like a reject P!nk song. Both artists' stage presence left something to be desired.

Overall, the show was pretty enjoyable and tried to include something for almost everyone.

For a full list of winners, head to the Grammy website. For the performances, go to the Idolator.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

RIP Whitney Houston: 1963-2012

Like many others, I was shocked and saddened to hear about Whitney Houston's passing yesterday afternoon. Usually the death of a celebrity doesn't affect me as much, but for some reason my heart completely sank when I heard about this. I'm not going to pretend I was the biggest fan of Whitney, but every time I heard one of her songs it brought a smile to my face and touched my heart. She undoubtedly had some of the greatest songs of the 90's and especially the 80's, which are my favorites. Her voice was so smooth, one of a kind and full of genuine emotion with every word she sang. She is a legend and will be dearly remembered and missed.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Music Video + MP3 + Performance: St. Vincent - Cheerleader

I was late getting into St. Vincent's (otherwise known as singer/guitarist Annie Clark) music, specifically last year's terrific third album Strange Mercy, which should have made my Best of 2011 list. Following "Cruel," "Cheerleader" is the second single from the album. It will officially be released on Valentines Day, but the video premiered on Youtube today. The video was directed by Hiro Murai and features a giant version of Annie on display in the center of a gallery, looking every bit the porcelain doll.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New Music Monday + Nostalgia: Brandy feat. Monica - It All Belongs to Me

After 1998's epic Brandy and Monica duet "The Boy is Mine", the duo reunite to bring us an anthem for the 21st century...ok only not really. The new track, "It All Belongs to Me" is nothing to get too excited about. Yes, vocally it's great to hear the two together again, but it's nothing memorable and the subject matter has been done too many times before and better. It's basically just another kiss-off song with awkward lyrics ("That Macbook belongs to me," "Log off your Facebook" Ok?) You can listen to the song below, and watch "The Boy is Mine" for old times sake. I also felt like including "What About Us?" by Brandy under the cut.

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Music Video: M.I.A. - Bad Girls

M.I.A.'s newly released song, the Danja-produced "Bad Girls" now has a music video. Directed by Romain Gavras ("Born Free"), the video makes the song even more badass, and features Arabs doing crazy car stunts (yes, they're actually real). M.I.A. shines in the video, as always bringing her understated dopeness to every scene. Watch the video below.

M.I.A.'s fourth album is set for a summer release. "Bad Girls" can be purchased on iTunes.
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