So the Grammys happened this past Sunday. In keeping with my theory that 2010 is the Year of the Woman in Entertainment, the ladies represented. It was wonderful to see Roberta Flack duet with Maxwell and to see Stevie Nicks, even if she was relegated to tambourine and backing vocals with Taylor Swift. Lady Gaga served a brilliant performance, holding more than her own solo and with Elton John. Sasha Fierce and her all-woman band delivered a frenetic display of Sasha’s incomparable vocal skill and unmatched movement capability in 5-inch stilettos as she took “If I Were A Boy” to new places.
Sasha even gave Beyonce’ a purely normal, human moment: upon accepting the award for Best Female Vocal Performance (her 6th of the night and a new Grammy® record for any female artist in one year-not that you heard that part after the Taylor win), she thanked her husband with an “I love you”. Pink got the crowd wet (visibly) with an amazing aerial rendition of “Glitter In The Air” high above the crowd with no net. Pink is fearless.
Speaking of Fearless, Taylor Swift was awarded the Album of the Year Grammy® for her CD of the same name. Now look, I was just as horrified as the rest of the world when Kanye bum-rushed her at the VMAs. But it was on Grammy Night that I realized Beyonce’s attempt to give her a do-over by ceding her VMA acceptance speech time to the ingénue from Nashville was apparently not enough for the Recording Academy.
Every Awards show gives de facto do-over awards for people they’ve wrongfully overlooked or outright snubbed in years past. But this usually happens to right a wrong of their own doing, not of another artist—during another award show! Last Sunday, I witnessed this for the first time. I say this not to take anything away from Taylor Swift. I don’t think she’s the best singer; but she’s a solid songwriter, is actually a musician, and has the total package of country-girl-next door looks. Ordinarily, I’d be elated that a woman—especially one so young, copped 4 Grammys including Album of the Year. But that feeling of elation I had when Lauryn Hill won the same Award was nowhere to be found. I was in complete shock.
My first thought? “Kanye West is responsible for this.” His star power is so potent, he put this girl who was known primarily in country and tween pop circles on the map with his interruption. Taylor really shoulda given dude a shout-out. The media fallout banished him and caused a tsunami of sympathy for Swift; a wave she rode from Saturday Night Live clear up to the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards.
My next thought? How does Taylor Swift win over Lady Gaga, who sold 8 million units in an abysmal market within months, AND had 4 #1 singles on the Billboard Top 200 from one album? Over Beyonce’, who had everyone from babies to drag queens doing the ‘Single Ladies’ video choreography and raked in $36M in tour receipts in a recession? Over The Black Eyed Peas, who topped the charts for 6 months, held the top two slots of the Billboard Top 200 with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling” this summer–with much of Chicago dancing to the latter smash hit on Oprah? And over The Dave Matthews Band, who are…well, The Dave Matthews Band???
Here’s Taylor by the numbers: at the end of 2008, both her albums amounted to 4 million sold. As of 2010, she IS the world’s top-selling digital artist at 24M downloads. No shots, but this makes her the country version of Souljaboy Tellem; a strong singles artist. Album of the Year I’m not buying. For Taylor Swift to win Album of the Year, the most coveted Grammy of the night—against Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce’ and The Dave Matthews Band was truly a gift; I am not sure Taylor will fully understand how much NARAS has her back.
What appeared to me as I examined this year’s Album of the Year nominees more closely was this: this was the most urban-leaning group of nominees I’ve seen in years. The usual shoo-ins, U2, weren’t even nominated for New Line On the Horizon. Kanye aside, I am not surprised that the Recording Academy went country in an ocean of hip-hop, R&B, dance and pop. It shows me we need more young members of diverse backgrounds, so voting will be balanced and wins will reflect a greater respect for the genres we represent.
I now have enough writing and production credits to become a voting member. This year’s telecast was my wake-up call. I will be signing up in plenty pf time to vote in 2011. I challenge all urban/dance/hip-hop/gospel/soul/black rock artists, writers, producers, packaging artists, and liner note writers to join me on the Voting Academy. For more on becoming a member, visit www.grammy.com