Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Articles [NAJP]

Live Blogging the Grammys

My first ever live blog. I guess this should make me feel like real blogger, but in fact it makes me feel like a real salary slave. All over the country, surviving rock critics ("pop" critics, "music" critics) are satisfying their employers' notions of with-it-ness by blow-by-blowing this famously inept event, chronicling the desperate antics of an industry that was proving how ahead of the curve it is by being scared shitless of the economy years ago. Insofar as I know who was nominated, I'm rooting for M.I.A., nine months pregnant exactly this evening, and Lil Wayne. As always, I expect nothing, including any real-time readers. Just practicing. I do not promise to stay awake for the whole thing, though.

8:06 R&b album: three dogs, including sentimental favorite Jennifer Hudson. One old-school fave: Al Green. One unexpected minor masterpiece: Raphael Saadiq. Hudson won, natch, thanked her family on earth and in heaven, as was certainly her right. Now I feel compelled to note the badness of her album in print.

8:09 Jokes and smarm by the Rock. Jokes worse than smarm.

8:11 Ditto by Justin Timberlake, who I still root for. General store line falls Completely Flat.

8:12 Al Green and JT duet on Let's Stay Together. Both sound terrific--improvising, interacting. Al looks like he's gained about 30 pounds. As long as his heart holds up, who cares? Later: my daughter noticed Keith Urban on guitar. I don't actually know what Keith Urban looks like.

8:20 Coldplay joined by Jay-Z, who isn't on Coldplay's label or anything, but does have an album coming out. They're all on the sinking ship together.

8:27 Carrie Underwood doing one of her raunchy ones, "I Don't Even Know His Name." Is she the best American Idol has given us? Probably. Kelly Clarkson has never convinced me.

8:32 LeAnn Rimes and Sheryl Crow announce Retroactivey Feminist Lifetime Achievement Award to Brenda Lee. Sugarland win Country Duet Grammy, though not for their best song. Easy to see why people like them.

8:40 Duffy and Al Green, both having won Grammy already, some announcer says. (Duffy Best New? Seems wrong, though she's worth rooting for. There must be some way for me to find out now, but I can wait.) Coldplay wins song of the year over Estelle and Kanye West. Duh.

8:43 Kid Rock. I feel much less of a vested interest in his heart. Warm slightly when he utters the word "scumbag," though.

8:54 Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus together at last for the first time singing Swift's "Fifteen." Great song, substantial young artist, and Cyrus ain't bad either. Pop duet award goes to Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, presaging likely old-people record-of-the-year putsch, which I've been expecting. I mean, the Plant-Krauss record was good, even inspired in its way. But the way the Grammys have always worked is all about older powermongers voting their creaky sneaky hearts.

9:09 Jonas Brothers with Stevie Wonder. Idea is Stevie was originally Little Stevie. Also, they're all Christians. But Stevie wasn't home-schooled. And here's betting they didn't all vote for the same presidential candidate. In fact, here's betting they didn't all vote. (Of course, they're not all 18, either. But those that are.)

9:15 Blink-182. Blasto from the pasto. Rock award: Coldplay. Oy. Chris Martin makes charming joke about limestone rock. Soft, get it? Self-effacement their specialty.

9:22 Craig Ferguson introduces Katy Perry doing her bi-curious act. Inside an enormous electric banana. I've been defending this bit since last summer, but could be convinced to change my mind. My wife and daughter both like that she's wearing flats, but I'm praying she doesn't stick her tongue down one or more of her dancers' throats, and she's getting closer. Ends with all the dancers' kissing her cheeks--face cheeks. Cut to Jonas Brothers. They are not amused--or titillated either. Not so's you can see, anyway.

9:27 Estelle and Kanye. Shoulda won best duet. Contain yourself, K. K complains once more that he didn't get Best New Artist Award, as he should have, but we knew that. Chubby Brit dance-pop teen Adele wins. Beats Duffy and Jonas Brothers, thanks both, almost cries. Fine with me--chubby never gets respect. Also, Jonas Brothers didn't win.

9:36 Morgan Freeman. Something Old is about to happen. Nope--Kenny Chesney, who Freeman is "proud to call [his] friend." Wonder where they play golf together.

9:40 Diddy-N. Cole-Hancock announce Record of the Year. Come on, M.I.A. Krauss-Plant, natch. My wife says, "I don't know why I ever watch the Grammys. They always break my heart."

9:48 Queen Latifah gives Lifetime Achievement to (the late) Dean Martin, then brings on the "Rap Pack"--T.I., Kanye, Jay-Z, and Lil Wayne join a hugely pregnant and enormously uninhibited M.I.A. on "Swagga Like Us." So good--so fresh and accomplished and in-their-face. The Grammys are generally good for one such moment, and this is it, as Paul McCartney and Dave Grohl prove by coming right on and reprising "I Saw Her Standing There." Spirited, but pallid by comparison.

10:06 Jack Black comes on with his father-in-law and pays his respects to Paul McCartne\y but says his father-in-law is the world's greatest living bass player. With Cachao dead, this is probably true. His father-in-law is Charlie Haden.

10:10 Adele and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles duet on Adele's "Chasing Rainbows." Very touching, actually. The kind of thing that makes you hope the biz survives. Which is what the Grammys are designed to do.

10:18 Coldplay wife Gwyneth Paltrow introduces Radiohead. I've never been much of a Thom Yorke fan, and he does overdo it a bit--the Bono thing. But boy, does he smoke Chris Martin.

10:28 T.I. and JT. Last track on T.I.'s excellent, cameo-studded album, and not one of the best. JT is fine, song negligible.

10:34 Neil Portnow, NARAS president. Always a low point. Claims Grammy-winning Obama as "one of us." Holds down the intellectual property rhetoric. Instead pumps Cabinet-level Secretary of the Arts. Quincy Jones, he salutes you.

10:38 Smokey Robinson, sole surviving Four Top Duke Fakir, Ne-Yo, and Jamie Foxx do Four Tops medley. Foxx does Levi Stubbs shtick. His Ray Charles had more jam.

10:47 Josh Groban gives humanitarian award to Neil Diamond, who sings. No comment.

10:51 In memoriam. Finally something good again. They remembered Cachao. I didn't know about Claude Jeter. Last-named, justly: Bo Diddley. Then B.B. King, John Mayer, Keith Urban, and I think Hubert Sumlin did a more than creditable "Hey Bo Diddley." Best music since Radiohead, only better. Still, I'm ready to do something else, really.

11:02 Gary Sinise of CSI New York introduces Lil Wayne with N.O. angle. Robin Thicke on hook. Not Wayne's best song, but then Allen Toussaint and some Dirty Dozen guys and Terence Blanchard come on over Toussaint's signature riffing and Wayne puts some effort into a "feet don't fail me now" chant. Not "Swagga Like Us," but good.

11:10 T-Pain and will.i.am give Rap Album to Lil Wayne, who brings his family onstage. Nice to see it awarded so late, but this one was Wayne's--best-selling album of the year means a lot to the NARAS electorate. I want him to get Album of the Year, which I once again predict will go to Krauss-Plant.

11:18 Zoe Deschanel introduces Krauss-Plant performance. The great thing about that album was that it was a moment that jelled. Problem is, magic isn't fungible.

11:23 Green Day present Album of the Year. Plant-Krauss. Duh. Bye.

3 Comments

By Matos W.K. on February 8, 2009 11:17 PM

I don't think it was Hubert Sumlin--pretty sure it was Buddy Guy (B.G. on guitar strap) w/shaved head.

By Joe Levy on February 10, 2009 4:46 PM

Yes, that was Buddy Guy.

The Al Green/Timberlake duet is all the more impressive for being assembled about 3 hours before showtime.

By Dean Jones on March 18, 2009 6:58 PM

Dear Mr. Robert Christgau, by 'the badness' of Jennifer Hudson's album, are you implying that it is 'bad,' as in 'good,' or 'bad,' as in 'bad?' Also, I don't mean to pry, but Douglas McLennan now has 46 written articles and Laura Collins-Hughes has 44.

Peace.

Articles, Feb. 8, 2009


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