Buy their acts?
Posted on February 14, 2011
When confronted with any popular music — from bubble gum pop to emo — we inevitably come back to one core question, the fork in the road question: “Do I buy their act?”
Watched the 60 Minutesinterview with Lady Gaga last night and then her performance at the Grammys and my jury is in: I buy her act. Yes, she is out-Madonna-ing Madonna, but she is honest about it. Her art is artifice and she said so. But more importantly, she can actually play (she was trained as a concert pianist) and has a good voice, she does decent dance music, and she is genuinely provocative (we are forced to form an opinions). In all of this she stands distinct from the deplorable Katy Perry (can’t sing, can’t dance, and bases her persona on the formula: cleavage=provocation; ugh).
More importantly, and here I rely on the persuasive arguments of Amanda Palmer in a recent Spininterview, LG validates every misfit, freaky, non-conformist kid who needs a hero. Her songs are about self-affirmation for those who don’t fit the stifling cultural norms of high school life: the gay and lesbian teenager who can’t be out, the artsy musicians and painters, the political, religious, fashion, and social norm rebels who often pay a heavy price at home or work or school beyond their own internal existential struggles.
Good for her.
I don’t know what the heck Cee Lo Green’s act was last night — was he out-Eltoning Elton? — but I’ll buy it. The guy has an amazing voice. Gwenyth was awful — not buying it. Another successful film star who thinks she can sing. [Odd digression: Robert Downey Jr’s version of Joni Mitchel’s River is a case where his bad singing actually produced a great cover.].
Eminem was great (and I am the minority in my family in my love of Dr. Dre’s voice), but I don’t quite buy the relentless humorlessness. [Digression #2: the Chrysler ad during the superbowl — an ode to Detroit that ends with Eminem’s appearance is sentimental, but fabulous. Check it out on YouTube.).
Dylan? His voice is flat out gone. He couldn’t even hold together the harmonica parts and his sly grin showed he knew it. But did you see the backing band? They were out of their minds at the opportunity to play behind him and the standing ovation reminds us that Dylan is a rock and roll God. He may look like a slightly demented and disheveled old man on stage, but he is the Shakespeare of popular music.
Worst travesty? Need You Nowwinning Song of the Year (and a bunch of other awards). Elevator music. Nice to see NH’s own Ry LaMontagne nominated in the same category though. I sort of admire country’s willingness to sing about grown up things and to construct actual narratives, but why does it so often go off the track with jingoistic, inane, and just plain stupid sentimentality. If we had more Johnny Cash and less Lady Antebellum I might actually respect the genre. Until then, we should ask the Tea Party to support laws barring country music from FCC sanctioned airways. Oh, wait a minute, the TP is jingoistic, inane, and stupidly sentimental (not to mention racist and extremist). Never mind.
I don’t think anyone had Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs pegged for Album of the Year, but good taste won out on this one.
Award shows are bloated, over-done, mutual love-fests, yet I found this one strangely entertaining and enjoyable.