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 V.17 No.7 | February 14 - 20, 2008 

Music to Your Ears

50 Years Later, The Grammys Got Good

Usually the stuff of ridicule, less lip-synching airheads and more hall-of-famers gave the Grammys' Gold Anniversary the Midas touch

Although our man Rahim Alhaj didn't pick up Grammy gold for Best Traditional World Music Album, all in all—and I never thought I'd say this—the Grammys were totally entertaining. Awkward and tedious at times, sure, but I challenge any massive award show to shake those fugly bedfellows. I really couldn't ask for more.

There was genuine energy in that room, a special verve usually sucked dry by the overblown Grammys, that imbued many of the night’s performances. There's no question the feeling was aided by three months of Writers Strike blahs—everyone was pumped for a big spectacle. Added to this, the 50-year anniversary concept—a mashup of artists from the past 50 years with some of the brightest to come—was a crowd tickler, and for the most part, it was executed with style. (Tina Turner vs. Beyoncé? Bring it on!)

From the performers to a good swath of the presenters, the Grammys loaded up the awards show with A-list talents. Far too many to name here. The Lifetime Achievement recipients (Burt Bacharach, The Band, Cab Calloway, Doris Day, Itzhak Perlman, Max Roach and Earl Scruggs) were home runs. When it couldn't be helped, organizers had the good sense to pad out otherwise stale performances with sterling guest appearances. Like, by this point, we're all bored to tears by the Foo Fighters' "The Pretender" (and I suspect they are, too); but when backed by a youth orchestra conducted by Led Zep's John Paul Jones, even David Grohl seemed excited to be there.

Upon hearing Rehab had nabbed Record of the Year (and, boy, was it ever anthemic of 2007's misgivings), Amy Winehouse looked like a toddler mesmerized and slightly disturbed by seeing her own image on TV for the first time. She even thanked her mum.

Speaking of moms, Kanye West seemed alarmingly free of hubris when he sang a tribute to his. (And when thanking her while accepting his Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance, his demanding that "It would be in good taste to stop the [time limit] music now" was something viewers could get behind, for a change.) Moments before he had performed "Stronger" with Daft Punk—a surprise appearance, and the first time the electro duo performed for television in its 14-year history.

The 50th Grammy awards was a night of firsts, succinctly summed up by Herbie Hancock's win for Album of the Year (River: The Joni Letters). "I'd like to thank the academy for courageously breaking the mold this time," Hancock said during his acceptance speech. “You know it’s been 43 years since the first and only time that a jazz artist got the Album of the Year award.” He acknowledged “the giants upon whose shoulders I stand, some of whom like Miles Davis, John Coltrane ... unquestionably deserved the award in the past. But," he said, "this is a new day that proves that the impossible can be made possible.”

"Yes, we can," he said.

 
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