President Von Clownstick himself is not, of course, the sole indicator of the true depth of the decline of Western Civilization. He should be regarded as more of a fountainhead (or more accurately, a sewage clog); a symbol, the nauseating face on the dust jacket of our Tome of Woe. Was ever so vile a book so aptly bound?
While he can’t yet be blamed for the bog that consumes our Arts, his name or his image often burps out of the rancid bubbles that slink to the top. Such was the case at the recent Grammy Awards telecast, as he and his policies were addressed by “artists” on several occasions. The hearts all seemed to be in the right place, but they beat within a body of such stupefying inanity that one was more taken with its grotesque physicality than the message it was trying to impart. In the end, it was a whole lot of sound and fury, signifying very little indeed.
I doubt I’ll ever forget the date of February 12, 2017 and the three and three-quarters hours of (essentially) live television that was captured in Hollywood and delivered into my living room, all lacquered and gassy, by CBS. The 59th Annual Grammy Awards was, to me, a jaw-dropping slog of narcissism and “what-were-they-thinking” ideas disguised as a prestige event whose chief aim was to promote the network’s own television shows. From the host to many of the presenters to most of the commercials, this was the Columbia Broadcasting System beating its own meat with no thought of tenderizing anything.
James Cordon’s hilarious entrance and opening production number aside (and they were brilliant), if this program was serving as any kind of representation of the current state of popular music, then brothers and sisters, we’re in trouble. Quite a few of the live performances contained songs I had not heard before; none of which I’d ever care to hear again. It’s not just that I couldn’t understand the words—the tunes (if, indeed, they had any) were, according to the credits, nearly all written by committee. (Someone first does the beat, sends it off to someone who puts some music on it before sending it off to someone else who adds some more… repeat as needed before giving it to the first of two or three “lyricists” who then give it to a producer who’ll polish and improve it and add on the vocalist. That’s the way hits are made now.) None of the tunes were interesting to me at all. And again, lyrics are increasingly difficult to make out on the first encounter with many a song these days—then once you figure them out, they’re so inane you wish you hadn’t.
There was a very good performance of Brian Wilson’s “God Only Knows” but in a context that I would think could have only been imagined by someone who is mentally retarded. It was used during the “In Memoriam” segment as the faces of recently departed musical personages flashed upon a screen. The song itself embodies not sadness but a melancholy hopelessness, even fear—a person can’t imagine existence without the continuing presence of a loved one—yet here at the piano singing the words is John Legend, alive and rich and famous; that’s where God knows he is and everyone else does too. So, don’t go playing that lost and hopeless card, fool. If you want to convey sadness, pick something more lyrically appropriate. “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones, for instance.
I have to take a moment here to state that being secure in not thinking of women as “pieces of meat” for quite some time now (at least a month), there were a lot of ladies among the artists and in the audience who seem to have spent a hell of a lot of time on the augmentation, arranging, airbrushing, and exposure of their breasts, or as much of their breasts as they thought they could get away with (and that amount was unprecedented). For her part, Lady Gaga wore two flaps of material that barely covered her own while in her member-of-the-audience getup… and the men sitting around her all seemed to be praying for a stray breeze to pass by. Elsewhere, other ladies were sporting innocent, oblivious smiles while their pampered bosoms seemed to scream, “Hey, Look at me!” or “Lemme out!” Hubba hubba, you skanks.
Of course, women weren’t the only weirdos. Maybe by now someone has told James Hetfield of Metallica that after a performance, you don’t beat up the microphone that didn’t work, you beat up the sound guy.
Another small favor to be thankful for was the absence of Kanye West and his gargantuan-bottomed Bridezilla. Thank you both and wherever you were, please stay there.
Again there was an overabundance of shots of glitzy stars in the audience, singing along with whomever was performing on stage. As I’ve said before, that’s what performances and concerts have become: big group singalongs. Anything to take away attention from the real performer. Who, being part of an audience, would turn to Bruno Mars and ask him to stop singing so he could hear the performer on the stage? Me, that’s who. And who’d probably get a black eye? At your service, unfortunately.
The real pièce de résistance of the program—the emetic, if you will—was provided by a musician of great ability who also happens to be one hell of a gorgeous chick and who has sadly let both qualities go to her head. Beyoncé performed a 10-minute concept piece around two of her recent hits. It was a mammoth production (like her own baby-bloated belly) in skimpy ancient Egyptian costumes and loads of handmaidens, and its intent seemed to be a campaign to recognize Beyoncé as the one true Mother of the Universe, which the audience seemed willing to do.
During an acceptance speech, her words were unquestionably strong and true: “My intention… was to create a body of work that will give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness, and our history to confront issues that make us uncomfortable. It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror, first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House, and the Grammys, and see themselves. And have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent, and capable.”
Uh, maybe not so unquestionable. Hey Beyoncé, what if they’re ugly?