That’s the title of a famous Robert Heinlein science-fiction book. It’s also the way I feel as I get ready to watch the Grammy’s tonight. I won’t actually watch it all, start to finish. I’m going to DVR it. That’ll save me a lot of time and irritation. But I would like to know something about the State of Music these days.
When I was Creative Director on Budweiser, we did a lot of radio spots using recognized artists. Trouble was, I didn’t recognize half of them. And this was back in the mid-80’s. For instance, in 1988 we did Bud spots with The Nylons, Squeeze, Beat Farmers, Dave Edmunds, Ricky Van Shelton, Outloud, Jamaica Boys, Wilson Pickett. And a few others. I knew Dave and Wilson. Fortunately I had young guys in my group who knew what was going on.
I looked at the list of nominees for this year’s Grammy’s. “Who are these people?” I wondered. Here’s an example. Fun. is one of them. No, that period isn’t a typo. It’s “Fun” with a “.” at the end. Must mean something, I’m sure. Then there’s Mumford and Sons. Very big, I know. But I have no idea what they sound like. Or how many sons there are. Or who or what Mumford is. To me it sounds like a spin-off of an old Red Foxx TV show.
Then there are the nominees for “Best New Artist.” They are The Alabama Shakes, Fun., Hunter Hayes, The Lumineers, and Frank Ocean. I never heard any of them sing or play or shake or whatever they do. There are, however, some names I’ll know. Taylor Swift, Bruce Springstseen, Adele, Rihanna, Beyonce. Which makes me wonder: What is it with these one-named people? I don’t know when that all began. Maybe with Prince? Or maybe with Liberace. Now there was a musician for you, white piano and all.
Other single-name nominees are Miguel, Usher, Estelle, Tamia, and Nas. I assume these are people, not groups, but who knows? I will, after tonight. I know the name Megadeth but the concept creeps me out. I also know Tom Waits and used to like him, don’t know what he’s doing now. I’m sure his voice hasn’t smoothed out.
Tell you the truth, the only category I’m comfortable with is Jazz. Those are real people, first and last names. Chick Corea, Gary Burton, Ahmad Jamal (yes, he’s still alive and recording, obviously), Pat Metheny, Bob Mintzer, Arturo Sandoval, Lluciana Souza, Bobby Sanabria (good latin big band jazz), Brad Mehldau. We’re well past the time of Monk, Prez, Bird, Miles, Duke. But they all had two names. These were nicknames.
I like what Lou Reed said about jazz. “If it has more than three chords, it’s jazz.” Also like Miles’ comment: “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”
I’m sure jazz won’t get much air time tonight. The name of the game is ratings. Still, I’ll be watching and listening, remote in hand, thumb on the “fast forward” button, trying to soak up as much of today’s musical culture as possible, before moving on to “Downton Abbey” and “Justified.”
Here’s a link to the Grammy nominations. Be careful, though. You might just end up a “Stranger in a Strange Land.” But that’s cool. 2013 Grammy Nominations