The Grammy Awards, As Seen from the Staples Center Press Room
Last year we came down pretty hard on the
numbskulls journalists in the press room at the Grammys, but would like to officially recant last year's unfair judgment. Specifically, for the record, this is what we said about what awaits the lucky Grammy winners backstage:
...their audience, a bunch of print journalists in a digital world, consists of one of the most joyless groups of lifers you'll ever see. Peppered throughout, of course, are enthusiastic exceptions, but the overall vibe of this room is ... dead. No wonder print is on the ropes. We reporters are bores. A dying industry covering another dying industry, like a bunch of telegraph operators sending missives about a carburetor convention.
It certainly wasn't Cirque du Soleil in there this year -- the vibe was just as joyless as last -- but placing blame on the journalists in the room for being "bores" just isn't fair. We're working. We need answers from winners so that we can file our fascinating, insightful posts and articles. We're not in it for the fame. We're in it for the info. So we sit in a big semi-circle around tables, our laptops open, and click click click on our keyboards. As Green Day's Tre Cool noted while standing up there after winning the Best Rock Album: "You guys look like you're all playing World of Warcraft." Or as Pink suggested: "They need to serve beer in here."
Depressing. Yes. But is it the journalists' fault that this year's batch of winners were so frickin' predictable? No. It's the system, which is in serious need of an overhaul that it will never get. In the words of the New York Times' Dave Itzkoff: "I feel like I just ate a whole package of Chuckles. I got one of everything, and they all tasted terrible."
Pink, in fact, was the highlight by far of our time spent at the Grammy ceremony, which we made it through most of until the Dave Matthews Band started performing, at which point a quick exit was in order.
The highlights from backstage -- other than passing Jay Z in the hallway and getting a polite nod as we were on the way to the bathroom -- were few, but they included:
Steven Colbert giving a shoutout to Neutral Milk Hotel, which he did first in the TV press room (as opposed to the print press room next door) when asked about what music he listens to. After he left the TV room, he arrived in print, and we followed up, asking him if he'd ever invited reclusive NMH founder Jeff
Magnum Mangum onto the Colbert Show. No, he said, but when Apples in Stereo performed, Mangum came along as part of their entourage. Colbert was the only person to recognize him. (We didn't get the exact quote, we're embarrassed to say, because we were so shell-shocked from talking to Colbert that we forgot to write it down.)
Chick Corea had this little tidbit to offer after someone had the nerve to ask him about his religion. "I'm a dedicated Scientologist. I love my church. L. Ron Hubbard is a big inspiration." (Someone also asked Colbert about his religion, which was weird, too.)
Loudon Wainwright III, on songwriting: "I still don't understand how it happens. It's about as spiritual as it gets for me." He also said that guitarist Richard Thompson, with whom Wainwright is touring as "Loud and Rich," is "a great guitarist but a terrible tennis player."
Jazz vocalist Kurt Elling on the Grammy selection process: "The ways of the Recording Academy are inscrutable to me, too." (Indeed, the whole nomination process for the Grammys is so broken that it would take a major reimagining to fix. As it stands now, Academy members must vote in
all eight categories, even those that they know nothing about.)
Ramblin' Jack Elliott, on his record label, Los Angeles-based Anti- Records: "I don't know what they're anti of, but I'm in favor of it."
Alice Cooper, who presented along with Katy Perry, couldn't stop talking about Lady Gaga; he lobbed compliment after compliment at her: "She'll be around as long as she wants to be." He talked about the reason why he got his rock & roll fame playing a bad guy character: "We had all these heroes, but where were the villains? I thought, 'With all these Peter Pans around, I'll gladly be Captain Hook.'" (Teenaged musicians: take a cue from the Coop and destroy the status quo.)
Pink on how she's going to spend her 2010: "I just got off a year-and-a-half tour. I'm going to go cook and get fat."
Just like American popular music right now, which is so fat and lazy and wheezy that it doesn't seem like any change for the better is coming anytime soon. Even Lady Gaga, who brought some spark to the proceedings, couldn't salvage this Taylor/Beyonce travesty.
Taylor Swift? Album of the Year? That's a load of crap is what it is. But, then, maybe if we look on the bright side and consider it an investment in the future, it'll be okay. Meaning: If something as soft and flaccid and Hallmarkian as Swift wins Album of the Year, change for the better can't be too far behind. Can it?
Editor's note: in the original version of this post, we misspelled the name of Neutral Milk Hotel's founder. His name is Jeff Mangum. As well, we misstated the finer points of the Grammy voting process. Corrected above. Sorry.