The Grammies weren't just bad on Sunday night, they were thrillingly bad. It's been years since I've been so exhilirated by a TV show so awful and in such an exemplary way. Three entirely miscellaneous thoughts on the grandeur of the Grammy awfulness.
1. Phil Spector may be suffering behind bars in the joint for murdering Lana Clarkson but his triumph over televised American popular music in the year 2010 has been total. The personal "wall of sound" he concocted out of the sounds in his head has now become a corporate battlement keeping out almost everything individually virtuosic. Almost everything we heard was over-produced visually and sonically to the point of absurdity. Except for Pink's hilariously wackoTrapeze show, it was the ultimate in corporate music --busy, busy, busy eclecticism by armies of singers, musicians, dancers and technicians laboring to create musical brands without "authors," not even producers, songwriters or singers.
2. The show was the most useful demagogic tool I've seen in years for those of a spiritual bent. Here's why: Any Sunday school teacher or member of the clergy or even simple schoolteacher is going to run up against an insurmountable problem trying to prove the existence of the human soul. It's an abstraction infinitely useful as metaphor but utterly without concrete illustration.
Unless, that is, you watched the Grammies. Anyone watching all three and a half hours had a perfect, concrete marathon illustration of what total soullessness looks like. Ergo, the human soul would be everything that was the opposite of what we saw on Sunday night.
3. What my learned colleague Jeff Miers termed the "mashups" in the evening's musical presentation would make a terrific parlor game i.e. think of the most surreally inane numbers to be announced at future Grammy shows.
For instance: "And now Paris Hilton and Yo-Yo Ma perform 'You'll Never Walk Alone.'
"Here's Regis Philbin to sing 'Mr. Tambourine Man' with Jack DeJohnette playing tambourine."
It's a game, so help me, anyone can play. Enjoy.