A Few Lessons Learned From Grammy Week

Bob Lefsetz says its the music that makes an act rise above the fray at the annual awards show

Katy Perry Grammy Performance
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

A few lessons learned from the recent Grammy week …

The shelf life of an awards show these days is similar to a Pop Tart. By breakfast we’re done with it, and on to something new.

Blame Neil Portnow. Blame Ken Ehrlich. But don’t blame anybody as much as the acts.

The youngsters have watched too much TV and believe it’s all about production. The oldsters are thrilled just to get some airtime, extending their moment in the sun just a little bit further, possibly motivating their fans to come out in their wheelchairs for one more show.

Speaking of the show … if you’re gonna get all that broadcast network exposure, just play what people want to hear. To try and promote your new track is too shortsighted. You’ve got to remind people why they care in the first place.

And why can no one perform solo anymore? Did I miss the memo, and are duets de rigueur? Then again, every cut has multiple writers and a rapper to spice it up.

It was funny to see how far Robin Thicke has fallen. From the song of the summer to being upstaged by Miley Cyrus to becoming the foil for Chicago. What’s next, dinner theater?

And Katy Perry … are you really that insecure that you need so many trappings? Just get out and sing. And while you’re at it, sing the one you were nominated for, “Roar.”
Before you think I can’t stop complaining, I will say that I loved hearing “Okie From Muskogee.” Those ancient country crooners didn’t need no damn production values.

Nor did Daft Punk. “Get Lucky” was the highlight of the evening not because the performance was so good, but because we were all caught up in the joy of the track, a reminder of the power of music to transport us to a different place. Hell, just to hear Nile Rodgers play that chunky riff
for minutes was enough. They do call it music, you know.

How great is it that “Get Lucky” won? This ain’t no Steely Dan, no Herbie Hancock; the Daft Punk song was one of the biggest of the year.

As for the album … has anybody heard it? I played it a bunch. You don’t need to. Most people did not. The Grammys keep rewarding albums no one listens to; it’s a singles world.

And “Royals.” Last time I checked, song of the year was about the underlying composition, which theoretically could be performed by anybody. But “Royals” is nothing so much as a record. Will we hear from Lorde again? Probably before Macklemore.

And speaking of best new artist: That was a closed category. Lorde had it sewn up. But I guess they’ll have to tweak the category once again, to ensure the right people are nominated.

We also learned that there are too many
categories, and the desperation in the room
is palpable.

And it’s clear that music doesn’t live on TV, but at the club (or even on the radio in your car). That point was driven home forcefully the night before at the L.A. Convention Center as baby boomers celebrated the life and work of Carole King. It was a night that proved that Steven Tyler is a rock star, James Taylor is a national treasure and Lady Gaga knows that fun is the one thing that money can’t buy.
Not everybody was great.

Some stars took the night to make it about themselves, and others punched the clock. But the true stars rose above. And at the heart of it all was music.

Tom Scott closed the show with a rousing rendition of King’s “Jazzman,” blowing so hard and so right that he lifted the roof right off the joint.
Jazzman, take my blues away …