As another year brings another dull Grammy ceremony, Shaun Ponsonby asks when pop and rock stars became less cool than the rest of us.
Originally published on Getintothis
Did you see the Grammys?
What am I saying? You’re a rational human being, so of course you didn’t. Sadly, I volunteered to write a weekly column about such things, so I need to watch it to save you the trouble. All I ask in return is that you include me in your will.
It was as interminable as you thought it would be. Like an episode of Birds of a Feather, a Grammy ceremony just keeps going on and on and on, getting more excruciating with each new segment, until you just wish Flanders was dead (sorry, I haven’t slipped in a Simpsons reference for a while).
The Grammys often appears to live in a parallel universe where Meghan Trainor can be awarded Best New Artist over Courtney Barnett without irony, despite the overall consensus about the former’s vapid album being a definitive “meh”. But what is really striking about events such as these is how lame the big stars of today are. No-one is funny, no-one is relatable and no-one is particularly cool. Everyone wants to be seen as perfect and nobody wants to rock the boat. BOR-ING! I think this is why Kanye causes such a stir. He doesn’t just blindly tow the line, so he comparatively looks like an interesting eccentric.
This was apparent on numerous occasions during this years’ ceremony, where I felt like I was a billion times cooler than the people on screen, most of whom are ostensibly considered some of the coolest people on Earth. Just to be clear, I’m not cool. I don’t even have friends, and my six week old nephew is even embarrassed to be seen with me.
Now-regular host LL Cool J loses what little credibility he has left every year, with a selection of really cringeworthy jokes and a gormless look on his face. Notably Bruno Mars likes to walk around and dress like he’s cool, but when he got up to introduce a surprisingly out of tune Adele (apparently there was a technical difficulty), he essentially took on the mannerisms of the host of a cheesy family variety show. You could say Bruno Mars is the Noel Edmunds of pop. I was half expecting him to be interrupted by a door bell, only for him to answer it with the phrase “it’s Peter Andre everyone” to an undeserved applause a la Noel’s House Party.
Justin Bieber remains lame. Look at his pathetic attempt at a beard.
What the fuck is that? It looks like he superglued on the shavings from his last haircut. If the facial hair looks that shit, you shave regularly. That’s the unwritten law of fuzz, and you don’t get to circumvent that because you did a Calvin Klein commercial. His performance was lame too; a pre-planned throwing of his guitar to the floor and removal of his shirt during the line – wait for it – “take the shirt off my back” made me wonder if he’s ever had a feeling of any kind.
Then there was the tribute to Lionel Richie, in which the bafflingly popular Trainor and some bloke called Luke Bryan – who I have never heard of, but he was portrayed by Chandler from Friends – sang a bunch of Richie’s sappiest ballads before going into the crowd and pulling ol’ Rich Tea himself up for a sing song. Despite holding a microphone and having monitors in his ears, Lionel pretended to be shocked and initially “refused” to sing, before bursting into All Night Long.
And that’s when it hit me; Lionel Richie is the Godfather of Lame.
Yes, there have been many lame artists before him, Tommy Steele and the like. But Lionel is probably the most successful lame artist of all time. These are all his musical children.
I feel bad saying it, because I am a Motown buff and he has always struck me a decent chap, but let’s face facts. Which of the big, international stars of the blockbuster 80s that all today’s popsters want to emulate were lamer than Lionel Richie? There were none! There we all were thinking The Beatles, Elvis, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Bowie et al were the most influential artists in music history, when all along Lionel Richie was harvesting a secret society of ineffectual vacuousness.
Perhaps this is all related to what legendary DJ/musician/filmmaker Don Letts said in a newspaper interview a few weeks ago; “These days, people get into music to be part of the establishment. The most fuck-you guy around is Justin Bieber. What does that mean? There’s no counter culture – only over-the-counter culture.”
You can’t really argue with his point. Jessie J had a rant about not getting BRITS around the same time as the Letts interview was published. It seems too many artists put too much stock in being populist and recognised. Do you know how many Grammys David Bowie won in his lifetime? One; Best Video for Blue Jean. Does anyone give a fuck? No. Despite being one of the most successful and influential artists of all time, he never truly joined “The Establishment”, and was loved even more by the audience as a result.
As far as this year is concerned; thank Zeus for Kendrick Lamar. The absolute saving grace, he proved with his performance and presence that your entire focus should be to do something great, and not something populist. It was the stand out moment and earned rave reviews exactly because of that, and it was one of the few moments of the whole ceremony where it actually felt like a human being was on stage, as opposed to a mediated robot. As a result it kind of became populist through sheer artistic vision, and not because he pandered. Like Kanye, Kendrick Lamar is far from boring, but unlike Kanye he has class.
Kendrick Lamar was the coolest man on stage for all these reasons and more. .
The Grammys were apparently disappointed that Lauryn Hill didn’t show up for her performance on the show. Frankly, I’m more surprised that they are surprised.
Although I agree with the collective groans about Coldplay‘s 37th headline appearance at Glastonbury, it is somewhat ironic that last year Kanye was lambasted for being too risky, and now Coldplay are lambasted for being too safe.
RIP Vanity (Prince fans know)