Despite another episode of Kanyebombing, the Grammy Awards this week made for good television viewing- even if it only would be remembered for a day. Much of the music was very good- the performances of the extraordinary Annie Lennox, John Legend, Mary J Blige and Sam Smith. and the always underrated Jeff Lynne and his band showing that there are musicians who can still go out there and make music with their god-given talent without relying on techno-accessories.


What Jeff Lynne was doing performing at the Grammys was a pleasant surprise, but puzzling. Perhaps it was a small apology by the Academy for, despite he and Tom Petty being recently named co-songwriters of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, and awarded a percentage of the publishing royalties, both were ineligible to win a Grammy for being part of what was Song Of The Year?

Who knows, and one wonders if Lynne and Petty, who have slain bigger dragons and performed with the best musicians in the world really cared about an award that remains irrelevant and forgotten after the television broadcast while many are still trying to understand the difference between Record Of The Year and Album Of The Year, and lost about all those other Grammys handed out earlier as they’re not, apparently, deemed “worthy” for prime time.

After all, The Grammys is a tight, well-scripted show just as “Revenge”, or “Devious Maids” or “Mistresses” are slick television series- politically correct, predictable and a few supposed cliff-hangers telegraphed earlier and Kanye West always ready to be the black man’s Don Rickles.

Getting back to the ‘live’ music, though Kanye became “MeKanye”, and gave a sloppy seconds performance on the very-much Paul McCartney-driven song “FourFiveSeconds”, Rihanna was outstanding whereas the former Beatle, playing acoustic guitar, kept it together by being low-key and happy to be a sideman.

The Grammys also showed The Great Divide afflicting music- all those musicians who have paid their dues and reached iconic and, let’s face it, pensioner stage, reminding many of us of why they are the legends they are on an awards show that’s always been a salute to the past and, with often, extremely forced efforts to bridge the New and Old Words with mawkish and unsettling results.

Remember McCartney and Jay Z? Madonna and Gorillaz? Dylan and Mumford And Sons? Okay, the latter kinda worked. Have the Stones embarrassed themselves as yet at the Grammys, or did Keith being Keef quash that idea with one long toke of a very fat joint?

What Ed Sheeran was doing with Jeff Lynne was embarrassing karaoke- an excuse for the Grammys to try and find relevance with younger viewers, who were probably wondering who the old guy with the bad hair and shades was just as fans of Rihanna must have been puzzled as to why there was an old white guy onstage with her and not Drake, or maybe that other bloke who’s quickly becoming the token white guy on music awards and charity television shows- Chris Martin.

Perhaps I was astral traveling, but Chris Martin’s performance was so bland and “Gwyneth goopy” that I can’t remember whether he performed or not. Did he? Why?

The Grammys is, yes, hyped as being “a celebration of music”, but it’s very much a contrived, carefully choreographed show to bring in the ratings.

It’s the visual content for the Official Grammy Awards CDs that each music company take turns releasing. Or, perhaps, that old marketing ploy is no longer part of today’s downbeat world of streaming upstream with the salmons, and downloading or educating music fans that taking what’s not theirs with no remorse is wrong.

Despite all the hype about “saving the music” and stopping illegal everything, those fat cats in music companies and their fawning enablers are also financially well-greased pensioners.

Seeing no upside in putting themselves out and even trying to rectify the fact that music has been devalued, they know they’ve made their money through right and wrong moves using their positions and seats of power to expand and exploit their separate business opportunities.

Today, these music executives sit on the mountains of money made through creative accounting knowing that they and their families and their family’s families are set for life. Those golden handshakes and golden parachutes coming up will only add to their financial tally.

Like every single television talent show that promises to help unknown talent, we all know that “complete unknowns” are pre-selected, results have been decided, winners signed up, and how it’s all about the ratings, and the sponsors with the real stars being the highly paid celebrities making up those judging panels.

Jennifer Lopez is a judge of singing talent? Heard her recordings? Mel B is a judge? Did she even sing as a Spice Girl?

As for the winners of The Voice, Wherever Has Talent or American Idol, does anyone know the names of the winners of the past three seasons? And even if you do, how are their careers faring? Booming like a Daughtry or Taylor Hicks song?

Nah, just wheel out Adam Lambert- discovered and signed to a recording deal long before that act to be seen as a complete unknown with no direction of home on Idol- or Jennifer Hudson to show how “unknown” acts have gone from zeros to Cheetos.

What about all the unknown artists out there knowing they’re better than Ed Sheeran or Taylor Swift, but running outta career time?

DON’T PANIC. Don’t try and be who and what you’re not and never will be.

Screw watching Idol or The Voice or X and Next and Excess Factors. Sure, dream, but temper this by Thinking Small and looking at what’s achievable and do-able.

Watch the video for “FourFiveSeconds”, for my money, the most addictive video in a very long time that brings together three very different musical artists to bring alive a song that is so much influenced by Paul McCartney.

Watch the understated role he takes in proceedings- but the sheer presence that he commands; Listen to Rihanna. Forget Rihanna, the celebrity. Here, she sings. Amazingly well. Watch her every expression, especially when she rolls her eyes.

Forget every stupid thing Kanye West has said and done. He nails it here.

“FourFiveSeconds” is so simple, catchy, real and honest. It’s stripping the music of the gloss and getting to the grit. And at 72-years young, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Sir Macca made this happen- and happen for a reason: To get back to the basic reasons for making music- fun, pride, a creative outlet and camaraderie- the same camaraderie that made the Beatles a reality.

All this is captured in this fascinating little black and white video that’s new, but old and helluva inspiring.

I would like to think that it’s Sir Macca saying, “Kids, it CAN be done”- whatever that iffy “it” might be.

Get up, pick up that guitar, play some chords, and see where they lead you.

It might lead you back to her door, and if she’s not there, it will be a new door behind which there’s someone better for you at this time in your life waiting on the other side.

Music- embrace it and never let it go. It’s often your best friend, your salvation and the only inspiration needed to make things happen.

Hans Ebert
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc and Fast Track Global Ltd
www.fasttrack.hk

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