Monday, February 9, 2009

2009 Grammy Awards: More collabos than a mofo

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 10:45 PM

Seems like there was more action behind-the-scenes than onstage, despite the 20-plus performances at this year's Grammy Awards.

Chris Brown reportedly got gangsta with his girlfriend Rihanna, causing them both to cancel their performances. The alleged reason behind the smackdown should bring a whole new meaning to their upcoming collabo, "Bad Girl," produced by Atlantan Polow da Don for the Confessions of a Shopaholic soundtrack. Meanwhile the real "gangstas," Lil Wayne and T.I., delivered upstanding, redemptive performances — neither of which required NARAS President Neil Portnow to excuse their inclusion in the program, the way he had to when Eminem performed to the chagrin of gay rights activists in 2001.

Of course, the Recording Academy continued this year with the ultra-lame generational mashup theme that made for some of the oddest pairings ever.

Surely, Stevie Wonder would've been insulted if only he could've seen how silly he looked on stage with the Jonas Brothers. The Al Green/Justin Timberlake pairing was quite a yawner, but perhaps we should be thankful that Timberlake didn't attempt to rip Green's shirt off for a grand finale. And did we really need to see B.B. King and John Mayer trade ugly guitar faces for the second year in a row?

At least the Miley Cyrus/Taylor Swift combo seemed age-appropriate.

There were some redeemable moments, however. The Four Tops tribute — with Smokey Robinson, Jamie Foxx and Atlanta's Ne-Yo (who took home two awards) filling in for the three deceased members — was cool, even if the performance highlighted how much the younger generation of R&B singers lacks the crisp, precision of its Motown elders. And Jennifer Hudson's performance and acceptance after winning the Best R&B Album award gave new meaning to the word "dignified" — considering her still recent tragedy.

Despite the overwhelming majority of Georgia-based nominees returning home trophy-less, the Peach state still has plenty to celebrate. Some of the winners include T.I., Ne-Yo, Jennifer Nettles and Sugarland, Blind Boys of Alabama, and CeCe Winans.

Best Historical Album went to Atlanta's Dust to Digital for Art of the Field Recording Vol 1: Fifty Years of Traditional American Music Documented by Art Rosenbaum. Backstage at the awards show, Rosenbaum told a roomful of reporters, including Randall Roberts of L.A. Weekly, how he began recording musicians half a century ago:

"I went out and met migrant farmers in the blueberry fields of Michigan," explained Rosenbaum, "and blues singers in my hometown of Indianapolis and banjo pickers in Kentucky, first out of passion and interest for myself, not for any particular reason or project or release — though over the years some of them did get released."

In other Grammy-related news, R&B star Usher had to cancel his performance at Clive Davis's pre-Grammy party on Saturday night due to an unconfirmed family emergency. And M.I.A. seemingly sent 20 years of maternity leave legislation down the drain in one night by giving a full-on performance on the day her baby was due. She even had the nerve to throw in several suggestive pelvic thrusts to illustrate how she got so big with child in the first place — just in case we were curious. Sweet.

She certainly capitalized on the moment, unlike "rap pack" T.I., Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Kanye West — who looked like they would've much rather phoned in their performances the same way they obviously did for their respective verses on the highly-anticipated but highly-disappointing single of 2008: "Swagger Like Us." Go figure. It won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

The only justifiably-rewarded collabo of the night may have been Robert Plant and Alison Kraus, who won five Grammy awards for Raising Sand. Even Plant couldn't help but comment on the surreality of it all: "I'd like to say I'm bewildered," he said during his final acceptance speech regarding the odd pairing that resulted in the Album of the Year. "In the old days we would have called this selling out, but I think it's a good way to spend a Sunday."

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