Sunday night, I watched the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, and having watched most of the shows, I have an announcement to make.
I finally get it, Grammys. I’m not going to have an attitude. I’m not going to whine. I’m not going to complain anymore about our favorite artists and music not winning. When you really break it down, popular music today does not deserve a Grammy. In most cases there’s nothing original about it. It’s Karaoke. It’s samples. It’s not new.
Yeah, at first, I was like most of you. I was mad that the best new artist was someone that I never played on the radio, upset that so many people honored were people we never heard of. But after I woke up and thought about it, the Grammy committee was right. How can you award somebody for being new when all you did was take a hook from an old song?
When I told my 20 something daughter-in-law that “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys samples the 1970 “Moments” hit “Love on a Two-Way Street,” she was crushed. And when I told her that her favorite, “Pretty Girl Rock” by Keri Hilson, was a Bill Withers/Grover Washington Jr. song, “Just the Two of Us,” she put her hands to her ears, and said no way.
Not honoring those popular hits may have made a point for the Grammys, but it also made for a boring show with no R&B category recognized on the awards broadcast. For the record, Usher won for best male R&B performance; Fantasia won for best female R&B performance, and Sade won for best R&B performance by a duo, group or with vocals. John Legend was a huge winner. He and The Roots won for best Traditional R&B performance; “Shine” won for best R&B song, and “Wake Up!” was R&B album of the Year. Best contemporary album of the year was Usher’s “Raymond Vs. Raymond.” Cee-Lo Green won for best urban/alternative performance.
From the opening tribute to our Queen to Mick
Jagger’s performance with Raphael Saadiq, if it was R&B, it was a remake, sampled or worst – just plain stealing. Lady GaGa thanked Whitney? She should have thanked Madonna for that song.
At least most of the songs that got awards were really new. You want Drake, Black Eyed Peas and the rest to get an award, wait for the American Music Awards.
It would have been better for the Grammy people to just say, “Look, this is about art and originality, so don’t waste your time if you’re looking for a popularity contest.” It could have kept a lot of us from getting bored and frustrated.
If the Grammy committee really wanted to do something original and educational, they could give awards to the people who wrote and recorded the original songs that these new people made famous.
I know what some of you are thinking: Tom, what about all of the white artists like Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger who stole original music from black artists and made big hits out of them?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know I know. But I also know that life is like that for us, and the best way to fight it is to have some ammunition. And we’ve got it. Ebony, Jet, Black Enterprise, the TJMS and BlackAmericaWeb.com, to name a few, will always recognize the good things and great things black Americans have contributed. And BET with its award shows and TV One’s “Unsung” play a huge role in making sure we get our props.
Like I always say, let’s not ever depend on someone else to lift us up or tell our stories. In the words of the late, great and very original James Brown, ”Don’t need nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door, I’ll get it myself.”