Tag Archives: Grammy Awards

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The Grammys Have An Awkward Brush With Social Justice

By Arturo R. García

In the midst of a show that was downright turgid at times, there were glimpses of social relevance during Sunday night’s Grammys. You had Sam Smith openly thank an old boyfriend on national television while celebrating winning four awards. And the award’s outright hypocrisy in honoring abusive cis-males was only exposed further with remarks on domestic violence from President Barack Obama and activist Brooke Axtell:

After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain, and needed help. I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship. My empathy was used against me. I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position. What bound me to him was my desire to heal him. My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me. When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape. I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter. This conversation saved my life.

And then, of course, you had Prince. With one simple remark — “like books and Black lives, albums still matter” — His Purpleness made explicit a message that Beyoncé and Pharrell attempted to express visually. But while seeing Hands Up Don’t Shoot on the Grammy stage was worth noting, those two moments weren’t without their own problematic undertones.

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The Grammys As White Nostalgia?

Courtesy Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

By Guest Contributor David Kline

Reviewing the outcomes of this year’s Grammy Awards, Jon Caramanica of the New York Times described how, “for the umpteenth time, the Grammys went with familiarity over risk, bestowing album of the year honors (and several more) on an album that reinforced the values of an older generation suspicious of change.”

For Caramanica, the issue is not the quality of Adele’s musical offerings, but that her spectacular success at the Grammys – her album 21 brought her six awards, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep – represents a particular cultural refusal of progressivism, a nostalgic clinging onto the safety and familiarity of a tried and true musical conservatism. What I want to suggest is that this nostalgia might also be understood as certain kind of white nostalgia for cultural dominance that is perceived as threatened within what is now known as the “post-racial.”
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Voices: R.I.P. Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

She was a power house and a natural from the beginning, from the time I saw her in her mother’s act to the time I introduced her on the Merv Griffin show. You went to see the show and heard what they were doing abroad and you would hear Whitney Houston sing Home and it would send shivers through you.

This was an incredible natural, natural vocalist. She became more and more familiar in the studio. Michael Masser is a perfectionist, of all of the producers he was the perfectionist and every note and every sound — he was putting her through the paces of singing, so I’m sure she learned in the making of this album, it wasn’t that she knew how to record. She would just sing. I know on the front line, he very much was there, but he and I had become very good friends by that point. He played takes for me, rough cuts for me and I’d make some comments. She was always very willing, a workaholic. She would go back and do it and it wouldn’t be a problem.

- Arista Records producer Clive Davis, Gulf News

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Excerpt: On 9/11 and the End of the Latin Music Boom

At the dawn of the Latin alt burst in 1998, a Newsweek cover story announced “Se Habla Rock and Roll? You Will Soon,” and a year later the New York Times predicted Latin alternative was “Approaching Its Final Border.” But by 2005, the Los Angeles Times’ Agustin Gurza compared the Latin boom to an exploding rocket that breaks apart halfway into orbit.

But no matter how many times Mexico’s Café Tacuba held court in front of the gentle mosh pits of Irving Plaza, or local bands such as Los Amigos Invisibles proved that funk, pop, disco, salsa, merengue and occasional bouts of thrash metal could hold everyone together on the dance floor, there was something missing. The energy that came from Latin America, which had produced most of the significant bands, was not duplicated in American cities.

Latin alternative settled back into a niche accessed by the mainstream only in a rare NPR moment, while driving to New England to see the fall foliage. [Ricky] Martin has settled into life as a father; Shakira reinvents herself as part-stripper, part-philanthropist; [Marc] Anthony got a gig playing a cop on TV; and J-Lo, well, you know where she is.

How did this happen? Certainly the immediate atmosphere after the 9/11 attacks was characterized by the mainstream’s distancing from cultures from outside its borders. Although the decade began with Barnes and Noble and other booksellers offering extensive selections of books in Spanish, by its end more and more politicians called for English to be the country’s official language. And earlier this year, the Grammy awards dropped 31 categories, including Latin jazz and traditional world music.

- From “After the Latin Bubble Burst,” by Ed Morales, New Jersey Star-Ledger