Column 257: You’re not getting older, the Grammys are getting younger…

Category: Blog,Column — @ 6:40 pm February 3, 2010

This week’s column is a look back on Sunday’s Grammys — three-plus hours of my life that I’ll never get back…

Column 257: Child’s Play
The Grammys get younger…

Oh my, The Grammys. There was a time when they meant something to me. But that was a long time ago, back when I was working at K Mart and sneaking (underage) into The Depot in Council Bluffs. Back when bands like The Police and Michael Jackson dominated the awards. All these years have led up to last Sunday night’s Grammys, where I realized, to my chagrin, that I didn’t know most of the acts that were nominated (and I bet you didn’t, either).

Had I finally become what I’ve always dreaded becoming: An adult who doesn’t like music; an old fuddy-duddy who’s “out of touch”?

I contemplated this unfortunate fate as the Black Eyed Peas — a band that does little more than bleep out meaningless five-word phrases followed by “Yeah!” on top of aerobics soundtracks — received yet another award for best something or other for a song that we won’t remember a year from now. And than it occurred to me that I haven’t stopped liking music, I stopped liking popular music.

“Pop music” has always been the stuff that appeals to the great unwashed masses. But these days, those masses are comprised mostly of 15 to 19 year olds, the majority of the population that still buys new music, preferably online or at Wal Mart. It’s these consumers of the mass bile that, in the next five to 10 years, no longer will listen to music at all. That pleasure will have been replaced with watching television, listening to talk radio and following sports when they’re not keeping an eye on their kids.

Yeah, most people “grow out of” music, or more accurately, they grow out of the shitty kind of music that the mass media seem to embrace. They certainly lose the ability to listen to new music, forever lost in the soundtrack of their adolescent years.

I contemplated that unfortunate fate while shopping at Homer’s Saturday afternoon, where I picked up new CDs by Spoon (just okay) and Los Campesinos! (amazing). A few years ago, Homer’s end caps would have been filled with only the most mainstream, commercial-appealing fluff — i.e., what’s heard on the radio. These days, those end caps are stocked with CDs that you won’t hear on the FM, lazily categorized as “indie music” (that Spoon album, for example, released on indie label Merge Records, was listed as Homer’s No. 1 best seller).

Now out front, Homer’s “indie section” used to be a few feet of shelf space in the back, dedicated to bands whose music and lyrics were more challenging, more personal, and consistently better than whatever won the top prizes at The Grammys, but that rarely sold as many CDs throughout their lifetime as a Black Eyed Peas album sells in a single day.

Anyway, my conclusion: When it comes to pop music, I haven’t grown older, the music has grown younger, and dumber and more youth-oriented than it ever was when I was “their age.”

There was very little no adult content at The Grammy’s this year, unless you count the adult language used in the hip-hop medley. Watching the telecast was like watching The Nickelodeon Awards or some other kids’ show. The fact that powder-perfect Barbie Doll Taylor Swift, whose off-pitch voice sounds like she’s struggling through puberty, could be honored with the “Album of the Year” was amusing since her music could only appeal to girls in their late teens, and their parents who have to put up with it. It’s kind of like giving an Oscar to a Twilight movie, while “Tetro” goes ignored.

Pop music has once again been defined as being kid’s stuff. So what else is new?

But imagine this: A Grammy Awards broadcast that opens with Yo La Tengo performing alongside Beck, where Brother Ali and Atmosphere do a medley with Ludacris; where The xx and Phoenix front a huge production number with Lady Gaga and Depeche Mode, where Annie Clark sings a duet with Antony Hegarty and Kris Kristofferson, where Mastodon humbles Metallica, where Mogwai performs with the San Francisco Symphony, where Wilco shares a tune with George Strait. And where the winners’ music will be remembered 10, 20, 30 years from now, let alone next year.

* * *

One local guy watching The Grammys last Sunday had some skin in the game. Arguably the area’s most talented mastering engineer, Doug Van Sloun, watched as Rhonda Vincent’s Destination Life, released last June on Rounder, was up for Best Bluegrass Album. Doug mastered the record, his first project to be nominated for a Grammy. Alas, the award went to comedian Steve Martin (yes, the arrow-through-the-head guy) and his album The Crow / New Songs for the Five-String Banjo, which shouldn’t be a surprise since Martin performed songs off the album on just about every late-night talk show. Still. It’s honor just to be nominated, right Doug?

* * *

Now for something completely different: Next week, the star city celebrates its best and brightest at Lincoln Exposed 2010. The event, which is held at Duffy’s, The Bourbon Theater and The Zoo Bar, runs from Feb. 10-14 and features 60 performances from some of Lincoln’s finest musicians including Charlie Burton, The Machete Archive, Darren Keen/The Show Is the Rainbow, Triggertown, Ember Schrag, Her Flywaway Manner, Mercy Rule, The Mezcal Brothers and Pharmacy Spirits. Your $6 per night gets you into all three venues. For a full schedule, search for “Lincoln Exposed 2010” in Facebook.

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