So that's what Daft Punk has been doing all these years!
You knew the storylines going in -- how big a mess would Amy Winehouse be via satellite? How much strategic, Hilary-like sobbing could we expect from Kanye West? -- but of course none of it played the way you thought it would. Yes, the 50th Grammys were a bore as usual, but from our vantage points (plural), two things made up for it. In the first hour, there were those unbelievable spoiler-of-the-decade shots of Daft Punk's DJ console -- cue the tops of our heads shorn right off. Don't bother telling us that those little LED-checkerboard-square hits don't mean anything and it's all on DAT. We believe in Santa Claus when it comes to Daft Punk. Plus those Tron suits were seriously next-level.
The rest was a mess: aside from Will I. Am's off-key crapola medley of songs he didn't know and obviously hadn't bothered to learn, what kind of spontaneity was there? Why is Alicia Keys suddenly God? And much as Kanye's tribute to his mama was okay and unfiltered (read: pure?) and we feel sorry about his mama, she obviously didn't give him enough attention as a child. Still, his cry-baby puss was almost worth it when he became the first awards-show recipient in history to get the orchestra to stop trying to play him out of his acceptance speech by shaming them for not being "tasteful"! 'Cause every guy in that orchestra has a mama! So Kanye invoked her memory and made the Gammys -- however briefly -- his bitch. Better was Vince Gill: "I just got an award from a Beatle -- have you had that happen, yet, Kanye?" Better still was Amy Winehouse -- "My Blake -- incarcerated!" Giving a performance with more life in it than anything she did at Avalon last year, then falling, stunned, into the arms of the Dap-Kings. We didn't realize how fucked up she's been all last year until we saw her display some actual talent.
And then the piece de resistance -- Herbie Hancock beating a praying Kanye and an open-mouthed Amy (yes, and Vince Gill too) for Album of the Year. This had to be a bigger upset than "Crash" beating "Brokeback Mountain" at the Oscars (let alone the Upset That Shall Not Be Named). The first jazz album to win Album of the Year in 43 Years ("Getz/Gilberto," 1964). And here's an album that sold only 52,000 copies, as reported by Variety's Phil Gallo, winning against multi-platinum megaliths. Our only guess is that Herbie -- an obvious industry favorite -- benefitted from the popular vote being split between Kanye and Amy. I mean, even with the pop appeal of "River: The Joni Letters" (Joni Mitchell songbook, guest vocals by Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Ray, and Tina Turner), this was a JAZZ album, with three instrumentals, including two not even by Joni (Ellington's "Solitude" and Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti") and crazy-ass long improvisations all over the place.
Odds that there'll be a Grammys telecast in 50 years: not worth mentioning. But sometimes the diminishing returns are just good enough.
-- OTD & Jon Garelick