Cosmic Slop #100: Grammys 2017 – bad tributes, boycotts and the cult of Beyonce

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Bruno Mars butchering Prince's guitar solo

Bruno Mars butchering Prince’s guitar solo

For his milestone 100th Cosmic Slop, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby shuns the celebrations to concentrate on trashing people more talented than him at the Grammys. 

Well, well, well. Here we are. The 100th edition of Cosmic Slop.

Who would have thought, back when I was a little girl, that I would reach this kind of milestone? 100 weeks of bitching about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. The question is, am I going to do something special for it?

And the answer is; no. I was going to, but ultimately couldn’t be arsed. No offence, but you’re not worth it. As I have said to all of my exes during foreplay; you’ll get what you’re given. This week, you’re getting the Grammys.

Grammy week started with a bunch of people confirming that they wouldn’t be attending this year, due to the award’s lack of diversity. These included Justin Bieber, who shouldn’t have been nominated for anything anyway because he is shit and I hate him. And obviously, as a person who writes articles for free on a website based in the North West of England, I am the arbiter of all good taste.

The most notable absence was Frank Ocean, who made much more noise about it than anybody else. To be fair, he was pretty righteous. He didn’t even submit Blonde for consideration, despite its far-reaching plaudits and hitting the top spot on both sides of the Atlantic.

He took to Tumblr to say “In reality, I actually wanted to participate in honoring Prince on the show but then I figured my best tribute to that man’s legacy would be to continue to be myself out here and to be successful. Winning a TV award doesn’t christen me successful. It took me some time to learn that. I bought all my masters back last year in the prime of my career, that’s successful. ‘Blonde’ sold a million plus without a label, that’s successful. I am young, black, gifted and independent.. that’s my tribute”.

Finally! A big star willing to say it; ALL AWARDS ARE BOLLOCKS. They exist primarily to stroke the collective egos of the morons behind it by proving how fucking important they are and to create networking opportunities. No-one cares. No-one has ever listened to Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and said, in an impressed tone of voice, “You know, this won four Grammys”. Kudos, Mr Ocean. And he is right about that being a real tribute to Prince. This is what Prince fought for at least half of his professional life, and it is something that I would say he would respect more than Bruno Mars donning a costume he wore in a film 33 years ago (but more on that later).

The show itself was opened by Adele, which tells you everything you need to know. Far from the high energy performances of previous years – AC/DC, Jay Z and Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, an all-star tribute to Aretha Franklin – this year we got Tottenham’s dullest just boring up the place with Hello. I mean, I get it, it’s the start of the show and the song is called Hello. Ingenious. I bet no-one else has ever thought of anything that singularly brilliant. Problem is – it’s like Lionel Richie’s Hello without the kitsch value and funny video. It is a damp squib that most people like because they are told to. Dance, you sychophantic puppets.

Then came the most dreaded nine word sequence in the English language. A sentence that sends chills up the spine of any fairly rational human being; “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your host James Corden”. At this point, the air started to change. You just knew it was going to be horribly uncomfortable, like the birthing scene in Alien, but smug. Very, very smug. I mean, just look how smug.

He began by falling down the stairs, which would have been funny if it was real. But, alas, it was quite clearly staged, and we weren’t treated to the glorious sight of Corden’s stupid face all bloodied and smashed in. No, instead he got up and started rapping. Which is somewhat ironic; for the past the few years rapper LL Cool J has been telling jokes as Grammys host, and now they have alleged comedian James Corden rapping, so I think the writers have been getting a little mixed up. Next year, they will have host Justin Timberlake spending his opening monologue writing an overrated Welsh sitcom.

But if the first rule of comedy is a willingness to look like a total imbecile, then Corden definitely succeeded, and the rap just kept going on and on and on and on. Forever. In fact, it is still going on now. Turn on the stream and see him rapping and pissing himself into oblivion.

Obviously, the climate in America right now means that a few artists took the opportunity to speak out. A lot of people groan at this, but I don’t have too much of a problem with it, but then I agree with a lot of them. I have never been able to fathom why famous people shouldn’t be allowed to use their platform to speak up about anything. I’m pretty sure we have all had political discussions with plumbers, and nobody whinges on Twitter about that. Plus as far as America is concerned, most of the people who complain loudest about that just elected a reality TV host.

But then, there are the stars who somehow make it all about them. Jennifer Lopez was the first award presenter, and began talking about her own career beginnings before somehow seguing into being an international peace ambassador. It just goes to show, really; we shouldn’t be fooled by the rocks that she got, because at the end of the day she remains Jenny from the block.

She presented Best New Artist to Chance The Rapper, which was a pretty good choice. It would have been between him and Anderson Paak. Although it is lucky that Chance actually became a rapper with a name like that. If he changes career at some point, it might get awkward. Chance The Rapper The Financial Administrator is a bit of a mouthful.

The Grammys are often boring, but what was most noteworthy this year was how much more boring it was than usual. There weren’t even many WTF moments. I mean, yeah, The Weeknd and Daft Punk performed in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, Twenty One Pilots casually collected their award in their underwear in what was possibly the biggest Vic and Bob moment in the history of American broadcasting, Nick Jonas making a handful of appearances bordered on satirical and Lady GaGa tried way too hard to impress Metallica’s audience. Katy Perry went as far as to perform in a set that started as Pixar‘s Up, transitioned into the mirror scene from Enter The Dragon and finished in the tornado from The Wizard of Oz, and even that was boring. It was so mind numbing that a skit about Corden’s parents actually passed as mildly entertaining. But there was nothing really worth talking about, other than the big events they were trailing all night; the tributes.

Adele did the first big tribute of the night, with a bizarre salute to George Michael. Corden introduced her, not allowing his smugness to soften whilst talking about a recently deceased legend. Starting out as flat as she was at last year’s Grammys when she performed a song that I can’t even remember the title of (yeah, Adele excites me about as much as lukewarm tap water – or Lukewarm from Porridge), she stopped the performance.  “I can’t mess this up for him,” she proudly exclaimed, before starting again and still being shit. Let us also point out that Metallica had some horrible technical difficulties, but played through them like experienced professionals who are used to dealing with such issues.

She performed Fastlove in the way you would expect Adele to perform Fastlove; badly. Hey, Adele, I know you’re a one trick pony and all, so I don’t blame you for doing a ballad. But George had a lot of very good actual ballads to choose from. There was no need to do a ghastly, slowed down, turgid version of one of his greatest dance hits. Fastlove is a song celebrating sex, for Thor’s sake. You made the sex sound like a chore. I mean, maybe sex is a chore – I don’t know, I’m embarrassingly inexperienced. But you basically made the song sound like it belonged in a John Lewis advert. So, rest in peace George Michael, we will forever associate you with a dog on a trampoline. Thank Adele.

A milestone of tedium – check out all 100 Cosmic Slops to help you through your diarrhoea

The only time I leaned forward had nothing to do with Adele. The screens behind her were showing images of Michael, and there was a long close-up of the headphones from the Fastlove video, which were labelled “Fony” – a direct reference to his troubles with Sony and an attack on the music industry at large. Let me say that again; they made clear reference to George Michael’s well-publicised negative attitude towards the music industry suits who were in the room and probably organised the video.

The Prince tribute was frustrating too. Loyal readers of this column (hi, Steve) will know I am a Prince obsessive, so any tribute has to meet my weighty standards. Of all the many tributes that have taken place since April, the BET Awards most definitely nailed it, especially when compared to Madonna attempting Nothing Compares 2 U.

The Grammys’ salute started pretty well. The original members of Prince protégés (and Purple Rain co-stars) The Time kicked it off by performing their own Prince-penned hits The Bird and Jungle Love. This was notable due to the fact that original members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis were present, who have become one of the most successful production teams in R&B history, most notably every Janet Jackson record worth owning. They did great, and Morris Day and his gang left as triumphant as they were in Purple Rain.

Then Bruno Mars entered. The irony here is that Bruno himself has been ripping off The Time since Uptown Funk. The sound of that record, the persona he cultivated around it and the choreography between himself and his band was full-on Morris Day in every conceivable sense. I hope Day collected some royalties from him in the changeover. In any case, Bruno has ripped off just about every star of the 80s at some point without bothering to put his own spin on it, so it made sense that he would eventually reach Prince anyhow – he might as well do it in an actual Prince tribute,

Mars and his band were dressed as Prince & The Revolution in Purple Rain, and it was typical Bruno; technically proficient, kind of fun, high energy, but lacking grit, soul and anything else that would make the performance meaningful. It was akin to Prince: The Musical. I have been saying for a while that, one day in the future, Mars will kill in Las Vegas. He is a full-on showman. But I keep hearing people say he is the best pop performer we have right now. The best? Seriously, guys, if that is genuinely the case, it isn’t a good thing. That we all just sit back and accept that this is the best we can do is pathetic. And let me be clear, I have nothing against Bruno Mars, and I defend him as much as anything. But, he is what he is, and artistically he isn’t fit to fill Prince‘s high heels.

Most people seemed to lap it up, but Prince was the best of the best. If you are going to pay tribute to the best of the best, you need to get the best of the best. Bruno Mars is popular and a talented guy, but his botched guitar solo tells you exactly why he was unsuitable, as was the fact that he played Let’s Go Crazy, which is a great song but not one with much depth. If you want superficial Prince clichés and nothing more, then you would have loved it.

andre_cymone

Andre Cymone, Prince’s former band member and childhood best friend, posted to Facebook: “I am so ashamed…Karaoke Prince at the Grammy Awards…We should be so much better than that, he deserved so much better than that”.  Still, it was better than GaGa’s Bowie tribute last year, at least Bruno didn’t seem to be making it about himself like she did – or in the way Adele did, for that matter.

To be honest, though, the most irritating aspect of the segment was the director’s choice to zoom in on Corden, who I feel was only put on this Earth as an argument for pro-choice campaigners. I even caught the little wisenheimer singing the wrong lyrics. Also, it seemed like Beyonce was only half enjoying herself until she became aware that the camera was on her, when her “enjoyment” levels miraculously improved.

Without a doubt, the worst tribute of the night wasn’t a salute to a sadly deceased artist. It was a back slapping exercise.

I’m pretty sure you’ve seen the footage by now, of Adele winning Album of the Year and literally crying about how wonderful Beyonce is. She didn’t care enough to physically give her the award, of course. She didn’t even break off a little piece and toss it to her like a dog. She just whinged like she was suffering from emotional incontinence about what Beyonce means to women and her black friends. Of course, she said all of this whilst the stage flooded with the gang of white men who co-wrote and produced her album. What’s all this about girl power?

Although she may have merely been pre-empting a potential Kanye stage invasion, the worst part was how it showed the cult of personality surrounding Beyonce. I have always been troubled by this, but Adele all but proposing to her on international television was the final straw. The insane parasocial bond that her audience has formed is sometimes frightening. You can’t criticise her, you can’t say she is anything other than perfect. As a huge Prince fan, I have no problem saying that he has made some shockingly bad albums and could be a total dick at times. Not that I think he was a dreadful person, he was just human.

But that don’t fly with “Queen B”. Because she is perfect and wonderful and everything she does is perfect and wonderful and if you don’t agree you are the FUCKING ANTI-CHRIST. The only worse fan base is Michael Jackson’s.

Case in point, because she didn’t win Album of the Year, there were accusations that it was fixed against her. Really? I know there is a history of cultural bias here, but Beyonce is the second most decorated artist in Grammy history, after Stevie Wonder. Just think what that means – by making Beyonce the second most decorated artist in Grammy history, they are essentially saying that Beyonce is the second greatest artist of all time. Is. She. Fuck. Nobody that dead behind the eyes could be the second best anything, and up until recently her albums were patchy at best with a couple of good singles.

Now, truth be told, Beyonce deserved the award over Adele’s dirge – and certainly over fellow nominee Justin Bieber. But was Lemonade even as good as Shaun Ponsonby Hums Christmas Classics For You? No. No it wasn’t.

25 had 11 producers. Lemonade had 18 producers. Bieber’s Purpose had an astonishing 27 producers (you’d think he is a total hack and has very little to do with his own work or something). My album had one – me, bitch. I am officially better than all three. Where is my cult following?

Anyway, even though it was just a joke, I’m going to leave you with James Corden falling down the stairs. It is nice to live a fantasy occasionally.

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