Sunday, November 22, 2009

You Know You're Old Part Two: the American Music Awards

I watched the whole thing. I was wiped out after planning a really nice little surprise birthday thing for my guy, I was sprawled on the couch and hey, I like music.

I didn't like this. None of it. It was just godawful. Music was the very last thing anyone cared about. Which is pretty damned ironic for an award about music. Unless you get real and call it the American Idol Awards

Here's what the LA Times had to say - I'd like to reply.

2009 American Music Awards: Grading the performances
November 22, 2009 | 5:18 pm

Grading the performances at the 2009 American Music Awards, typos and all.

Janet Jackson. So, supposedly the American Music Awards were going to open with a performance from Janet, and that's technically what happened. Except Janet's performance was largely a commercial for her "Number Ones," in which the singer, in a tan outfit that looked like it was ripped straight from the racks at REI, performed a medley of her hits. Imagine going to and clicking on a bunch of song samples from her two-disc set. That's largely what this performance was -- it's "Miss You Much"! and now it's "What Have You Done for Me Lately"! -- and if you were a Janet fan, you surely enjoyed this swift little medley. It was a safe and solid opening, and it gets a slight bonus for focusing entirely on Janet and not becoming another Michael tribute, so B-.

First, so what with the clothes? I liked 'em, you didn't. Spare me. Yes, it was definitely Janet reminding the audience that she'd had a few hits. Did you expect something new? It is about Michael, still, and Janet knew that by the placement and emphasis on Miss You Much. It was okay as a dance routine, which is what this is all about. Singing is totally secondary. I really like Janet, always have. But she and another dancing diva need to come up with a second act because Madonna's shown that there's something creepy about trying to be Britney after 40. C

Daughtry. Boom! Nothing ignites the excitement of a three-hour award show like a mid-tempo rock ballad from heartland rockers Daughtry. "No, there's no life after you," leader Chris Daughtry sings through gritted teeth, trying to muster some importance out of these tepid lyrics and lightly strummed electric guitars. This type of song is typically saved for the moments during an arena show when a band says, "This one is for the ladies," and everyone goes and buys a hot dog. D

And we don't want those moments at an awards show. Got it. Of course he's bland. He's an American Idol. D

Shakira. Rather than perform "She Wolf," Shakira opts for her more recent single "Give It Up to Me," and turns in a performance worthy of Broadway's "STOMP." A little militant, and a little bit "Single Ladies," Shakira's minimalistic outfit matched the sparseness of the song. Her dancing didn't match the oddness of "She Wolf," but it was aggressive, and put the viewer on the defensive. B

"Her dancing". There you have it, folks. This is about costumes and dancing. Welcome to the Coliseum and may the most shocking win. Shakira can sing. You wouldn't know it from her performance. And for me, it ends there. D

Keith Urban. In case Shakira was too risque for you, don't worry -- the AMAs went right back to PG with Urban's good-time country rocker, "Kiss a Girl." The AMAs have gone back and forth between sexy and middle-of-the-road thus far, and Urban, sporting a slightly shiny Western shirt, kept things simple and to the point. "Say goodbye to all the rules," he sings in the song, but this country-crossover rocker never strays from them. B-

Keith Urban can play guitar. He instead rolled out this bland piece of white bread that I've heard him play on a gazillion other shows. And where were the dancers? What's pitiful is you just know if Nicole had hopped onstage and shimmied, he'd have been called a show-stopper. C-

Kelly Clarkson. Yes, she had an album this year -- don't forget! -- and she sold it well tonight with a solid take on "Already Gone." Looking glamorous and sounding terrific, Clarkson was a classic throwback, a reminder of a time when "American Idol" didn't make all artists think they had to over-sing. B+

Kelly looked nice and sounded okay. She didn't sound great. I'm sorry - no one did. No one. Singing just wasn't part of what mattered. C

Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. Dressed all spiffy in their finest formal wear, Keys and Jay-Z performed their pandering "Empire State of Mind." This was fine the first time we heard it on an award show -- at the MTV Video Music Awards, and it was fine at the World Series, but enough. It's worn out its welcome. Yes, we know New York is cool. Bars are open late and the public transportation is swell and all, but performing this love letter to New York in Los Angeles? We're tired of it. No more songs about cities. D Side-note: The introduction by Alex Rodriguez gets an F. And was he chewing gum? He's unprofessional off the field too.

You're just mad 'cause Jay-Z has managed to sell this piece of garbage by sheer force of will. It is annoying and unmusical - agreed. A-Rod? He sleeps with gum in his mouth. If you want rock star, get rock stars to present the awards. Oh. Wait. That's right. The rock stars avoided this show like the swine flu. F

The Black Eyed Peas. The Los Angeles popsters received a showcase performance, getting to offer live takes of "Meet Me Halfway" and "Boom Boom Pow," two of the most ubiquitous songs of the year. Viewers were reminded of this fact repeatedly, with their sales constantly hyped, and the Black Eyed Peas declaring themselves "the new kings" at the end of their performance. On record, "Meet Me Halfway" is all electronic futurism. Live, it was a bit messier, but there was plenty of eye candy in this extended performance. Crazy wigs and stereo outfits and some crowd-pleasing samples of C+C Music Factory and Nirvana. It was all pop-culture nonsense, and that's what the Black Eyed Peas excel at. B+

More hype, more costumes, Fergie looking swell and actually singing. That was nice. I thought they were less horrible than just about everyone else but really...they were horrible, too. C+

Rihanna. Ne-Yo told us that the "R" in her "Rated R" stands for either "remarkable" or "really, really sexy." Not quite sure if it completely hit both of those notes, but it was definitely over too soon. Performing in a sort of sci-fi junkyard, Rihanna came onstage in what could have been a torture device. Like Lady Gaga and the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna is definitely tapping into the cyborg pop mentality that's all the rage at the moment (nice spikes on the shoulders). She gave us snippets of two songs from "Rated R" -- "Wait Your Turn" and "Hard" -- but it would have been better to just stick with one. To her credit, she sounded sharp, metallic and owned the songs. The night's best performance thus far. A-

Are you kidding me??? The girl cannot sing. Cannot sing. Pretty, nice outfit, showy, you bet. Sing? Just awful! Stop focusing on the space between her outfit's straps and listen! D

Carrie Underwood. Was it really just a week ago that this song was performed on the Country Music Assn. Awards? There were fewer nods to Nashville tonight, or maybe it was just too hard to focus on the slide guitar when Underwood was sporting some kind of half-dress, half-lingerie outfit, and the band was nowhere to be seen. This wasn't about the song; it was about her strutting around onstage. C

No kidding. That's what the whole show was about. This was completely American Idol and Carrie, the cutest singing Barbie doll ever, tried gamely. It was gruesome. But at least the singing mattered. C-

Lady Gaga. Coming onstage like a creature from "Pan's Labyrinth," Lady Gaga was all twitchy masked dance moves for this two-song medley. That was a good thing, as her "Bad Romance" is a bit of a mess, ultimately falling back on the retro-synth choruses that Gaga can't resist. There was broken glass and a flaming piano (no flaming bras, sadly), and Gaga showed off her pipes on "Speechless" as she got violent with some water bottles. Gaga makes for entertaining television, no doubt, but at some point she's going to need more than just crazy masks, pryo and fake blood. C+

She looks so depressed all the time. Probably because Gaga tries so hard, pushes for shock value and never wins a damned award. Again, she can sing. But it doesn't matter. It's about the spectacle. Hope you enjoyed it, my fellow Romans. D-

Mary J. Blige. Her "I Am" isn't a knock-out on par with "I Can See in Color," but it's the type of ballad Blige can perfectly deliver in her sleep. On a night were futuristic flash and bare skin were all the rage, Blige kept it lovingly old school. B

Old school performance. Old voice. I'm not picking particularly on today's artists - there just comes a time when you have to realize your voice is shot and it's time to stop. I felt the same way about Sinatra. If you go old school, you're supposed to be able to sing and sing a good song. Mary J. was a snooze without much of a voice. C

Jennifer Lopez. Given an elaborate stage with a fake boxing ring, Lopez was hyped as "the main event." She wasn't. Her "comeback" single, "Louboutins," is a silly little trifle, and that may even be too complimentary. She sounded Auto-Tuned for the entire performance, and the title is a ridiculous word to repeat multiple times in a pop song. But it'll sell some shoes this holiday season, so maybe some retailers are stoked. D

JLo and Janet should talk. The song was awful, she seemed forced and whoever convinced her to climb the backs of dancers and jump probably got fired after she landed on her keister. Aging gracefully and dancing diva clearly are not compatible. C-

Whitney Houston. She received a standing ovation, and it was deserved. With "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," Houston hollered and showed a bit of a rasp. If her instrument isn't what it once was, it can still silence a room. Compared to Blige a few songs ago, Houston was perhaps a bit over the top, but she belted until she was nearly out of breath. It was a powerful moment. But the angelic background lighting? Could have done without that. A-

Ah, Whitney. How long since she's had a hit? Another voice trashed and she did it all by herself. It was a strange, jerky performance done that had me filling in the blanks during that excessively long adultation-fest near the end of the song. "Aren't you lucky I'm still around? It sure would have been a shame if I'd died, huh? I still sound gooood, baby. You know you love me." Really. C-

Alicia Keys. Getting a chance to redeem herself for her earlier performance, Keys drops her new single, "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart," in her second performance of the evening, touching on a bit of '70s R&B vibe. Her gold-draped jacket will dominate the gossip sites Monday, and the single's good too. Keys doesn't belt at the top of her lungs here, and though I prefer her when she's at the piano (she sat down and played in the song's final moments), she's softly restrained for much of the song. The background dancers, copping some vintage "West Side Story" Broadway moves, were cute to boot. B+

Yeah, she sat down at the piano toward the end and sang like an amateur. A dopey performance, a so-so song and a highly overrated artist. KB liked the dancer guy. Thought he was terrific. I thought the concept was pretty stupid: "you dance around Alicia and she'll push you away." D

Eminem and 50 Cent. The censors worked overtime in this collaboration for "Crack a Bottle," as there was more silence than music. That about sums up the performance as well, as this was all offensive swagger. But it didn't shock -- it was simply kind of annoying. D

And I keep trying to hate Em and fail. He is the most rhythmically interesting rapper out there, in my opinion, and despite writing Songs for Psychos, his lyrics are imaginative and intelligent. He could leave Fifty Cent home...he contributes nothing. That said, you can't perform when most of what you do has to be bleeped. Why even try? C-

Timbaland, SoShy and Nelly Furtado. This song needed a little more Nelly Furtado and a little less Timbaland, but the producer-rapper certainly keeps good company. This slinky dance-floor cut excels when newbie SoShy and Furtado trade vocals, and hits a bit of a wall when Timbaland controls the microphone. B

Timbaland and the Talents. Another dopey song, another big dance routine. Las Vegas has taken over the music business and it's just more of the same. C

Green Day. Here to perform recent single "21 Guns." It's the least exciting of the singles from "21st Century Breakdown," but it does show off the band's more theatrical, serious side. With all its stops and starts, and on-the-sleeve crooning from Billie Joe Armstrong, it certainly feels important, but it never quite takes off. B-

But it was an attempt to do a musical performance. Props for that. B-

Adam Lambert. You wouldn't have seen this on "American Idol," a show that has broadcast its share of monstrosities. Borrowing some of Rihanna's shoulder spikes and torture devices, Lambert dragged women around onstage and got frisky with dudes, all in what seemed like an overly calculated way to show himself off as some sort of glam-gone-dangerous artist -- and to instantly distance Lambert from the family-friendly "Idol" fare. It all would have been forgivable if the song actually had a hook. Lambert has the voice, and a charisma that stands out in today's pop music landscape, but this was provocation by the numbers. D

-Todd Martens

We are in total agreement, except that's what the whole damned SHOW was. American Idol has taken over American music and this stupid, unmusical, shock-entertainment Las Vegas on drag shlock is what's called a performance. Bad song, dumb performance by melody, no soul and just a few vocal runs to prove he can do them. I do not care about his sexual proclivities and I'm not stunned by a stupid S&M dance number - I'm just disappointed by it. I'll take his Idol performance of "Mad World" over this any day of the week...I'll even take "Ring of Fire" that the judges hated.

So there you go - not a bright spot in the entire dreary evening. It was like watching a bad car accident - and left me feeling just that depressed.


nocomme1 said...

LOL See? I knew we could agree on SOMETHING. You're spot on in saying that good music was pretty much of an afterthought on this...thing. On the individual performances, I might give some slightly higher or lower grades than you did, but no major disagreements. I kinda liked Daughtry and thought Kelly Clarkson was better than you did but that's about it.

And I was sad to see that Whitney Houston, while adequate seems to have lost something of her range and power. Just say NO to Drugs, I guess.

Biggest disappointment of the night: Adam Lambert. The guy did show real talent and TASTE on Idol. He's still got the talent but his taste took a hike. I was sort of bored by the guy-on-guy kiss but thought he'd lost his mind with the faux/blow as I call it. I mean, damn if people shell out money to a concert and know that you're going to do some play pretend porn, fine. But if you're on nationwide TV with the kiddies watching...? Crude isn't "art" to anyone but imbeciles. And his post performance attitude "If people were offended, too bad." shows a helluva lot of arrogance for a guy who has yet to prove that he can sell units or fill stadiums.

There is some pretty good music being made lately, watching the AMA couldn't help but make you think that it was The Day The Music died. LOL

Good one, Sue.

Susan said...

Good to know we can agree on something, Eddie. Maybe they've convinced Adam Lambert he can be the new Britney. A real shame...he's better than that. But then, if someone waves big dollars in front of you, I guess if you've already sold your soul to American Idol it doesn't much matter.