“Shit happens” ~ Adele
In watching the Grammy broadcast last night, I felt generally inspired, excited to be working in today’s music business.
The performances felt vibrant and, generally speaking, young. My personal favorite was Alabama Shakes – the performance felt very rock ’n roll and raw to me. I believe in Brittany Howard, her vocal talent and passion combine in such a way that is a force to be reckoned with. If you don’t know about this (now) Grammy-winning band and song, check it out: https://vimeo.com/130223176
A band like Alabama Shakes would have had to break in the 60s or 70s… running as a support act for Jefferson Airplane or Big Brother & the Holding Company, as a relatively rag-tag group of human beings, fronted by Brittany – certainly not your typical lead singer in terms of attractiveness. In the 80s, records were marketed to fit for MTV, a focus on image that reached its apex with the proliferation of boybands like N’SYNC, Backstreet Boys, O-TOWN, 2-gether, Dream Street, NKOTB, Westlife… and the list goes on and on and painfully on… I take the rise of Alabama Shakes, and Chris Stapleton, and the brilliant Kendrick Lamar, as a sign that the fickle American consumer is willing to make music decisions with their ears over their eyes. Kendrick’s performance was actually a bit too visual for my tastes – I found that all of the pyrotechnics and dancers distracted me from what was a more brilliant performance piece of a painfully beautiful song.
There are a great many “old school” powers-that-be in the music business, but there are more and more newcomers who do not recall the good-old-days wistfully and lament the loss of 5 and 6-figure expense accounts. New blood, and people who share my view of the business as not one that has to be beholden to the former slow-to-move institutions of distribution and radio. Music is becoming a younger man’s business. As it, in its essence, always has been.
I’ve been a NARAS voting member since 2003, and for many years had felt apart from the awards and apart from the process of voting itself, as too many of the nominated artists felt like manufactured confections that had been scorched-earth marketed to consumers that didn’t have a choice. The internet and consolidation in the music business is changing all of that, for the better in my humble opinion.
I ain’t mad at Tori Kelly. Or at Meghan Trainor, for that matter. Pop music, well marketed, has its place as well.
Last night’s show was inspirational, and I am excited to be a part of the process of bringing great new music into the marketplace in the year to come.
Photo credit Matt Sayles – Associated Press