The roundup has a music theme this week.
The Grammy awards took place last Sunday- and they were the usual mishmash of the good and the grotesque. The good included a respectful in memoriam section where Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt, accompanied by Mick Fleetwood sang Songbird by the late, great Christine McVie as photos of other musicians lost in 2022 appeared on screen. It was nice to see Lisa Marie Presley be honoured, finally, as a singer/songwriter, not just as the daughter of Elvis.
Beyoncé scored her 32nd or is it eleventy billionth win. It seems to be Grammy law that she be nominated/ win for every album/song she puts out. So, she now has dozens more of the awards than the genius Joni Mitchell and a whole set more than the genius Kate Bush who has a grand total of zero. Beyoncé contemporary Lana Del Rey also has none.
I wonder how much it can really mean if you win for everything you put out. How can you ever really know if you’ve done an exceptional job, this time, if you get rewarded for everything you record?
Madonna has won Grammys in the past. Pop’s most successful female artist attended the event and caused a stir, this time, not with new music but with a new face.
It divided social media. Some expressed their opinion forcefully. Others sniffed that merely commenting amounted to misogyny, bigotry, face shaming and other words too often used to shut down a different viewpoint.
Now, I’m a big Madonna fan. Have been for years. I’ve got the albums. Seen the live shows. Worn the lacy leggings. Followed her career avidly from the start. Defended her during the lean years. Even watched the films. I think her pop legacy is immense. But people aren’t commenting negatively on a natural change here, like, say, wrinkles or weight gain.
Her choice to go down the plastic surgery route in this extreme way has caused such a striking change, of course people are going to comment.
The Brits also happened this week. I’ve attended them a few times and the show has always been a shambles. It has its great moments but is largely only intermittently entertaining. In fact, despite the controversy headlines, it’s often, surprisingly boring. The times I’ve seen the awards live, the audience was mostly on their phones or chatting to each other. There will always be an outstanding vocal performance or two (I saw Adele perform Someone like you, one year. It was the performance that catapulted her to global fame) and the legend part is always worthwhile, when they run it but mostly it’s a mess.
The show has always had the wrong presenters and this year ‘comedian’ Mo Gilligan was a particular disaster.
Harry Styles won big, as he did at the Grammys. Sam Smith made the headlines for what he was wearing.
Bowie, of course, did it better 40 odd years ago. The problem with Sam Smith is that he’s as dangerous and rebellious as tepid custard. There’s nothing authentic about his image and that’s all it is; an image he’s affected.
At her peak Madonna was the queen of image and reinvention. Every couple of years she’d emerge with a whole new persona. It too was affected, at times, but she lived it. Her whole lifestyle would match her new appearance. You would believe it it was real. Other pop-stars like Kylie Minogue would try and copy her but it never felt real. It just felt like the square guy putting on a leather jacket to look cool. It didn’t work.
Burt Bacharach died. Hailed in tributes from fellow songwriters as both the Mozart and Beethoven of popular music, he was clearly in a special league as a composer. And if you’re wondering why you might know of him, perhaps just a few of his tunes might start an ear worm: Close to you, I just don’t know what to do with myself, I say a little prayer, Raindrops keep falling on my head, That’s what friends are for, The look of love, Walk on by, Always something there to remind me, Arthur’s theme (the best that you can do), Don’t go breaking my heart.