Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The 57th Grammy Awards

Well, if you came expecting a party, you'll be somewhat disappointed. The Grammy's this year took on a more sombre approach, with the night's performances dominated by ballads, a bit of preaching and songs with messages. Only a small fraction included an element of fun, or had the artists actually enjoying themselves, which was a bit of a let down.

Having only been able to watch the hideously edited version produced for UK TV, it's ridiculous when you realise how much they left out. Of the 80+ Grammy awards given, to all manner of genres of music spanning rock, metal, folk, country, Latin, classical, and more, the only awards televised for the British public were the pop ones, which was about a tenth of the awards. Surely they could have at least mentioned the others at the end, like they do at the BAFTAs, which incidentally I watched on Sunday night and thoroughly enjoyed.

Also, I had seen the list of performers before the show and I was looking forward to Miranda Lambert's performance, happy that Country music was represented by at least one artist, but then they failed to show it. Probably because it was actually up tempo and it was a fun performance. Well, F you, I watched it on YouTube afterwards. Go Miranda!

And so to the night and the performances, - well at least the ones the Brits were permitted to see - here's how it went through the eyes of Rants:

Opening the show in the old school rock tradition of 'going for it', AC/DC had the entire crowd on their feet. This was the way to get the party started, unfortunately this was the most up tempo the night got - with the odd exception. But whereas this could have been the start of something, it became the beginning and the end, before the ballads took over.

Big respect though, AC/DC came on and they fully committed to the moment.

The first award presented was for Best New Artist and it went to Sam Smith. I wrote in my notes, yay, a Brit! But later I was like: what, again, really?

Ariana Grande
Well, we all know she's a Mariah wannabe and bless her, she tried, but being flat throughout most of the song didn't help, and the boring ballad didn't improve matters. It did make me laugh when the smoke machine blew the smoke right in her face and she had to waft it away.

In other news, oh good god, what the hell is Jessie J wearing? If you haven't seen the monstrosity of an outfit, please google it. It's absolutely hideous! Whoever suggested she wear that, should be instantly fired. And if she chose it herself, well, that's a shame.

Jessie J and Tom Jones
This was paying tribute to a song writing couple who received an honour from the Grammy's, so this time we were treated to an old school ballad. Wow. Could things get any slower?
It was a little awkward due the complete lack of chemistry between the two performers, but of course the vocals were bloody good.

The next award was for Best Pop Solo Performance, which went to Pharrell Williams for Happy. He looked particularly adorable in his shorts and bow tie. His speech was super awkward made even more awkward by the fact he said, 'This is super awkward.' Thank you, you made us all cringe.

N.B I have to interject here and say how messed up it is that the songs performed in last year's Grammy's are winning awards this time. It gives it all a bit of a behind the times feeling. Very strange.

The Bee Gees were given a Lifetime Achievement Award and then Best Pop Vocal Album was presented to Sam Smith. It must be hard having to come up with something to say every time you win something. But he did nicely put that being himself enabled him to make better music.

Kanye West
Ah, the vocoder. Is that making a comeback? Evidently Kanye seems to think so. I mean who can hear a vocoder without hearing Cher? Again we were given a ballad, and this one was a little preachy too. I have to ask: Does the light on the floor hold magnetic powers? He just couldn't step away from it.

Ah, Madonna. The only positive thing I have to say, I'll say first: it was up tempo. There was a beat. It wasn't a ballad. But that's it. The rest of it was tosh. Horned men, too much crotch, the most out of tune vocals ever, the horned man with his head in her crotch, eek. It was all just a little offensive!

You're three years younger than my mum. Please, just stop. The final three words I have to say on the matter are: Cringe. Scream. Hide.

George Harrison was then honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award followed by Best R&B Performance going to Beyonce Ft Jay-Z for Drunk in Love, which as I mentioned in last year's Grammy blog is not a good song.

When James Cordon walked on to announce Ed Sheeran, I wonder if anyone knew who the hell he was? Still, I did.

Ed Sheeran
Another slow one, but not a ballad, just chilled and relaxed. But when the vocals are as pitch perfect and smooth as this then who gives a rat's arse? With back up from John Mayor and Herbie Hancock, amongst others, this was a great performance and the best male vocal performance of the whole night.

Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani
Another fuckin' ballad. Erm, this was not only a random duo, but singing an old Maroon 5 song, when, as my partner rightly put it, neither of them have an album out. What are they even doing here? Adam sounded great. She looked incredible. But this ballady stuff just made her voice sound weak and nasal. The final couple of bars where they sang in harmony was the best bit, as their voices actually blended quite nicely, but this really was not the song for her.

Hozier and Annie Lennox
Well, the Brits were doing us proud over there, because Hozier with that beautifully deep voice and a song with one of the best choruses I've heard in a long time, really cranked it up. And then Annie Lennox - ledge! - came on to add a bit of harmony, before they slipped nicely into I Put a Spell on You. Some really powerful vocal performances, and some true British eccentricity gave this performance energy, power and emotion on every note. Plus the combination and blend of their voices really worked.

Great performance. One of the top performances of the night!

Pharell, Lang Lang and Hans Zimmer
Well wasn't this just completely bizarre? It was the dramatic/dark version of Happy, interjected with the up tempo version we're used to. Dressed as a bus boy with yellow shoes, he did look as though he was auditioning for the next Wes Anderson. But really, I don't think it'll be the same as Grand Budapest Hotel.
His voice sounded pretty good tonight, but the performance was slightly jarring as it switched between dark and foreboding to light and airy. Bizarre seemed the only word to cover it.

The night as a whole was definitely dark, and with President Obama and a victim of domestic violence giving a speech, leading into a ballad about domestic violence by Katy Perry, we did seem to be spiralling somewhat.

Katy Perry
The creepy shadow play behind her was kinda weird, and I'm sure it was all symbolic and stuff but it was also hilarious in points. There was one and then two and then three, and then two again, and limbs everywhere and it was all very distracting. Katy was pretty strong vocally, but again it was all just a little boring. I know there was a message in here and I hate the idea of people suffering from domestic violence, but it was still a boring performance.

Guess what? He did a ballad. Yay. The harp looked real but sounded so fake. I still couldn't figure that one out, but anyway, his voice was great but it was another boring ballad. And of course the best bit was the last twenty seconds when Stevie Wonder appeared to play harmonica.

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
Now you're talking. Fun and flirty with a phenomenal vocal performance from Lady Gaga. Note perfect, yet sensationally emotive and expressive. This Lady can Jazz even better than she can Pop! Awesome! Thank you, we needed that!

Sam Smith and Mary J Blige
This on paper could have gone quite wrong, but surprisingly the voices blended really well, and the performance was great. I mean we're all pig sick of hearing the damn song, but that's not his fault.

Then Prince walks on in orange, and the crowd go crazy. He's only there to present an award, calm down. And he presented Beck with the Best Album award for Morning Phase.  Beyonce just about pulled her fake smile in time for the camera. Bless him, he had genuine shock and terror at winning. Well done!

I still can't stand this whole, Blair Witch stand in the corner thing, whilst some contemporary dancer tries to suffocate herself with a tartan blanket. I really don't get it. And the song isn't even that good. But anyway, two clones strip off each other's clothes and then leap and frolic on the stage. Fuckin' weird.

Another award for Sam Smith, this time Song of the Year for Stay with Me, cue snippet of music, again. *yawn* And I had recently found out from my partner that the song completely plagiarised another song and so 30% of royalties have to go to the other artist, and I thought, should we be celebrating plagiarism? Shouldn't one of the other songs that didn't rip off someone else's work win? Is this essentially fan fiction for music?

Cue the oddest combination of artists: Rihanna, Sir Paul McCartney and Kanye West.
The biggest shock - no offense - was how great Rihanna's voice was. Powerful, note perfect and really, really good. That was a good shock. However, doing the grab the crotch thing spoiled it a bit. Paul McCartney just looked so out of place and Kanye West was a tad too intense for the song, but hey, Rihanna can sing. Great.

Another award for Sam Smith, and at this point you're thinking, let someone else win, come on. But Jamie Fox and Stevie Wonder presenting the award were hilarious. Find that video online. It's awesome.

Gwyneth Paltrow came on to announce Beyonce's performance dressed as tinsel and Beyonce sang us a hymn, just to really raise the spirits of the night. Boring. And a bit pitchy to start with, which was a shock. One of the lyrics was 'I am tired,' an effect you seemed to bring on the audience too.

John Legend and Common
Now just for a change, this was a gospel ballad, with a bit of rap. I didn't really know who either of them were, but John can sing very well, as could all the gospel backup singers. I have to say those string players made their money tonight. They were barely off the stage.
I think this performance took the award for most performers on stage, but this felt like being preached to again.

And then, due to the fabulous editing, that was our last performance, no announcement, nothing. They just showed us half the Sam Smith/Mary J Blige performance again and signed off. No Miranda Lambert, no farewell speech, that's it!

I think everyone should click this link and watch Miranda Lambert's performance of Little Red Wagon, as it was one of the most fun performances of the night, and could really cheer you up after all the freakin' ballads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMuIJXcTsVA

I have a couple of awards myself:

Best Vocal Performance: Joint 1st place to Ed Sheeran and Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga.
Both performances were tight, with insanely good vocals and even a bit of flirty good fun.

Highly Commended Performances: Hozier and Annie Lennox, and Sam Smith/Mary J Blige.

Best/Only Rock Performance: AC/DC

Good Voice but Worst Dress Award: Jessie J

Worst Performance of the Night: Madonna. Obviously.

Most Bizarre Performances: Pharell and Sia

Best/Only Country Performance That was Actually Left Out of the Broadcast: Miranda Lambert, Little Red Wagon.

Well, there you have it, the Grammy's done for another year. Well done to the other 70+ award winners who never got a mention over here unless you google the complete list of winners online. And let's hope next year there's a few less ballads and a bit more fun!


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Passport Picture Mong Out

It's been a while since I've had a real, old fashioned rant, but the wait is over.

So it's been ten years since I got my first ever passport - I know, slow off the mark as always - but in those ten, fabulous, travel filled years, I've done so much more then I ever thought I would, and I've been to some incredible places. Once I renew, I'll be continuing the trend. But there's that one hideous step that stands in the way between you and your new passport: dun dun duuuuuuuuun: the passport photograph. *cue dramatic choral music*

Yes, it's the worst thing about any type of ID, it's the freakin' photograph. And for your passport you have to jump through even more hoops than usual, just so you can look as miserable and disgusting as possible, and be immortalised like that for ten years. NOOOOOOO!

One of the worst things is not being allowed to wear my glasses. This is completely shit and more than annoying because I'll be wearing them when I go through customs, so why not on the photographs? Plus I feel all kinds of naked without them, and they hide part of my face which is always a bonus.

Then of course, I'm not allowed to smile, which is actually the worst thing ever! And not only that, but you are not allowed to show your teeth or even smile with your mouth closed. You have to keep a neutral expression, which is basically your default setting which you use when by yourself, when reading, concentrating and generally not being in contact with other human beings. Otherwise you would be expressive and you would smile and try to look nice.

I just can't understand why we're not allowed to smile. If they think it's because people look different when they smile, then they would be right, but generally people look a helluva lot better when they smile - unless you're one of those people that can actually pull off the neutral expression, in which case you're probably on board with this rule and I'm sorry but if you are one of these people, I don't think we can be friends. If they just let us smile on the photograph, then in order to prove who we are at customs, we'd have to smile going through. Winner. That would make customs such a pleasant environment. Everyone would be happy - which in most circumstances they are, because they're going on freakin' holiday!

And then there's loads of other rules, but they are all in place to make you look the worst you possibly can, even though you're looking at yourself in the photo booth mirror before it takes the picture and you're thinking, not too shabby. Not great, but not minging. Oh, ho, ho, how wrong you are.

What they show you is some weird, electronic, alien, hybrid with just enough of your features to be recognisable as you, but not enough to really be you. It makes you want to cover your face and never reveal it again in public. I don't know how they do it, or why they do it, but it's evil and it has to stop. I was actually in genuine terror that I might look as haggard as I was portrayed in this alien version of myself. I felt I needed to apologise for my own face. Nothing else in life has ever made me do that, just the freakin' photo booth for these sodding passport photographs.

I just had to trawl through photographs to realise that I'm not quite as butt ugly and haggard as the photo booth made me out to be. I would feel so much more comfortable doing any one of these faces every time I went through customs. I vote for fun passport photos, all the way!

So I think it would be better if you were allowed a more 'anything goes' sort of scenario for your passport. You can pull a face, smile, heaven forbid show your teeth, or give a thumbs up, but whatever you do it has to replicated at passport control and customs. Done! People would be happier, customs officers would use more smiles than frowns, job satisfaction at border control would escalate and the world would be a better place all round.

Instead they keep us looking down trodden, miserable and taking the form of these weird alternate creatures from Mong town, Mongsville.

I made a few improvements to my left over photograph. I think this would look much better.