On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

So, I really wasn’t planning to watch the Grammys this year.

I forget what award or performance snub pissed me off but I stopped watching the Grammys years ago, Googling only the categories I’m interested in to see who won. Categories, by the way, that never got a millisecond of airtime anyway, so my personal boycott was never difficult.

And then, this greeted me early on a Wednesday morning.

On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Aw crap.

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog for any significant amount of time knows that I will move heaven, earth and maybe some smuggled body parts to watch him, as the old folks used to say, “spit across the line.” So that basically meant my Grammy boycott didn’t stand a chance. And I actually watched it live all the way through the Hamilton performance and win, and was pleased with a great deal of what I saw. I expected no less than complete awesomeness from HAMILTON, and they did not disappoint in either the performance or Lin-Manuel Miranda’s traditionally expected acceptance rap. But I was treated to some very pleasant and well-performed moments, such as the new artist duets, the Kendrick Lamar performance, and the artist tributes. I love that Lionel Richie not only received an all-star musical tribute in connection with his AmeriCares Humanitarian Award, but got to participate in it. And of the memorial performances, my absolute favorite was the collaboration of Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix saluting Maurice White; however I did appreciate the fact that Jackson Browne and The Eagles, Lady Gaga and Bonnie Raitt devoted their stage time to Glenn Frye, David Bowie and B.B. King, respectively.

But even with all of that, there’s still a lot that Grammy should have done WAY better. The sound issues, rushed thank yous, and usual snubs of certain categories in the broadcast have needed attention for years, and are probably among the reasons I stopped watching. But one in particular has folks up in arms–the paltry mention of the late Natalie Cole.

And this Mic article didn’t help the conversation progress:

 On the GRAMMYS and Inclusion: So Close and Yet So Far

Being in broadcasting and having some experience on what it takes to navigate getting a live show on and off the air in a timely manner, I can understand the choices behind some of the argued points; for example, the fact that Natalie Cole got an extended moment during the In Memoriam segment but not a musical tribute seems to be more at the discretion of the performing artists and not the Grammys executives. And as there are a lot of categories that don’t even get an on-air mention, I can understand not having a separate performance scheduled for her.

However, the protests are not entirely wrong….

Something I did not know before I clicked on the Mic article was that Natalie was the first Black artist to win the Best New Artist award. Given that place in Grammy history AND her legacy as the daughter of Nat King Cole–another musical groundbreaker–you would think that would automatically get her at least a couple of lines in the awards presentation. I’m sure Sam Smith wouldn’t have minded saying a thing or two about her in presenting the Best New Artist award, an award he himself received the previous year.

But the larger issue is that I saw VERY FEW female artist categories, more male performers spotlighted than females, and a seeming disregard for providing them any airtime at all–did you see Ed Sheeran’s female co-writer get completely cut off before being allowed to speak? Time crunch or not, that was completely unacceptable.

And this is probably why the Natalie Cole “slight” is such a big deal. People spoke up about the men who passed on. Most of the male presenters and performers got their full say. And while three of the biggest female names in current popular music got solo spots, the rest of the ladies were lumped into duets and groups–good performances, mind you, but it gives the appearance that female solo artists are undervalued. There needs to be a better balance between the big name draws and the up and comers, the male and female artists, the popular and less exposed genres, what’s expressive and what sells. Naturally, there’s no way to make everybody happy every time…but what we see is not lining up with what you’re saying. You cannot tell us you celebrate all kinds of music and feature the same artists and categories every single year. You cannot keep parading a musical sausagefest and then say how proud you are of women’s contributions to the field. That’s why people feel that Natalie Cole deserved more than she got…not only for the sake of her legacy, but for the women who stand on her shoulders.

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Boy crushes Part 3: Blame It on the (Lin) Man

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A triple swoon.....my heart is all aflutter....

My nose is wide open and I have totally lost my heart.  And it’s all Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fault.

Y’all already know he’s got permanent boy crush status, and while he doesn’t quite have “drink your bath water” devotion I would sell a vital organ to get to a show of his.  So if he co-signs on something or someone I’ve definitely gonna give it a look.  Well, just like that theory that if you see a hot girl she’ll usually have a couple of hot friends, Lin doesn’t disappoint in this area, either.

Utkarsh Ambudkar and Arthur Lewis

If you haven’t been to Joe’s Pub in New York yet or haven’t gained access to Pivot TV, iTunes or Amazon “Instant” Video lately (don’t get me started), then you probably haven’t been introduced to the comical, lyrical, totally amazing, busting with talent improv-fest that is Freestyle Love Supreme.  Already a band of merry misfits engaging in off-the-dome freestyle rap, Pivot has given us a full season of the guys’ antics, including some glimpses into their everyday lives.  I dig all of the guys (who are only some of the full group–there are other members who are currently doing other projects…but occasionally manage to make a guest appearance or two), but two of these fellas have me schoolgirl giddy…and I’m at an age when that’s well past respectable.

I met Utkarsh for the first time when I went to see Pitch Perfect.  While his Donald character was not full front and center in the story, he did not go unnoticed by me.  I mean, you see how cute he is, right?  So fast forward to my trip to the first Hamilton concert and he’s singing in the cast as Aaron Burr…proof that he wasn’t just in that movie as eye candy.  This time I actually MET him, catching him after the show and bringing him (as well as the rest of the cast) a small taste of New Orleans and having a better respect for his vocal talents.  So with my third introduction, I was presented with this lyrical badass known as UTK the INC with FLS.  I was NOT ready for what was to come. Capital NOT, capital READY.  Dude can FLOW.  Dude can flow in freestyle AND make sense.  And get incredibly deep.

I’m gonna stop right here for a moment because the moment I want to show you that stole a good chunk of my heart features the other guy who took the rest.  In a show that tends to focus on the wordsmiths, the musical accompaniment could easily go unnoticed and underappreciated.  Enter my future ex-baby daddy, Arthur Lewis.  Yes, y’all….it is ENTIRELY that deep.  I am literally poised to be president of dude’s fan club.  Arthur “The Geniuses” Lewis is an indie soul artist and longtime friend of Lin’s since their childhood.  Arthur is often on the keys but is also pulled out to vocalize during some of the freestyle rounds.  And while I’m sure he’d like to just bask in that background, ain’t no way all of THAT cute is going back.  That curly-haired, buttoned-down hotness has the most beautiful voice known to humankind, and is as important an element of the show as the spur of the moment riffs the MCs dole out.

Combine these two hotties with my permanent boo Lin and you have my absolute favorite moment of the season–episode 2’s “True” section, where the three wax nostalgic on the topic “Sunrise.” (Watch this. NOW. TRUST me.)

OH. MY. GAWD.  This needs to be a track.  No, for real…y’all just don’t understand what this three minutes does for me.  Consider how much I sing Lin’s praises, even his fabulousness on this comes in a distant third behind Arthur and UTK.  Do you realize HOW incredible something has to be for me to say THAT? If UTK decided to drop a mixtape, I’d buy as many copies as possible and give them to random people so they can know this genius.  As for my curly-headed Genius….well, let’s just say my life is defined in two sections: before I knew about Arthur, and Arthur entwined in my daily existence.  He rates with folks like Oleta Adams, Brian McKnight and my Sing-Off hotties who could sing me the phone book and I’d be in bliss.

~~~~~~~~

This next one is more indirectly associated, but I’m laying this one at Lin’s feet as well:

Christian Borle

I’m still grieving from Smash. I have the DVDs to wear the digital print off of, but I miss my weekly date with that show.  And while there were a few other performers that captured the greater part of my attention, I did happen to notice Christian Borle as Tom Levitt.  I was particularly impressed with his lyrical turn as Darryl F. Zanuck in Don’t Say Yes Until I’ve Finished Talking, giving me a glimpse into the musical prowess that was underscored by his terrific acting.  I mean he HAS to be a great actor–I can’t see anybody seriously encountering Lin-Manuel Miranda in public and faking niceties. (Check their :60 exchange in Smash to know what I’m talking about.)

So when I “discover” beloved performers in other shows–particular things I’ve seen and loved and never quite noticed they were in–it’s always an interesting experience.  One of my other everlasting regrets is not having access to cable and a recording device at the same time that MTV so graciously aired Legally Blonde: The Musical in its entirety.  Thankfully, there are enough benevolent people on YouTube who have it uploaded in some capacity, so I get to revisit it whenever I want.  On a recent third re-watching I took a REALLY good look at Emmett Forrest….and I was in visual shock of what my ears should have told me ages ago.

Whoa! Is that Christian Borle up on my screen? (Anybody who’s seen the show just sang that sentence out with me.  The rest of you think I’m strange.  I’m good with that.) How did I NOT know? No seriously–I’ve watched this broadcast WAY more times, in part and in full, that the three I mentioned above, and I never made the connection.  So on my next binge watch I decided to pull my focus away from the positivity and girl-power spirit of Elle Woods and instead watch Emmett in action.  I never noticed the expanded role before (and yes, I had a major crush on Luke Wilson’s movie incarnation, sparse as it was), and getting to know Emmett better was a lovely experience.  YouTube views of “Chip On My Shoulder” and “Take It Like A Man” went up exponentially because of the checked smartassery and reluctant vulnerability in Christian’s portrayal.  But the performance of the titular song and emotional turning point of the story was my undoing.  The whole sexual discrimination and erroneous assumptive judgment is the main rallying cry for this number and the rest of the story, but I broke at the Elle/Emmett duet back at the dorm room.  I watched Christian morph confusion, desperation and fledging love into a few musical phrases, and as I sat with my eyes transfixed on the screen, my heart jumped down out of my body, walked up to the screen, and jumped into the lapel pocket of that immaculately tailored suit. THAT’S why Elle goes for him in the end.

That’s the best part,
The outside is new,
But now it reflects what’s already in you.
Couldn’t change that if I wanted to….and I do not.”

lyric from “Take It Like A Man”, Legally Blonde: The Musical

Boy did I see THAT reflection in full.  At the risk of using that controversial phrase “classically beautiful,” it’s fair to say that if your mental ideal for that character is wrapped up in Luke Wilson, Christian Borle does not fit into that category. He has a big-eyed visage that dearly reminds me of Ray Bolger, the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.  Here’s the thing, though: I loved me some Ray Bolger.  Even as I loathe nearly everything Wizard of Oz, I adore Ray Bolger, mainly for the persona he exudes from his non-traditionally accepted beauty.  The same applies for Christian, who after watching repeatedly in the “Legally Blonde” clip I scoured the Internet for his resume.  I knew about Peter and the Starcatcher but only half paid attention at the time, but was floored to discover his stint in Thoroughly Modern Millie.  Well, that part didn’t floor me quite as much as finding out he pulled Sutton Foster–a girl crush of mine of epic proportions.  Shallow reason for a crush, I know.  Thank God it’s not the only reason.

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Talent is always beautiful....

The Criminal Brilliance of Weird Al Yankovic

And my girlhood crush morphs to full-on adoration and hero worship….

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So tacky...so criminal...so mandatory...so fun.

I’ve always had a thing for Weird Al Yankovic since my early teens. Eat It, I Lost on Jeopardy!, Amish Paradise and many others have been played ad nauseum out of my cassette player. (Yes I’m that old.) Well, Al is still active and, in the words of my new hero Vanessa Nadal, is “pulling a Hannukah Beyoncé” and releasing 8 videos from his soon to be released album, Mandatory Fun. Today’s release marries one of pop music’s most popular ditties and one of my biggest pet peeves–proper grammar and punctuation usage and online spelling abuse. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Word Crimes.

(All you Twitter followers can lurk on the hashtag #8videos8days to watch more hilarity unfold.)

“Weird Al” Yankovic – Word Crimes: http://youtu.be/8Gv0H-vPoDc

The ROOTS of a Rising Star

Folks, you know if I’m posting a YouTube video, I must think a whole lot of it to share it. This may be my most important one.

The Roots Of Music, a community organization that gives schoolkids in New Orleans the opportunity to learn music and stay active and occupied with something positive, is being honored by StubHub as their inaugural Rising Star. These kids were recently blessed with a marching berth in the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade–probably the first time many of these kids have traveled from home (for a trip that didn’t involve running from a hurricane). And they are GOOD, too. They gave high-school/college marching band caliber performances–and the oldest child I believe is in 8th grade. EIGHT GRADE, PEOPLE. Anyway, a big part of this honor involves StubHub’s generous offer to donate $1 for every YouTube view of this video through midnight on Superbowl Sunday (February 3, 2013). Many of our school arts programs’ funding is being cut, so anything that can augment an arts education and appreciation program AND keep kids busy and productive in an environment that promotes anything BUT that is a good idea. So if you could do us the large favor of viewing this video as often as possible, AND sharing it with as many people as you can, that would be the greatest favor EVER. Please help us to help our kids succeed.

P.S. This is extra personal to me, as one of my honorary nephews is a member of this band. Please do what you can to help. THANKS!

 

Merry Mondegreens: A Host of Misheard Lyrics and Alternate Verses

It’s that time of year again, where we pull out the Christmas music, old and new, to get us in the holiday spirit. Every year artists old and new put their distinctive spin on popular holiday standards and hymns, creating the soundtrack for our parties, tree trimming and other holiday gatherings. And, like most songs, they also lend themselves to interpretation…and sometimes, MIS-interpretation. Many a song has had a mondegreen—or a misheard lyric—pop up, often with strange and amusing outcomes.

For instance, depending on who’s singing the tune, there are TEN reindeer named in the classic “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and apparently she’s a mean little bugger:

    “…OLIVE, the other reindeer,
    Used to laugh and call him names…..”
Now does she look like she would hurt a fly?

Now does she look like she would hurt a fly?

One of the more chuckleworthy I’ve heard came from an old Three’s Company episode. Suzanne Somers’ “less than bright” Chrissy Snow sang this little ditty:

Even funnier was Joyce DeWitt’s Janet correcting her with the proper verse, “Let nothing you dismay,” which prompted Chrissy to respond, “Oh, I’m not sad….”

Now what would Christmas be without a little Christmas Snow?

Now what would Christmas be without a little Christmas Snow?

Speaking of classic TV, move over Charlie. You can have your angels the other 11 months of the year, but December belongs to Harold:

    “Hark! The HAROLD angels sing…..”
Charlie vs. Harold--who's the bigger boss?

Charlie vs. Harold–who’s the bigger boss?

Language barriers can bring about some fun, too, especially when you try to figure out how, outside of the Nativity scene, you can bring sheep into the fun of Christmas:

    “FLEECE Navidad”
Hopefully more "Fleece Navidad" than "Baa Humbug"....

Hopefully more “Fleece Navidad” than “Baa Humbug”….

While we’re discussing animals and Christmas, those darn Chipmunks had me confused for years:

    “We can hardly STAND AWAY,
    Please Christmas, don’t DELAY…..

alvinChipmunkSong

(Though I have to admit, I wanted that hula hoop, too…..)

woman-hula-hoop

And let’s not forget the merry band of misheard oddities in “Winter Wonderland“. I mean, if we’re in the meadow building snowmen, I imagine we have to be looking at a large, vast field of white fluffy snow:

    “In the meadow we can build a snowman,
    We can say that he is SPARSE AND BROWN”

Of course, once we figure out it’s PARSON BROWN, the true lyric “married” makes more sense…because I always wondered how you could be doing all these fun winter activities and not be happy:

    “He’ll say are you MERRY, we’ll say ‘No, man’….”

SnowmanMaking

Of course, that’s not even the STRANGE part of the song. Later versions have the second verse pretending the snowman is a circus clown, and while I can understand a bunch of rambunctious youngsters knocking it over, I still haven’t figured out where the alligators come in:

    “In the meadow, we can build a snowman,
    We’ll pretend that he’s a circus clown,
    We’ll have lots of fun with Mr. Snowman
    Until the ALLIGATORS KNOCK HIM DOWN….”
Guess alligators like winter fun, too.....

Guess alligators like winter fun, too…..

But even more interesting than mishearing the lyrics are the changing lyrics. “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is not that bad—I only have to figure out if “you can count on me” or “you can plan on me.” (Sounds like the same thing to me, but who am I to stomp on someone else’s vocal interpretation?) But the most schizophrenic song of the holiday season has got to be “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I do know that the original version was part of the movie Meet Me In St. Louis with Judy Garland, and those lyrics probably best fit with the storyline as well.

    “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
    Let your heart be light,
    Next year, all our troubles will be out of sight.
    Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
    Make the Yuletide gay,
    Next year, all our troubles will be miles away….
    Here we are as in olden days…happy golden days of yore
    Faithful friends that are dear to us gather near to us once more.
    Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow
    Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow…
    And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.”

Judy_Garland

Sounds fine to me, but I’m guessing some deeply devout Christian singer decided it was not cheery or “seasonally accurate” enough, so the verse changed a little:

    “Through the years we all will be together,
    If the fates allow,
    HANG A SHINING STAR UPON THE HIGHEST BOUGH,
    And have yourself a merry little Christmas now….”

Christmas_Tree_by_think0

Some more Fundamentalist type won’t even give the illusion that they buy into chance and mythology, singing “if THE LORD allows.” Which is true, but was it deep enough to change a song lyric that was already cozy and welcoming? Plus, who decided that “next year, all our troubles….” Had to be “from now on our troubles….”? Alright, I SUPPOSE “next year” sounds a little defeatist, as if you’re dwelling on a miserable Christmas. I guess that one’s OK….

Ah well, impressions and interpretations aside, I’m sure you can all agree that whatever you hear (or mishear), it’s bound to create a Merry Christmas.

Now bring us some friggin’ pudding……

Carolers

Related links:
Kiss This Guy: The Archive of Misheard Lyrics: http://www.kissthisguy.com/1232song-Have-Yourself-a-Merry-Little-Christmas.htm

Snopes.com–The Red and the Mondegreen: http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/humor/mondegreens.asp

The Data Lounge: Misheard Lyrics from Christmas Songs:
http://www.datalounge.com/cgi-bin/iowa/ajax.html?t=9962703#page:showThread,9962703

Straight Dope Message Board: Christmas Lyrics You Misheard as a Kid:
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-151608.html

The Musings of David Amulet — Misheard Lyrics, Christmas Edition (a little on the adult side):
http://davidamulet.blogspot.com/2006/12/misheard-lyrics-christmas-edition.html

LibraryThing.com – Misheard or Misunderstood Christmas Carol or Holiday Song Lyrics
http://www.librarything.com/topic/24988

Bits and Pieces — Misheard Christmas Lyrics:
http://bitsandpieces1.blogspot.com/2005/12/misheard-christmas-lyrics.html

Also check these books out:
Deck the Halls with Buddy Holly: And Other Misheard Christmas Lyrics
Olive, the Other Reindeer

If wishes were horses, and other reasons I need to be in New York….

"Take the train to the top of the world....and I'm there!"

“Take the train to the top of the world….and I’m there!”

It’s been a while since I’ve worshiped at the altar of Lin-Manuel Miranda. I mean, he’s done a couple of FLS concerts, been filming his new show and his co-collaboration of Bring It On leaves the Broadway stage in two weeks (and me with no travel money to go see it). And of course he tweets his ass off on the regular–I swear if Twitterico were a physical place, I’d have applied for my visa ages ago. But now, my friend Theresa has to tell me THIS:

IN THE HEIGHTS Will Return for One-Night Only Benefit in Washington Heights, February 11!

For those unfamiliar with my Lin-Manuel crush, go catch up here and come back…..

I missed my opportunity to be in the house for the closing show of In The Heights, finances won’t let me afford a flight to New York before Bring It On: The Musical ends, and I doubt either a Heights movie or tour is coming about anytime soon. But fate is smiling on me as this concert, much like the Hamilton show, is on a weekday. Let’s see if the AirFairy Godmothers can lend an assist….

"Dear Lord, my bestest Twitterica Nicole could use a great rate on JetBlue...."

“Dear Lord, my bestest Twitterica Nicole could use a great rate on JetBlue….”

I’m the DJ, Dad’s the Rapper…AcE, Jaden and Willow Join Musical Forces

So this pops up in my Facebook feed on Jada’s birthday Tuesday:

I’m digging it. OK, so it’s not scintillating, social relevant lyrical content or sweepingly intricate, hauntingly beautiful orchestrations. It’s a club banger–and a pretty good one at that. With the video being directed by Jada and produced by Will, it’s an all-out family affair.

However, I do have some small issues with the video:

1) Willow’s ballet form is SICK! Those classes are paying off.
2) Jaden now looks more like his daddy than ever before. Especially with the haircut and when he’s “shuffling.” (NOTE: Younguns, we called that the “Running man” when we did it DECADES ago. Damn, did I just call myself OLD?!?)
3) DAHECK did that deep A voice come from?!? Y’all know I ain’t ready for this!
4) Whycome Trey no say nuthin’?

I need to do some more research on the name–my guess is that Willard Christopher Smith III figured he was gonna be number one SOMEWHERE, so as the first Smith kid he gets to be AcE. The blended talents of the Smith progeny makes me smile. I just hope I don’t have to jump stupid with too many haters…they’re already spouting various levels of crap regarding sexualizing children (Jaden’s bare chest and six-pack and Willow’s “provocative” poses in a “skintight” unitard) and Jaden’s “off-key” voice (what key is it again that RAP is sung in?) and I’ve had to politely shoot folks down.

Don’t mess with my adopted play-fam…..

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