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Ann Powers on the 2010 Grammy Awards: It’s not all about the music

When will.i.am shouted, “Welcome to the future!” as he and the rest of the Black Eyed Peas cavorted with a blur of dancers through a medley that sounded like a military cadence mixed with an ad jingle at the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, he wasn’t only spouting a cliche. His bulletin announced that pop music’s winning game is changing, and that the only way for the music business to survive is to jump into the pandemonium. {{more}}

This year’s telecast and the awards it celebrated showed how the recording industry is definitively moving beyond albums, and even songs, as the basic unit by which music is both sold and affects our lives. Music is increasingly enhanced by visual or dramatic elements that deepen or even change its messages; it intersects with other art forms, like dance and fashion, to form more complex statements, and benefits profoundly from the active engagement of fans. These perennial realities have now thoroughly transcended the idea that the literary, privately absorbed version of music — exemplified by the records that played on the gramophone that is the Grammy symbol — matters most.

The night’s performances connected to Broadway (best rock album winner Green Day’s performance of “21 Guns” with the cast of the forthcoming New York musical based on their 2004 album “American Idiot”), Cirque du Soleil (Pink’s gorgeous “Glitter in the Air,” which featured the soulful rock star doing an aerial routine with silk ropes), opera (Mary J. Blige’s duet of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with tenor Andrea Bocelli), and the rise of social media (Bon Jovi playing a song requested by fans over the Internet.)

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