Grammys: Great Music it was Not
by IIana Mercer
I used to respect Lady Gaga. With all her pretentious Yoko Onanisms, Stefani Germanotta (Gaga’s real name) is a hard-working and, at times, polished singer. But to watch Gaga, at the 61st Grammy Awards, perform a number called “Shallow” was to endure an assault on the eyes and the ears.
Legs permanently splayed like an arthritic street walker, she traipsed around catatonically, attempting to head-bang, but getting disoriented. Some things are best left to a macho, metal-head guy.
Gaga’s look was not good. But her sound, which is what counts here, was positively terrible. Yet, Gaga—lugging microphone and mount around like a geriatric with a walker—was a highlight in this pornographic, cacophonous extravaganza.
Aside from the host Alicia Keys, who is talented and charming, and Dolly Parton, a consummate pro — the event showcased the gutter culture that is the American music scene. The country is truly in the musical sewer.
The petulant female artists showcased power, all right—but it was all in the hips, the pelvis, and in thrusts and twerks of the tush. Not one transcendent, inspiringly beautiful dance move on the pimped stage.
Janelle Monáe? This artiste’s musical “talent” is simulating sex on stage. “Let the v-gina monologue,” she hissed venomously at her adoring, masochistic fans, while moving her nether regions to a base, atavistic beat. Indeed, in an orifice, Miss Monáe has found the right interlocutor.
Let us stipulate for the record that this is never about lyrics. Cardi B screaming that she “likes morning sex” but that nothing in this world does she love “more than checks” is not an issue.
Put it this way, if Johann Sebastian Bach had set his god-like cantatas to the saucy, naughty lyrics of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, who would decry his sublime composition as immoral? Don’t be daft. The music of J.S. Bach would still be sublime if it were set to Cardi B’s gutter language.
My point: Cardi B doesn’t make music. The category for which she and her sisters should be nominated, being charitable, is street theatre.
Incessant, asinine, genital-speak is one of the things that distinguishes these female artistes (as in “a person with artistic pretensions”) and makes them particularly repulsive. Do they not realize some things are best left veiled and mysterious?
Women of Monáe’s ilk are the first to robotically protest the objectification of their sex, but are complicit in ensuring that The Act itself suffers the very same fate: sex has been made an object, a fashionable accessory, part of an empowering, emasculating life-style.
Screaming there was aplenty at Grammys No. 61. But good voices? None at all. Kacey Musgraves, a two-chord whiner, is what passes for country music, these days. Country music was the closest to rock that one could get. The riffs, the relative facility with the instruments, and the musicians’ manliness—amid the rapid queering of rock outfits—resembled the rock of yesteryear. But Kacey Musgraves versus the fabulous Faith Hill? Never the twain shall meet. Why, Musgraves makes me miss Sarah McLachlan and her soft-pop, Lilith bosom buddies.
The only great melodies on stage, February 10, 2019, were the few achingly beautiful old songs botched by the newbies’ ugly warbling.
Yes, it’s the custom to yodel and ululate. Nobody learns to sing properly. An example of a caterwauling duo was Chloe x Halle, who mutilated the exquisite, evocative “Where Is The Love,” performed, in 1972, by Donny Hathaway and the heavenly Roberta Flack.
Not one memorable song, sporting a decent chord progression and some melodic variety; not one vaguely competent guitarist or instrumentalist: nothing at all. As musicians, most of the performers were objectively G-d-awful. Moving melodies, harmonic complexity, gorgeous arrangements, hot licks, superb singing and impossible time-signature fluctuations—by the sound of it, these are competencies lost.
In all, instrumentalists these days can mostly only strum, and produce an amorphous blend — a sloppy sonic porridge. Such a structureless cacophony pleases the lazy ear because it’s repetitive, and chock-full of blurry, angst-riddled crescendos.
This deficit in skill is understandable. Why bother acquiring instrumental proficiency, instruction in composition or voice training, when a guitar is just a sexy prop? Swaying hips, a jutting pelvis, bedroom whispers or affectation and attitude (Dua Lipa, H.E.R. ) will get you all the attention and fame you crave, because these gutter-culture commodities are what’s in demand.
Which is where Cardi B comes in. “Be Careful” (an actual Cardi B number, in whose video she culturally appropriates the “Kill Bill” wedding scene). Even if you forget that a glorified lap dancer is not a musician; don’t get addicted to this woman’s audial porn.
As to H.E.R, formerly Gabi: she calls her winning album an “EP,” which stands for “extended play.” My point precisely. What the trained ear hears is aimless, skills-less, stream-of-consciousness; monotonous musical phrases, characterized by little to no harmonic resolution, other than spasms of caterwauling.
And the winner is … give it up for technology. The tartlets at the 61st Grammys would have been even more inaudible and tuneless but for the mighty Auto-Tune: the “holy grail of recording,” that “corrects intonation problems in vocals or solo instruments, in real time, without distortion or artifacts.”
Ilana Mercer has been writing a weekly, paleolibertarian column since 1999. She is the author of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa” (2011) & “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016). She’s on Twitter, Facebook, Gab & YouTube