I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up at the tail end of one of the most interesting stretches of music around. While not claiming to be any sort of musical savant, I’ve listened to all sorts of stuff in my time. I know a good sound when I hear it.
With the state of commercial music today, I’ve still got a beef in one area as a suave enough music consumer. I love live music and feel that an artiste must be better live than on their records. I guess I got spoiled in the age of Michael, Luther, Whitney, Lionel Ritchie, Prince, Madonna (when she was younger), Celine Dion, Mariah Carey (when she was younger), Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Dolly Parton, Sir Paul + The Beatles, Kenny Rogers, U2, Johnny Cash, Beres Hammond, Gregory Isaacs, Ken Boothe, Boris Gardner, Dennis Brown, Barrington Levy, Frankie Paul + Jack Raddics (although these two mostly did covers) et al. This is so long I know I’m forgetting a TON of people. They all had one thing in common: they kill it live!
That’s why over the years I watch these music awards with such skepticism at the performance, knowing that much of it is a bunch of lip-synch. So it is only fitting to acknowledge the good stuff at this year’s Grammys:
Loved Adele’s performance. She actually sang. Rihanna was nice when she actually sang with Coldplay. It was cool to see the Beach Boys. Enjoyed Chris Brown in the techno set – the house DJs really did well (Brown as good too). Loved Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to Whitney. It goes to show you that as good as Jennifer Hudson is, she is nowhere near in the zip code to be able to bring I Will Always Love You to life like Whitney could. Foo Fighters did well, and of course Sir Paul knows how to close a place out.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not hating on Nicki or Rihanna. Their performances were cool. It’s just that it shows you how awesome Michael was – he both sang and entertained at the same time. His shit was completely live! The thing most people take for granted was how much stamina he had – it never looked like he was taking a set off – everything was full tilt. Some folks who are lip-syncing now don’t even hide it. There is such an art to knowing how to sing live that I just feel is getting lost now, partly because the audience doesn’t demand it from the artiste.
I went to see Prince here in NJ in December 2010. He completely killed it, along with Lalah Hathaway and Esperanza Spalding. What was so memorable about the concert was Prince did a ton of his earlier works – he had the audience singing along, and knew when to sing and when to get us to sing along. Such a complete spectacle it was – I will never forget it.
I guess I just want more for my money these days. I know I work hard for it, and I know if I want the record sound I can bust out my iPod or my Mozart’s Zune play and blaze away. Still, there is something mesmerizing about a life performance that just lifts your spirits that no record can, and it feels cheapened going to a live concert to see the artiste lip-sync a record.
With the passing of Whitney, that is one more link to the golden oldies that is now lost. Perhaps if I get fortunate enough to be a grandfather I can look more favorably onto the records of today’s great concert lip-synchers and long fondling for the old school performers of yester year…