And the Winner Is... Grammy Reflections

I went to the Grammys once. It wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Nominations for the 51st annual Grammy Awards were announced yesterday and it took me back to that night in 1998; I haven’t watched the Grammys since Prince and Beyoncé did their duet four years ago (one of the best Grammys nights I’ve ever seen, actually). Here it’s all about Les Victoires de la Musique. But the annual Grammys ceremony was a staple in my northeast Bronx household growing up, as important as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Here Comes Peter Cottontailor any Charlie Brown special. I’d run out of the room for the boring shit (read: country music), but it used to be a really enthralling show, especially with my youngish parents’ running commentary.

Long story short: I did a lot of writing for The Source in their heyday and I convinced Selwyn the editor-in-chief to cover the Grammys in case anything interesting went down. Ads and respectability for the magazine were both up up up, and scoring press credentials for the ceremony at Radio City Music Hall was easier than probably even Selwyn thought it would be. (He went himself the following year.) Naturally, what I really wanted was a seat in the hall. Anybody who heard about me going to the Grammys afterwards assumed I probably had a seat next to Clive Davis. No. The press corps are in the back where they belong, to catch musicians as they get trotted offstage with their Grammy in hand to be interviewed.

I spent most of the show on the phone with Toni, a law school ex who I knew would be sitting home watching the show on her couch with an Absolut and tonic. I’d have to break our conversation occasionally with a “I’ll hit you back, here’s Aretha Franklin,” and take notes while the winners were interviewed. The backstage area was all kitted out, mini-tents with MTV/E! Network/etc. backdrops set up everywhere. I’d go take a piss and pass Beck or Stevie Wonder in the hall. Breaking the fourth wall like that was one of the best parts of the job back when I first earned my stripes, one of the reasons why hundreds of college-newspaper student editors across the country are dreaming music journalism dreams as we speak.

Guiliani pissed off the Grammy board two years later somehow (it was his specialty), and they up and moved back to California. By then, XXL sent me out there to cover the 10th anniversary of the Grammys’ hiphop category (Lauryn Hill’s year), but I ended up watching the whole show in my hotel room on Sunset Boulevard. I remember the Persaud Brothers throwing a party, bumping into old Spelmanite buddy Tanika Ray outside the spot, and ending up at the Viper Room and Hustler Hollywood with author Ronda Racha Penrice (then an up-and-coming Rap Pagesscribe). Ah, the go-go nineties. I should start a furthermuckin Nostalgia Thursdays.

As for this year’s noms: Radiohead’s In Rainbows, obviously. I never liked that Coldplay album, their bid for U2 status. Their past two joints pale next to their first two. And (heresy alert!) I wouldn’t know a Ne-Yo track if P.T. Anderson made it the theme song to his next three-hour opus. The Grammys are old-hat per usual. Any list that doesn’t have “Love Lockdown” and “Womanizer” up for Record of the Year is too slow-motion for my ass.