EBONY: 2014 Grammy Awards: The Highs and (Mostly) Lows

To their credit, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences didn’t give Black people any pretense that the show wasn’t going to piss a bunch of us off. All but one of the hip hop and R&B categories were given before the telecast began, and for the most part, the winners in each category elicited some variation of “hell no” as a response. Based on the majority of the winners, many of them won for not necessarily being the best in their category but, rather, for being the Black name that old White men best recognized.

For example, you seem like a doll, Alicia Keys, but there’s a reason why Girl On Fire is your lowest selling album to date. Likewise, I love Rihanna like she loves a Swisher Sweet, but her winning “Best Urban Contemporary Album” aka “Best Of Those New Blacks” over Tamar Braxton, Mack Wilds, Fantasia, and Salaam Remi seemed wrong. Is there no safe place for any straight up R&B artist?

No, unless you’re Justin Timberlake, who conveniently picked up an R&B Award (Best R&B Song, “Pusher Love Girl”) while also scoring a nod for “Suit & Tie” in a pop category. Now, if any Black act sang that same song, it’d be relegated to the Best Traditional R&B category (which went to Gary Clark, Jr.’s “Please Come Home.” Congrats to him and to Lalah Hathaway, who took Best R&B Performance for Snarky Puppy’s “Something.”)

Speaking of things that don’t belong, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took every rap category (Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance), minus the one award that went to Jay Z (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, with Justin Timberlake for “Holy Grail”), plus Best New Artist

Now, much of the online commentary about Macklemore’s essential sweep was, “You already know how it is, so why are you acting surprised?” You know, I’m never surprised when it rains, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t be bothered if I get too wet going outside.

For some of you “awards don’t matter,” but to many others they do which is why it can be both unsurprising and yet still glaringly offensive to see Macklemore best Kendrick Lamar in rap categories.

For the record, no, it’s not Macklemore’s fault that he benefits from White privilege, and yes, he’s a peach for acknowledging he has it. Nonetheless, if people want to complain about a so-so spoken word artist posing as a rapper getting major awards for a mediocre product in comparison to a much better emcee, so be it. No one, especially not a Black person, needs to toss on a cap and rush to defend Macklemore.

Never forget: He is a White man. Not only that, a White man doing a Black art form. No thinkpiece formed against him shall prosper.

As for the Grammys overall: insert your big yawn here. This show was geared more so towards White men over the age of 50 who are heavily into rock and country music acts past their prime. For those folks, last night’s award show probably turned that cherry out. When it comes to the rest of us, we had far less highlights.

Among them was Beyoncé and Jay Z’s performance of “Drunk in Love.” To be honest, while it was one of the better performances of the night, Beyoncé herself has done much, much better in other settings. One assumes her and her husband’s thought process going in was, “You raggedy, Kendrick Lamar-snubbing folks are even lucky we bothered to grace y’all with our presence.” If so, right on, girl, and shout out to you for throwing up Third Ward on stage and sipping on brown liquor in the front row of the show. Your Black is beautiful.
The others:

Pink: Alas, like Ciara had the matrix, she has spinning in the air like a Ringling Sister. Yes, it’s impressive, but she does this bit a lot. Oh well.
See you next flip.

Taylor Swift: Many of you hate her, but her offbeat bop to “Drunk in Love” and Kendrick Lamar’s set was fun to watch.

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Frank Ocean, F**k Ups and Fools

Sadly, whatever locksmith Frank Ocean called to help him find the right key to sing didn’t make it in time for his performance at the 2013 Grammys. It was a missed opportunity for the consistently brilliant singer-songwriter albeit still not-that-great performer to impress those who might not know much about him. Despite that, Frank’s stock will only continue to rise given that unless he starts writing lyrics along the lines of “GLEEP GLORP FLEEBLE FLABLE ZIP ZOP ZAM!!” there will remain a demand for his forward-leaning R&B.

Of course, some immediately started to argue otherwise mere seconds into his less-than impressive presentation. Upon the first botched note before that large audience – ZIP ZOP ZAM!! - his biggest detractors wasted no time pouncing. I could quote the critiques verbatim, but they all boggle down to blah, blah, he’s only poppin’ ’cause of that gay ass letter, he is overrated, back in my day we had real sangers, yadda, yadda, more bullshit.

I’m not going to make any excuses for Frank Ocean’s performance. Visually it was stunning, but the rest was anything but. Either way, it was arguably his most important performance thus far. To see a handsome, Grammy-award winning Black man sing about being in love with another man is something that will stay with those struggling for one reason or another with the realities of their sexual orientation for a very long time. Not to mention those who have overcome such struggles themselves. No offense to those men who rock their stiletto pumps in the club and serve as the human equivalent of Beethoven on basic cable for everyone’s amusement, but Frank Ocean represents something different and largely missing from the public sphere.

Regardless of how he chooses to identify himself, he is the only other famous Black male entertainer who has admitted an attraction to men besides RuPaul. Maybe his nerves got the best of him and his rendition of “Forrest Gump” yesterday. Even so, him standing there and being daring enough to sing that song ought to be appreciated on some level.

If you disagree, fine, but I do wish some folks would learn to limit their criticism to their levels of knowledge on a given subject.

If you have never taken the time to actually listen to Nostalgia, Ultra or channel ORANGE, do humanity a favor and shut the fuck up. Seriously, how can you criticize anything you haven’t bothered to experience yourself? How lazy in thought are you? As talkative as I am, I don’t speak on something I know nothing about because I don’t believe in being an intellectual fuck nigga. If you want to be heard, discuss something else you’ve dissected.

There is way too much access to his music courtesy of the Internet for you not to take in before you begin trolling.

The same goes for any subject, for that matter. Quit it. Now.

Likewise, dead the declarations that Frank Ocean is only successful because of a tumblr post where he acknowledged his first love was a man. Next week marks two years since the release of his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. You can read about it here, but since reading has proven to be taxing for so many of you, let me help you even more. Basically, in frustration with his record label not even bothering to give him so much as a recording budget after signing him, Frank recorded and released an album-quality body of work. Almost immediately, word of it spread all across the Internet — netting him the attention of music fans, critics, his more successful peers, and ultimately his actual record label who had staffers trying to sign someone already apart of the fold.

He essentially created his own success – nothing related to a sword fight – which is why channel ORANGE was already a buzzed about album before the “revelation.” Why this readily available information remains unknown to the “gay for pay” theorists is a testament to why some people need their keyboard privileges monitored and/or revoked.

Don’t let the popularity of the word “shade” fool you: Gay Black men are not that beloved.

The next time you try to argue this fuck ass point, ask yourself this: “How many openly gay, bi, or whatever one deems their love of the peen Black men do I actually see on TV? Film? Music? With books?”

Someone had to step up, but there was no guarantee it would immediately garner them anything other than a spectacle. I’m readily available to offer additional feedback on the lingering plight of gay Black men if needed.

Again, Frank Ocean needs to see about a vocal coach, some honey, tea, and a creative director to step his performing cookies up. Yet, when it comes to the “I don’t like the music I never listened to” folks, fall down a well. And if you’d be so kind, take your “Frank only made it as a gay” cousins in crocks of shit with you.

I wish God would grant me the power to shake the stupid out of the whole lot of you. Call it a blessing.

Edit: You can watch video of Frank Ocean rehearing his Grammy performance below. Much better.

Frank Ocean 2013 – Tuesday from Lumentech on Vimeo.

So BET Did Well…

One of the most interesting things to me about the BET Awards is how each and every year a batch of surly for sport Negroes whine about how awful the network is and how they’re seemingly doing us all a favor by watching something beneath them in the interest of keeping up with the sheep on social media. It’s hilariously ironic to me how folks act as if the BET Awards are the government cheese block to their Kobe beef.

Well, as recent reports have confirmed “kobe beef” isn’t all that real ’round these American parts and the same can be said about most of the complaints leveled against the show. As much as people talk about paltry budgets, anyone who used to be an VMA enthusiast can see how far that show has fallen from priority at MTV headquarters. When it comes to ignoring trends, obvious hits, and other various entertainment realities, the Grammys are the king, queen, prince, princess, duke and duchess of that shit for sure. I don’t think anyone in America has given that great a damn about the American Music Awards since, since…uh, I don’t know, when Apu and Aladdin were the hottest toons around. And seriously, as cute as The Soul Train and Source Awards were on occasion, they were not the most gushed about awards ceremony in their heyday either.

Have the BET Awards been good every year? No. Is it still the best awards show around? Certainly. What bothers me most about the criticism is how often self-loathing it sounds. I mean, some of you very people complaining about the BET Awards are about as complimentary to the race as a watermelon seed your damn selves. Seriously, I could leap around a Mormon church with a drumstick in hand screaming “NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA, NIGGA” and still display a greater sense of pride about my race than many of the people picking at their own just because it’s the thing to do. Many sound like they’re suffering from an inherent inferiority complex. Knock it off already. You sound fucking pathetic.

With that said, now that I’ve addressed select Negroes’ inner Uncle Ruckus, let’s move on with the actual show.

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MTV Just Handles Pregnancies Better Now

I haven’t actually seen any of those I used my birth canal before I was economically or emotionally ready to do so shows on MTV, but I do know the network that I used to worship for their music coverage makes far money on those than they do airing videos we only will watch once on YouTube. Most of you have known this, too, for quite some time. So if that is common knowledge why do we collectively feign dismay over the Video Music Awards?

I am guilty of this personally, as I wondered aloud why the cast of Jersey Shore (another show I have never watched) were the first guests for the pre-show. I know that one of them is a DJ for the robot formally known as Britney Spears, but I suppose if she has so little to say about her own music these days why should he even bother? Then came all of these random people I’ve never heard of sounding like strep throat, moving like pharmaceutically-enhanced dick stiffness, or being all around underwhelming.

This is the new tradition of the show, though, which is why I don’t blame MTV for changing their post-VMA show twitcon to an image of Beyoncé clutching her newly confirmed baby bump. If you can’t get music right you might as well highlight a pregnancy. Especially if that’s what your network is increasingly known for anyway.

But alright y’all, I will try to recap this show as best I can because memories of it sleep as I shift my interests towards something items like getting my life together and deciding what items from the Popeye’s menu I shall order in celebrating of Beyoncé bringing new life into the world.

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After The Show It’s The Commentary

Each year the BET Awards roll around and the usual suspects round out the typical responses. The instant rebranding of the ceremony as the EBT awards. The whining about how the show lost its luster several years ago. Or the wild accusation that the telecast represents the downfall of black America.

Much of this criticism to me is the verbal equivalent of perpetual jock itch. Seriously, folks, if the show is that cheap, so unbearable, and damning to your race do yourself a favor and don’t bother watching. Yes, that is a trite solution but no less trite that what the comments it’s in response to.

Just so we’re clear, though you can find my name around those online parts it doesn’t sway my opinion one way or the other. Trust me. That said, I didn’t find the show to be bad. Initially I held off on doing a review as I wondered whether or not it more enjoyable to me because I was at the venue.

Then I thought about it. and realized some people just like to complain. Sometimes fair, other times because everyone else is doing it. Most know damn well the VMAs haven’t been consistently good since Lauryn Hill cared what you thought and all the other ones aren’t usually worth mentioning at length. Which leaves us here. So everybody, let’s gather ’round and discuss this, shall we?

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The Girls of the Billboard Awards

There comes a point when you have to stop feeling sorry for someone and speak plainly. To wit: Britney Spears the performer sucks now and I wish the mainstream press would give up the act about her already. As soon as I heard word that she would be performing at the Billboard Music Awards, I knew how the post-show headlines would look. Bullshit headers like, “Britney Sizzles With Rihanna on Stage.” If by sizzle you mean draw blank stares from people who can remember Britney before she succumbed to sedation, consider my eyes set ablaze.

Rihanna looked amazing as usual and sounded okay at best per usual. She still danced like she was ready for her shift at the Puss and Boots to end, but at least she sang live. And you know, at least she bothered to move her body at all. Whatever, by now we know what to expect. Loud knocks and that’s enough for me.

Still, Britney Spears made Rihanna look like Tina Turner after being hooked up to an IV of Red Bull by comparison. I like her and find her to be sweet, but seriously what is the point of Britney Spears anymore?  If you can’t dance, you should at least sing. And if you can’t swing a pillow with energy maybe it’s best you just go lay on one.

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So The 2011 Grammy Awards…

Last nite, all of Appalachia gathered to punish hip-hop for stealing their phrase “knuck if you buck” without paying proper homage by way of Lady Antebellum dominating the 2011 Grammy Awards.

That is, if you are to believe the self-appointed oracles of music that took to Twitter to convey the less than subtle message: “Hip-hop don’t win shit ‘cause you Negroes with an igga don’t buy music.”

The sentiment bears about as much honesty in it as the tapped down crotch of a drag queen, but what does it matter given the Grammys only handed out about 3.5 awards in what felt like a 5.5 hour-long telecast anyway?

If the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences didn’t want to focus on who won what, why should I?

Let’s just move on from that and go straight to the performances.

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The Lady GaGa Awards

Anytime an award’s show is led in by a marathon of a reality show featuring orange people dipped in moose it is probably in everyone’s best interest not to get their hopes up.

Fortunately, up until a few days ago I had forgotten all about the Video Music Awards, which meant I didn’t even bother taking the time to feign excitement or optimism.

I will give MTV some credit – last year’s show was pretty good. It’s just too bad it’s not last year.

To that end, let me make one thing clear: This shit was awful. There were some good things – like, uh, the stage crewmembers set up – but overall it was a very dull event and I’ll likely forget most of what I’ve seen tonight six hours after this post is published.

I do have one good thing to say, though: I actually learned a few things from watching this. And when you really think about it, shouldn’t we all take comfort in the fact that I can still learn from a network that’s now known for some loudmouth dwarf named Snooki?

The answer is no, but I’m going to share my musings on this show with you anyway.

Okay kids, let’s dive in so I can off and dream about chicken wings and the death of Sallie Mae.

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On The Oscars, Suga

I don’t think Mo’Nique ever had a problem with being honored by the Academy. It seemed to be more of an issue of whether or not she would bend over backwards to be honored for something she felt should be solely based on merit. She chose not to and based on her comments in recent and not so recent interviews, she’s admittedly about the bottom line. To some people you have to give a little to get more in the long run. To others they want all that you can give them from the jump.

As I contemplate driving up the block, turning on “Toss It Up,” and pop-pop-pop that thang for student loan cash, I can’t be mad at those who select the latter in hindsight.

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Rihanna’s Trying

Rihanna has a history of performing at the same energy level as a sedated Britney Spears. But, to her credit I think she’s trying to do better as evidenced by this performance at the Echo Awards. Has she completely succeeded yet? No, not really, but in this instance I think we should give her an A for effort. If an A is too much, just don’t give her a D for deportation.

Before your eyes shift sideways, let me make my case.

Look at how she opens the performance. She’s actually moving, ya’ll. Like, not just her lips but her actual body. Granted, she’s bending over and busting it open for a Transformer, but I’m sure Jimmy Neutron is somewhere smiling because of it. She gave robot boy hope and potentially a hard on, folks. Does that count for something?

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