I have a lot of ambivalence for the Grammys so I consciously made other plans last night and skipped the telecast. The Grammys aren't irrelevant but they are hopelessly flawed and fall embarrassingly short of representing the best in music. I pay attention to what happens but I can't bring myself to care. We could make fun of Justin Beiber but that's too easy. Speaking of easy, there's Lady Gaga-in-an-egg. Those jokes tell themselves and that's why I didn't watch in the first place.
I spent the morning scouring the web and found a list of the winners and you know what I discovered? Some pretty good records and artists took home trophies last night. We're going to accentuate the positive and downplay the negative. Here are five Grammy 2011 highlights, presented without scowling, bitter, middle-aged white rappers from Detroit or ham-and-egg country bands.
Alternative Album: The Black Keys – Brothers: This made my Top 10 of 2010 list and remains a regular staple of my listening rotation. The Keys are one of our best contemporary American bands and they have been for a while. Take my advice and mine their catalog. Get a copy of Rubber Factory immediately.
Hard Rock Performance: "New Fang" - Them Crooked Vultures: I'd forgotten about this record until Saturday and the next day they win a Grammy. This is a fine contemporary classic rock record and one I need to listen to a little more often. There are moments of tedium on the set but the highlights are real. There were rumors that a follow-up was being readied but Queens of The Stone Age and Foo Fighters are both moving on with new records so either the rumors were false or the project has been shelved. Crank the debut and hope those sessions someday surface.
Traditional Blues Album: Joined At The Hip - Pinetop Perkins & Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith: The most important thing here really isn't who won so much as who didn't, namely Cyndi Lauper. Peace and love, Cyn, but you don't deserve blues Grammy goodness. I would have gone with Charlie Musselwhite's The Well but 'Top and Willie are legends and the album is quite good.
Contemporary Blues Album: Living Proof - Buddy Guy: Buddy has made better records but Living Proof has damn good moments and Buddy Guy is a music icon who deserves every good thing that happens to him. Congratulations, Bud. He's always been one of my favorites and he always will. His duet with B.B. King is a beautiful moment. Go download that song even if you don't consider yourself a blues fan (it's called "Stay Around A Little Longer).
Rock Or Rap Gospel Album: Hello Hurricane – Switchfoot: This is not only the best Rock Gospel record of last year, it's one of the best and most inspired rock albums I've heard in ages. Jon Foreman isn't afraid to tackle the big themes nor is he afraid to tackle them in a way that runs against the grain of paint-by-numbers CCM. Switchfoot can rock you and they can break your heart. More than that, they can make you think.