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Grammy Awards winners: Sentiment prevails over artistry . . . again

February 8, 2009 | 11:02 pm

Well, the Grammy Awards played out mostly as expected, with one twist. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss bagged the Grammy for best album of the year ("Raising Sand") on cue, but — surprise — also best record ("Please Read the Letter"), a category widely forecast to go to Coldplay, which won best song for "Viva La Vida." Plant/Krauss weren't nominated in that Grammy race, but probably would've snagged that if they'd made the list.

Plant and Krauss were a Grammy juggernaut that couldn't be stopped, going undefeated with their three additional nominations: pop collaboration with vocals, country collaboration and best contemporary folk/Americana album.

Adding five new Grammys to her previous tally, Alison Krauss now has 26, which is one less than Quincy Jones and five shy of the all-time record held by Sir Georg Solti (31), former conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


The sad thing about their sweep is that it gives us one more record of the year that really wasn't the record of the year. While "Please Read the Letter" is a nice enough tune, sure, it's probably going to be filed under other obscure best-record champs as "Here We Go Again," which sailed to victory aboard the Ray Charles/ Norah Jones juggernaut at the 2005 Grammys.

We Grammy-watchers weren't the only ones tonight scratchin' our noggins.

"I'd like to say I’m bewildered," Plant said at the end of the Grammy sweep as he clutched the best-album prize. "In the old days we would have called this selling out, but I think it's a good way to spend a Sunday."

Todd Martens of our Pop & Hiss blog wasn't happy about that Grammy victory, sighing, "When it comes to album of the year, always pick old over innovative. With 'Raising Sand,' Robert Plant and Alison Krauss crafted an engrossing and timeless country-influenced album, one that certainly deserved to be rewarded for best contemporary folk album. But album of the year? Not against Radiohead's 'In Rainbows,' an album that took more chances, pairing Radiohead's electronic and studio experimentations with some of the group's warmest songs to date."

Maybe we shouldn't get too riled up by all this, though, knowing how showbiz awards often go. The sentiment behind the Plant/Krauss avalanche was noble and heartfelt, a hug to beloved, enduring artists. It's kind of like "The Departed" winning best picture at the Oscars. No one really thought it was the best flick of 2006, but director Martin Scorsese was overdue for a big industry bear squeeze too.

Poor Jonas Brothers. They were looking so good on stage during their wow-pow duet with Stevie Wonder that I was tempted to sneak into The Envelope's Buzzmeter and switch my prediction for best new artist from Adele. But — whew — I resisted. That category, after all, usually spotlights solo female artists (Amy Winehouse and Carrie Underwood were the last two victors) and the Jonas Brothers had no cross-Grammys support. Best new artist was their solo nomination.

Notable award surprises included Duffy winning best pop album over the Eagles, who were cheated out of a bid for best album of the year for their multi-platinum comeback disc. While there was a lot of sentiment all Grammy night for veteran Plant, the Eagles had to make due with beating a bunch of nobodies for best pop instrumental performance for "I Dreamed There Was No War." While Plant beat Coldplay in the top races, those Eagles veterans couldn't get around Coldplay in the race for best pop group performance, and they even lost rock group performance to Kings of Leon ("Sex on Fire").

My, my, how long ago it seems that the Eagles soared high in Grammy skies by winning record of the year for "Hotel California" (1977). Why was there so much Grammy love for some veterans today but not others, eh?

Speaking of upsets: Rihanna was expected to win, but lost to Daft Punk ("Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger"). Another surprise . . .

. . . The Mars Volta ("Wax Simulacra") beat Rob Zombie ("Lords of Salem"), Judas Priest ("Visions") and Motley Crue ("Saints of Los Angeles") for best hard rock performance.

No surprise: Metallica ("My Apocalypse") won best metal performance for a sixth time and Jimmy Sturr won the Jimmy Sturr award— oops, I mean best polka album award — for the 18th time.

Well, I guess my "100% Perfect Grammy Awards Predictions" weren't so perfect, after all! But they were close! See a full list of winners here.


DoubleD Predicts Who'll Win the Grammys

'Guru' Makes Gutsy Grammy Predictions in All Top Races

Guru and DoubleD Square Off to Predict Who'll Win the Grammys for Best Record and Song

Guru and DoubleD Dish Who'll Win the Grammys for Best Album and New Artist

See how Guru and DoubleD did predicting this year's nominees: best Album, Record and New Artist of the year.

Photo: Mark Boster / L.A. Times

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The comments to this entry are closed.


i agree...please read the letter winning over viva la vida is complete rubbish...anybody saying that please read the letter was deserving because they think its a beautiful song is just being biased, but i think that's the reason why there is a separate category of song and record of the of the year usually go to the artistic makeup of the song that includes the melody, lyrics etc...but record of the year goes to the song that influenced and made a great impact on the music industry for the past year....and no doubt it was viva la vida.....when you say record, it should mean the production quality of the song.....who would have thought that an english alternative rock band would be able to record a baroque pop song and would win the hearts of many....the performance of the band was excellent and not to mention the success of the song as it was officially the biggest selling single released in objectively, if you weigh the two records, viva la vida should have won hands down.....sentiment won over artistry......

No one mentioned that the best record of 2008 was actually a ten-year-old song. "Please Read the Letter" was, unless I am mistaken, written and produced by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant along with two others for their 1998 album "Walking Into Clarksdale." The album peaked at 8 on the Billboards, but most of the recognition at the time was reserved for the tracks "Most High" and "Shining in the Light." I own the album and I like the song, but isn't it a little pathetic for the academy to go for a song that was simply slowed down and re-arranged as a duet? I suppose it doesn't really matter as long as it's performed well. But I thought I'd point this out. Plant could as well have asked Krauss to sing with him on "Stairway." Surely they would have outdone themselves.

Tom, you are a musical icon. How many Grammys did you win?

Dear Tom! I hope (for the first time?) you will publish this rant of mine. I hope you will do an incisive piece about... wait for it... THE GRAMMY MAFIA! Yup there is one, spearheaded by Clive Davis and those who have undying support to all things produced by T-Bone Burnett or Rick Rubin! In my observation, if you were under the suffocating svengali grip of Clive Davis (See - Alicia Keys) or worked for T-Bone (Krauss) or Rubin (see - Dixie Chicks) you will most certainly get a grammy. Heck, alicia did it this year for a song sooo 2007! And to me that's not Super!

God! Why does anybody pay attention to this absurd charade. The polka award is probably more meaningful than any of the rest. It makes the Oscars seem sensible.

The Jonas Brothers deserved to win. They were the best, their performance was so awesome. I guess the Grammys' just doesn't take Disney kids seriously enough.

R O B E R T P L A N T n A L I S O N K R A U S ? PLEASE, what year is this, 1967? The songs everbody loved this year belonged to Rihana and Chris Brown who sadly were not even there. This is as bad as the oScarS.

I am not a music critic, but I am a bonafide music lover (and geezer, 60+ old) with a performing degree in voice, a former long time jazz programmer on a local public radio station, someone with a wide taste range in music -- if it's good, it's good, no matter the genre. I love Kings of Leon for instance -- especially "Molly's Chambers" and "Holy Roller Novocaine." And I am here to tell you that I think Raising Sand is a brilliant album and that "Please Read the Letter" is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful songs I have ever heard. And I was astonished that anything I thought was beautiful would win a Grammy Award, much less that I would hear it at the supermarket, which I did, two weeks ago. Amazing. Oh, and it's "make do," not "make due."

I won't claim to be a music expert, but we shouldn't file Plant and Krauss with recent veteran winners like Herbie Hancock and Ray Charles. "Raising Sand" received immaculate reviews; the only Album of the Year nominee with a higher MetaCritic score was "In Rainbows," and the difference is only a single point (88 to 87). So let's not say that sentiment trumped artistry. The two seemed to go hand and hand this year.

I agree, though, that "Please Read the Letter" is a bit of a lightweight for Record of the Year. It's not even one of the best five tracks on that album! Should have gone to "Viva La Vida."

I wonder who let those kids jump and hop around Stevie? They ruined his image.

What a boring waste of 3 1/2 hours! I hadn't watched the grammys in years, finally decided to watch....and all I see is no-talent people that seemingly cannot speak english, either look like homeless men/women by the way they dress or shouldn't be allowed to sing in the shower much less on stage in front of people!
If the people that won are what's considered "talented" ......forget it....not worth my time trying to decipher what they're singing!
AND PLEASE! These people make a lot of money, surely they can hire someone to dress them better!

Tom O'Neil is talking rubbish. The album by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant WAS and IS the record of the year. It was different, unexpected and simply brilliant. Well done to them both for having the courage to put it together. Pity the CMA are so blind that they cannot see how brilliant these two are together and how brill the songs are. Shame on them and shame on you Mr O'Neil.

No one thought The Departed was the best flick of 2006? Are you KIDDING ME? It was one of the best-reviewed films of the year! 4 stars everywhere! No, that can't be true.

WTH is 'artisty'? Don't you people have an editor?

I think the first step in decrying the fall of artistry is to learn how to spell it.

These awards are popularity contests that are not rooted in the quality of the actual work created. Lots and lots of better music is overlooked all the time. These awards aren't for the musically intellectual or audiophiles. These awards are for people who simply wanted to listen to something just because it it generally popular with other people who are also not particularly interested in music to a deep extent.

I have no complaints and this isn't anything new.

Oy. Stale over substance .... I did not even stay awake. If the industry was looking to attract attention for its product ... this is a show that didn't didn't do it. The old cliche best describes it: uninspired. There was nothing interesting about it and that includes the artists. Shockingly, this country has been through an economic downturn unseen in decades since possibly the great depression some seventy years ago. People are losing their jobs, school systems are closing their schools, a few towns have folded ... and a whole nation put their faith and hopes in a young president - the first black president - and the grammy's nor the artists reflected NOT one bit of this. The music has nothing to do with anyone's life and frankly lacks purpose. Like all other industries that have seen a dismal contraction - the music industry is stumbling over its own lack of innovation and seems to be blaming everything else. There was no artistry to its artists. As I said before, UNinspired.

The only thing less compelling about this year's Grammy Awards was the annual Grammy Awards broadcast. Until the Ken Ehrlichs of the TV universe stop ruining the show with pointless star-on-star action with the "once in a lifetime!" duets that render each award broadcast meaningless, the show is nothing more than a waste. And as for the awards themselves, wouldn't it be nice if they actually, y'know, showed more than 9 of them in a 3.5-hour show?

"the Eagles had to make due with beating a bunch of nobodies for best pop instrumental performance..."
Fourplay, Stanley Jordan, and Marcus Miller are nobodies? What are you? Seventeen years old? Amazing that someone so astoundingly ignorant of jazz can write for the LA Times!

You misspelled "Artistry" in your headline. Y'all asleep or what?

I had a Scooby Doo moment when Plant/Krauss won Album of the Yr. Radio Head deserved it, hands down....

artistry not artisty doesn't matter if Jonas Brothers won or not....for us...the fans...they are the best!!!

The Academy slapped the face of Yma Sumac. What a tragedy. She was wonderful, loved worldwide.

Bloody Grammys

Three times Radiohead have been nominated for album of the year and three times they've lost to has-beens( Bob Dylan in 97, Steely Dan in 2000) still kicking around for dinosaur record execs.

How many more amazing albums do they have to make?




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