Column: off the record..., vol. 13-554
February 17, 2013
After watching the Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl, I'm really ready for another U2 album. Beyoncé's halftime performance at the Super Bowl, while amazingly staged and featuring a woman with an undeniably great voice at the height of her game, was more about choreography than actual music. It seemed like she sang for about one-third of the performance. The rest of the show was backing tracks, strutting and looking fierce. It wasn't so much a musical performance as it was a dance routine.
The Grammys were boring as well. fun. is a band that works well on the radio but seems to lose its fizzle live without the benefits of studio production. Frank Ocean and Miguel are really middling talents vocally. It's my own hang-up, but Mumford & Sons still seem like such a novelty act, the musical equivalent of Tucker Carlson's bow tie. Florence Welch has a pretty amazing voice and has released two good albums, but she was nominated for two awards and won none. Jack White put on the most energetic performance of the night, but as long as he's determined to take the position of the gargoyle on the cathedral of rock music, humorless and glowering under the weight of its own duties, it's hard for me to enjoy the music he creates rather than just appreciate his talent from a distance. The second most energetic performance of the night was far and away the best: an all-star tribute to The Band's song "The Weight." It had some great singing by people who were obviously fans and finished up by the massive bullfrog bellowing of Mavis Staples. However, it was a tribute to a song that's approaching its 50th birthday, a gem from the past rather than a revelation from the present. And don't get me started on Mr. Timberlake…
Part of the problem is that this year was a very pop-heavy awards ceremony. Pop has the strength to achieve brilliant sounds in the studio, but it very quickly falls apart live if the performance isn't perfect. Rock is lucky. It can kick ass in the studio, but it also has the additional live energy that can carry it through on stage in ways pop never can. If you've been to more than a couple U2 shows, you've probably been to one where Bono's voice wasn't quite up to par. The music of the rest of the band is still more than enough to carry the songs through to success. If Adele gets a bit of a sore throat or her voice cracks trying to hit a high note, there goes the performance.
So, here's to hoping a new U2 album really does come out later this year. Rap and pop just don't give me that transcendent live feeling that rock does. I want to watch music awards that feature better music being played. I'm obviously biased toward U2's performances, but just going off on a little fantasy: How cool would a Grammys be if the musical acts were along the lines of U2, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, Garbage and Arctic Monkeys? And they could do a lifetime tribute to Lemmy and Motörhead, music with some real live energy.
Adam Clayton just sold his NYC apartment to Bruce Willis for $8.7 million. Someone must have made a nice paycheck off of A Good Day To Die Hard. For a man who has made his millions off music and the media surrounding it, I was surprised at how few media consumption devices Adam had in his pad. I certainly wouldn't mind living in it, though.
Many people who read this website and column have probably mulled over the "what would I ask U2 if I got to meet them?" question. Would you ask The Edge about his musical style, or Adam about his hair, or Larry how powerful he felt having injections of bull's blood coursing through his veins? I would want to talk to Bono about his lyrics. Specifically, I'd ask him what the heck he whispers at the start of "If You Wear That Velvet Dress" and in the bridge of the single version of "Sweetest Thing." What is he quietly singing in the bridge of "Pride"? What are the voices saying at the start of "Numb" and "Zooropa"? Are there any actual words in his fit toward the end of "Another Time, Another Place"? What are in the falsettos of "Your Blue Room"? And pretty much the entire song "Boomerang II."
Am I the last one to find out about the Harlem Shake?
(c) @U2, 2013.
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