Stepping Back from the VMAs, Maybe Forever

Kanye

I’ve spent all week trying to avoid finding something nice to say about this year’s VMAs.

I watched this year’s show live through the MTV app on my iPhone. By the end, I had a headache, but I couldn’t tell if it came from the small screen or the sugar high. The show was an overcaffeinated mess, drunk on its own excess and obsessed with its own artifice. There were missed cues, bum notes, off-color asides and racist undertones. What appeared spontaneous also felt calculated. What appeared calculated also felt cliched.

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“Happy” Trails: Can’t Bring Me Down

Happy

It might seem crazy, what I’m ’bout to say: you might be hearing Pharrell’s “Happy” for a long time to come.

After ten weeks at number one, the buoyant “Despicable Me 2” theme song bowed out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 to make room for John Legend’s “All of Me” on May 10th. Nonetheless, the song crossed over from “big hit” to “phenomenon” right around the beginning of March, when Pharrell performed the track on the Oscars, rousing the likes of Lupita Nyong’o and Meryl Streep from their seats and charming a global audience with the song’s infectious energy. It’s only grown in ubiquity since – tribute videos, a charming cover by Majesty Rose on American Idol, even the source of some teary-eyed musing on Oprah. (The song even played a role in an overseas issue of free speech, as a group of Iranian youths were arrested for posting a video of themselves dancing to the song last week.)

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6 Performances to Watch At the Grammy Awards This Weekend

Beyonce

The Grammy Awards are airing on CBS at 8pm this Sunday night. Music’s biggest awards show is often as confounding as it is exciting, but the megawatt lineup suggests noteworthy “moments” (the Grammys’ favorite word) are ahead. Here are six performances I’m anticipating.

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2013 in Review: Justin Timberlake’s Fractured Reign

Timberlake

During the first track on The 20/20 Experience, the first of two 2013 albums from Justin Timberlake, the multi-hyphenate superstar describes the love of his life as “my drug,” “my dealer” (yes, both), “my heroin” (rhymes with “wine”), “my cocaine,” “my nicotine,” “my blue dream” and “my hydroponic jelly bean.” (OK, that last one’s just plain weird.) He could have just as easily been describing his relationship with the American public, who gobbled up every morsel on his multi-course musical comeback menu with the vigor of, well, an addict. America simply couldn’t get enough of the suit and tie this year.

Or could they? Years from now, will we remember this year as the latest triumph in Timberlake’s impressive multi-decade streak, or the slow fade of an artist with plenty of energy but little substance beneath the style? The evidence from the first half of the year suggests the former, but the second half of the year brought its fair share of disappointments, casting a shadow over the Year of JT.

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Three More Thoughts on the 2014 Grammy Nominations

Lorde

I’ve already complained about the clunky telecast for the 2014 Grammy nominations in my piece for The Eagle. Nonetheless, I have a few more thoughts (three, in fact) on the nominations in general.

First, to quote from my piece:

“Despite some oversights, the nominations reflected the wide, if scattered, range of excellent pop music in 2013. Rising country star Kacey Musgraves nabbed three well-deserved nominations including one for Best New Artist. The Grammys embraced the anti-establishment alternative hip-hop of Lorde and the irrepressible smooth of Daft Punk. Taylor Swift’s excellent album Red ended up in the Album of the Year category, suggesting that the Grammys have longer memories than they are given credit for.”

Read on for three more thoughts.

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