Listening to The 2012 Grammy Awards

The 2012 Grammy Awards — "music’s biggest night" — was certainly a unique evening of entertainment. As Reba (when did she lose her last name?) pointed out, it brought together so many different aspects of the music industry. Where else would you find hip-hop newbies rubbing elbows with old-school crooners? The night was dominated by Adele, who won six out of the six awards she was nominated for. The Foo Fighters weren’t far behind, with four Grammys of their own. But looming over the entire event was the overwhelming sadness of the tragic loss of one of the industry’s most talented stars, Whitney Houston.

The world lost one shining voice on Saturday. Crossing the boundaries of pop and R&B, with a voice straight from heaven, since she exploded onto the scene in the 80’s, Whitney set the bar for every female vocalist. Now, every singer who attempts to dazzle will always be compared to Whitney, particularly her performance at the 1991 Super Bowl that pulled together a nation during the Gulf War. Personally, in addition to feeling sad, I’m angry that no one was able to stop the train wreck that her life had become. Jennifer Hudson delivered a moving tribute, eerily reminiscent of the late Ms. Houston. Her choice of song, “I Will Always Love You,” couldn’t have been more perfect for the somber occasion. The world is just a bit off-key today

Adele’s performance of “Rolling in the Deep,” her first live appearance since vocal-cord surgery, showed a few nervous wobbles but she proved her voice is still good as gold (or platinum) as she belted out the high notes. It was a perfect showcase for the singer’s strength — a powerful voice singing a powerful song. The entire show had that same feel with good, solid performances all around.

Dave Grohl, lead singer of the Foo Fighters (and former drummer for Nirvana), pointed out that the human element is still important in recording. Instead of recording their last album in a high-end state-of-the-art recording studio, they recorded it in Grohl’s garage. No gimmicks, just pure music. On Grammy night, some of the best performances were the simplest – just a voice and instrument. Chris Brown’s amazingly athletic performance, on the other hand, got a cautious Grammy audience to give him a standing ovation. Perhaps all is forgiven?

One thing was obvious — old school is new again.  The Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, Glen Campbell, and The Boss rocked the house. Overall, the average age of this year’s performers seemed to be seriously past the AARP application age — the Grammys’ attempt to reconnect with an older record-buying demographic?

While the Super Bowl usually gets all the press about commercials, it was hard not to notice some interesting trends in the ads playing during the Grammys. Really, did you ever think that the best place to buy new tracks would be Target? When did it become cool to shop for music at Target? Good God, I miss my local record shop. If anyone missed Jennifer Lopez in the latest Fiat commercials, fear not — she appeared in a new ad for Harman Kardon, with an original score from When was the last time you saw a commercial for a stereo system?  Really, except for an iPod, when was the last time you saw a commercial for any audio product?  Paul McCartney is also pitching for JBL, a Harman brand. Both ads were expertly directed by Martin Campbell from Casino Royale and The Green Lantern. This is good quality audio gear that’s being advertised. There is hope for the audiophile in all of us.

On music’s biggest night, it’s easy to think the business is going to be just fine.