Monday, February 9, 2009


Predictably, lots of people have been criticizing the fact that Robert Plant & Alison Krauss won five Grammys last night, over the likes of Lil' Wayne, Radiohead, Coldplay, M.I.A., Leona Lewis, etc. I've heard complaints like they aren't as "relevent," their album wasn't talked about as much, that thier win for Album of the Year was "anticlimatic," etc. I've heard from that Wayne's Tha Carter III was really the "album of the year." Plus, it was the year's best selling record! (An arguement I doubt these same people would have used to defend, say, the Titanic soundtrack.)

Full disclosure: I'm a Grammy voter, and I voted for Robert and Alison for all five categories that they were nonimated in. After last year when Herbie Hancock won Album of the Year, the Grammys really do need to try not to seem totally out of touch. I like Herbie Hancock, but that was crazy. On the other hand, no one minded that Amy Winehouse won a bunch of Grammys, and who knows, maybe in a few years she'll be the star of "I Love The '00s." I predict that the 2008 Grammys will be seen as pretty embarassing, but in 2009, they got it mostly right (Bruce Springsteen's lack of nominations in major categories for "Girls In Their Summer Clothes" notwithstanding).

But here's the real deal: Robert Plant and Alison Krauss mainly let their album speak for itself. I think MTV must have had a story about Lil' Wayne every day for the past year. Wayne's a young guy: he does mixtapes. He collaborates with anyone who asks him to. He's young. He does drugs and courts trouble. He needs to do this to sell records, and MTV, Vibe and everyone else need constant Wayne stories to make themselves seem "relevent." To a lesser extent, many of the other artists in the running for big awards kept themselves in the news cycle, or at least their publicists did it for them. They are part of a conversation that Robert and Alison stay far away from, by choice.

Robert and Alison seemed to do interviews as a favor for thier record label, Rounder (who did a incredible job with the album that other record labels and marketers should really take note of), and were happy to let Raising Sand speak for itself. Of course, Alison collaborates with artists nearly as much as Lil Wayne does: but no one really wrote about the fact that she guested on Yo-Yo Ma's new album, Songs Of Joy and Peace, or that she put out a Plant-less DVD, A Hundred Miles Or More, featuring other collabs with the likes of Brad Paisley, James Taylor and John Waite. Yes, "Missing You" John Waite. I actually love the fact that she doesn't know (or care) that when you have a certain amount of cred and you work with Robert Plant that you don't also work with Yo-Yo Ma or John Waite. Robert Plant did occasionally entered the news cycle: mainly because he wouldn't reunite with Led Zeppelin. If you want to talk about "cred," the guy turned down tens of millions of dollars (maybe a hundred million) to do that tour, to stick with Alison Krauss, and to do the music that he believed in, instead of trying to relive 1972.

If you had any awareness of popular music in 2008, it was impossible not to know that Lil Wayne had an album. Or Coldplay, Radiohead or Leona Lewis. You may have not heard about Raising Sand. To find out about it, you had to look a little harder, you had to listen. Same deal if you wanted to appreciate it: you couldn't just play a hook from a song, you had to actually listen to the whole thing. The fact that an album like that, that was made outside of any real commercial considerations, that didn't pander or beg to be noticed, made by adults who know their age, to win six Grammys (it actually won one last year) seems like a miracle in 2009. And one we should be thankful for.

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