I love pop music. Always have, always will.
It’s not the music I care deeply about, though. Jazz and classical music are.
That’s one reason I’ve finally become able to watch the Grammys with cool and comfortable detachment. None of the music I love is really involved in what they do.
And that’s despite the fuss music lovers might well make in this era where consciousness of bullying in all walks of life is as high as it’s ever been. You could then, if so inclined, be genuinely furious at all the ways bullying Grammys bash the bejabbers out of everything great about music.
Bullying, though, is the oldest story in American culture. Ask DeTocqueville who coined the phrase describing our national malady “the tyranny of the majority,” i.e., the ability of the thoughtless and hopelessly crass to think that majority tastes have every God-given right to bruise and even obliterate minority tastes from the face of the earth.
Tyranny is tyranny, though. And bullying is bullying. And much, if not most, of the culture that distinguishes the human species wasn’t designed for majority taste (however open it may be to it).
Sunday’s Grammys almost immediately made clear what the Grammys always do, i.e., that unless we’re talking about musical educators in Westfield of superhuman energy or dead musicians, the Grammys have nothing really to do with music. They’re about money and its spectacular ability to conjure up previously inconceivable vulgarity in a world that insists on being otherwise stubbornly devoted to good taste and common sense.
Even there, you need to know how little the Grammys actually care about the music I love most. When, in Sunday’s dead montage, they showed a picture of the late Colin Davis, they identified him as a “classical pianist.” Hardly. He was a great conductor, the greatest Berlioz conductor of his era. That, though, has to do with music, not the patently insane display of money and spectacle that was Sunday’s Grammys.
Somewhere around the second hour of the show, I began to suspect we were in vulgarity heaven … that one of the perversely great moments in TV history was in the offing. By the time we got to Lang Lang playing splatter piano as a kind of combo platter of Cecil Taylor and Jerry Lee Lewis so that Metallica would like him, I realized we had entered an entirely new vulgarity zone, even for the Grammys. By the time we got to Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis unleashing Queen Latifah on the audience to TV-marry people and prepare the way for Madonna to arrive in cowgirl costume to do an out-of-tune neo-Dale Evans final chorus to the song, I realized we had spent three hours watching one of the milestone events in TV history – a monument to tastelessness as grand as any I ever expect to see.
LENO ON “60 MINUTES”: As predicted in Sunday’s column, Steve Kroft – as admirable as he has so often been on “60 Minutes” – turned in a Jay Leno interview that was empty celebrity journalism on the occasion of Leno’s about to become the only human being ever to be hoisted out of the “Tonight Show” host’s chair twice. Two of the crucial “W’s” in journalism were completely missing from Kroft’s story despite the fact that “60 Minutes” unique TV resources could have supplied them: Who (at NBC made the decision to pull the plug on Leno the second time) and Why (the explanation people assume is demograhics – that he’s too old – doesn’t begin to hold water in the real world among those who haven’t yet been indoctrinated completely into TV errancies. Not only is CBS’ David Letterman three years older than Leno but “60 Minutes’ ” own correspondent Morley Safer could easily be cast as Methuselah the next time some cable TV station decides to give us more movies from the Bible.)
Leno’s cars in his garages looked nice but the Kroft-Leno interview was an immense waste of time. Oprah Winfrey’s Leno interview on the occasion of his post-ouster return to “The Tonight Show” was vastly superior.