Goin’ Grammy

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Jan 292008

The Grammys are coming up two weeks from yesterday (assuming they don’t get the old Writer’s Strike axe), but since next week’s is taken with Full Album week, we’ll do a little Grammy preview this time. They get more wrong than they get right, but bitching about awards shows is even more fun than watching them.

First up let’s look at the Record of the Year nominees. Why Stronger isn’t on that list is beyond me, but let’s look at what is.

D – Irreplaceable (Beyonce)
Lord knows who “D” is, but his (their?) slow mellow take turns the bouncy club number into a mournful dirge, as if he doesn’t believe a word he’s singing. Who knew “to the left, to the left” could sound so sad?

Lots of people – The Pretender (Foo Fighters)
I couldn’t find a proper cover of this one (pass one along if you’ve got it), but luckily there’s a back-up plan, from the Grammy folks themselves. For a feature called “My Grammy Moment” they’ve invited anyone who wants to do a 60-second cover on youtube, the best performer of which will get an invite to perform the song at the show itself, with a new rearrangement courtesy of Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones. Whether you think this is a tacky ploy to attract viewers the self-congratulatory hoopla of a dying industry (which it is) or a truly ingenious way to liven up the show (which it also is), some of these people are worth checking out. They’ve narrowed it down to the semi-finalists, so there’s some good arrangements, from sax to mandolin.

Brave Horatius – Umbrella (Rihanna)
Easily the most covered song of ’07, the shocking thing is that most of the covers are actually quite good (check out here for a lot more). This is the only one I’ve found that changes the tempo though, slowing it way down with xylophone and slow cymbal rolls.

Marilyn Manson – What Goes Around…Comes Around (Justin Timberlake)
You won’t be surprised to hear this doesn’t sound much like Timberlake, but it doesn’t particularly sound like Manson either. No dark industrial noises, but just a 12-string guitar behind his straight-forward singing. Still about two octaves lower than the original though.

Hot Hot Heat – Rehab (Amy Winehouse)
Since she’s actually in Rehab (and may not even be allowed at the Grammys due to her legal troubles), it’s a good thing plenty of other artists have stepped up to keep her hit alive. From a live radio session, the Heat boys infuse some funky riffs and spastic drumming to make it sound more like a Franz Ferdinand cover.

And here are a few more up-for-Grammys songs/artists/albums.

Kendra Morris – Can’t Tell Me Nothing (Kanye West)
I didn’t even believe this was the same song when I first hear it, the tune sounds so natural I couldn’t believe it had been superimposed. Maybe not as good as the cover of Stronger I posted a few weeks back, but damn close. And if Kanye doesn’t get album of the year, I’ll…complain about it in a future post. So take heed, Academy!

The White Stripes – Conquest (Patti Page)
In the Jolene vein of take-no-prisoners country crooner covers, Jack and Meg add mariachi horns and a thumping beat to this revenge man-hater. Icky Thump was overrated, but this was the clear highlight. Check out the video too, featuring a beautiful tale of man-bull love.

Calexico – Ocean of Noise (Arcade Fire)
Norah Jones covered this one live too, but as I can’t stand her, we’ll go with a band much easier on the ears, Calexico. They got a little publicity this fall as the house band for I’m Not There, the Dylan biopic. This take on a Neon Bible track takes out the weird instruments, instead propelling the song along with emotive singing and an arrangement that gains more with each listen.

Herbie Hancock ft. Leonard Cohen – The Jungle Line (Joni Mitchell)
In all honesty I’m not a huge Joni fan or a huge Herbie fan, but to see an all-covers disc up for Album of the Year is worth a mention. So here’s the last track off it, featuring William Shatner-esq “singing” by my man Leonard.

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