Story and Video: Local musicians size up the good, bad and ugly of Grammy nominees
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PRESCOTT - Although millions of people will tune in to watch the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards at 6 p.m. Sunday, at least five local musicians share a collective thought of, 'So what?'
"It's like watching a dangerous intersection hoping something will happen," said Tres Ikner of the band Dutch Holly. "And usually nothing happens."
On Wednesday, Ikner joined a roundtable discussion about the Grammys with fellow musicians Sky Conwell of the rockabilly surf band Sky Daddy and the Pop Rocks; reggae rocker Kai Beamer; singer/songwriter Chloe Stuff; and Buddy Moeck of the Buddy Moeck Swing Band.
Most of the debates centered on the categories Best New Artist and Record of the Year, and also about the Grammy ceremony itself.
The five musicians seem convinced the judges will pick Justin Bieber for the artist award, and while they all agreed he is talented, they also agreed he is the last person who deserves it.
"I'm going with Esperanza Spalding, she's something completely different from anything else," Conwell said. "If she wins, then real music is being recognized."
"I love Esperanza. She makes real music," Stuff agreed. "She sings in Portuguese and plays this huge bass."
"I'll bet $20 on Bieber to win, but I don't want him to," Beamer said.
Stuff pondered out loud if Bieber "is even 'new,' or even any good."
Beamer did a quick Internet search and told the group that Bieber already has three albums recorded. "How can he be 'new?,'" he asked.
"Maybe he got a new machine," Ikner replied.
"But every once in awhile something cool comes out of the Grammys, some real music sneaks past the judges," Conwell said, noting then unknown Norah Jones sweeping the 2002 awards.
"Bieber's popularity represents everything that is wrong with the Grammys," Ikner said. He and Beamer are rooting for Mumford & Sons for the new artist award.
"If Bieber loses, it will give me more faith in the Grammys," Beamer added. "But if he wins, it will confirm everything that we've been saying."
Moeck, who started his music career in the 1950s and does not give the Grammys much thought, wondered whether the judges vote for the person or their talent.
"How much does it lean toward the person of the year compared to the artist's talent?," he said.
Conwell, who doesn't watch the Grammys but reads about the winners the next day, said that he feels the Grammy organizers have lost sight of the ceremony's original intention.
"It used to be about the best music, but not anymore," he said. "It's not about the art, it's about commerce, and it's about selling records."
"It's about who's got the biggest and most powerful machine behind them," Ikner added.
Moeck wasn't sure he agreed with that.
"Aren't the winners picked by their peers?," he asked.
"No, they're voted by cloaked and hooded people meeting in secret, voting by candlelight and wearing secret rings," Ikner quipped.
The Record of the Year category may be confusing to the general public, but not to the five seasoned musicians. Although a single song from each artist is nominated for the category, the judging is not about the song, it's about the production of the song - the behind-the-scenes tech-heads, Ikner explained.
"It's about the producers, the engineers," he said.
"It's all about the engineers," Stuff agreed.
"That's exactly right," Beamer said. "I mean, everyone's heard of Cee Lo Green, but who's heard of The Smeezingtons?"
The Smeezingtons produced Cee Lo Green's controversial song, "F*** You," which evoked strong reactions from the group. The song is nominated for Record of the Year.
"I'm very offended by it. It's vulgar, offensive and disgusting," Conwell said of the song's title and lyrics. "I've been a school teacher for 15 years, and students could get expelled for using that word, and now we're flashing it in their faces."
"I like the song," Stuff said. "I think he wanted to get a strong reaction. If you record on that label (Elektra) it had to be a conscious business decision. I think they wanted to get people's attention."
Moeck had not listened to the song before Wednesday's roundtable.
"I like the music, but I don't like the words," said the big band swing musician. "I think the music is good, it has a good beat, but the title destroys it."
"My favorite record is Cee Lo Green," Ikner said. "I think it's hilarious, but it has no chance of winning a Grammy."
"If you ask me which record I like best, I can't. I have no idea," Conwell said. "It's like asking me to pick between vomit and dung."
Lady Gaga, who's up against the likes of Norah Jones and Beyoncé for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, is popular with the five musicians.
"She's cool," Stuff said. "She writes her own songs and she runs her own machine."
"The thing is, the Grammys are really not so much about the artist, but about the music industry itself," Ikner mused. "They should have a category for People with the Biggest Machine Behind Them."
Although most of the contemporary musicians are unknown to Moeck, two artists have his vote hands-down.
He hopes Eminem wins something because that is his grandson's favorite artist.
"And I think Lady Antebellum should win best title for 'Need You Now,' " Moeck said. "I like that title."
Video length: 4 minutes. Video filmed by Matt Hinshaw.
PRESCOTT - Although millions of people will tune in to watch the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards at 8 p.m. Sunday, at least five local musicians share a collective thought of, 'So what.'
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