January 27th, 2014

The Grammys: Porn Yes. Protest No.

porn_crunch

Like I’ve done every year since I was a wee lad, I watched the Grammys last night. Which was more of a long slog through tepid, dish-watery music with lotsa nostalgia and female artists stirring hormones (shock!) to confirm their viability in the pop marketplace, which isn’t much of a vital music milieu anymore.

When a friend asked me at dinner recently to name my favorite albums from last year, I couldn’t think of any. Singles stood out, yes. But cohesive productions, works that normally qualify as an ‘album’? Not so much. There was engaging music, for certain, but it was found on obscure paths, from esoteric artists or labels or autodidact home studio aficionados. That New Zealand’s lovely Lorde won two awards last night was a nice compensation for the long train of tedium.

Gone are the days when a creation of genius, like Stevie Wonder‘s Innervisions, would command a pile of Grammys. Now it’s target group, marketing department-derived music that translates instantly into cash for the dinosaur labels. During her acceptance speech last night, some country artist thanked Mercury and I thought: Oh cool, she’s into astrology; but then recalled how that used to be a big label.

So, is it surprising that the big winners last night were robots? Artists that didn’t even speak but osmotically conveyed gratitude through other entities on stage. Very much the reverse of how Daft Punk comprised their album: by siphoning off the best melodies and riffs from previously established hits from Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder and others. I enjoyed Daft Punk’s album, I have a copy, and it’s fun to put on when I’m cleaning the house and thinking about Donna Summer‘s Bad Girls — which I used to clean the house with. Back in the 80s.

Also, symbolically significant re the sharp pornification of pop music, was when Madonna — the last great, fun, sex-pop provocateur — sorta hobble-scooted out on a cane, dressed in what could have been a Jonbenet Ramsey pageant ensemble. I eye-popped when she slumped onto her walking stick and began warbling. One face-tweaking away from resembling Katherine Helmond in the film Brazil, Madonna should stop now, regroup and realize that she’s not Mick Jagger. She’d do well to take advice from Isabella Rossellini or, hell, Bonnie Raitt — women who’ve maintained their sexual persona with class and sass as they’ve matured.

When I scanned my pea brain for data, I realized that our last great incendiary moment from Madonna came many years back when she pulled Britney Spears to her side to deliver a kiss on stage. Of course today that ploy seems like a move you’d see in an episode of Jem, the animated 1980s classic for teen girls (and gay boys). Especially when compared to the throbbing id-ism that was Beyonce‘s opening salvo for the ceremony.

Apparently Twitter went into hyper shitstorm last night as mothers across the nation squawked their disapproval of Beyonce’s lurid appearance. And I agree, her performance made me feel sad for kids watching the show.

Not to sound like Andrea Peyser, but did I need to visually encounter what appeared to be the outline of B’s labia, lit and framed in screaming pink strip club close-up? No. As if to push back against whatever tumescence was rising in the audience, Jay Z took the stage and visually asserted his dominance of the moment and his “young woman” (as he referred to Beyonce in his acceptance speech later).

But if it was the mystery of love that was to have been portrayed by the duo I missed it, the actual vibe was more Pimp and Ho Party, those adult costume get-togethers from the late 00s. Drunk in Love is an OK song, with hip flourishes and vocal diddlings (“Surf board, surf board, surf board” — or whatever the fuck), but the stylized moment went missing amidst the unrelenting grab to get my genitals frenzied so I’d hop onto iTunes thinking I could purchase the single and soothe my itch. Again, I felt bad for the kids.

So, we’re probably about five years away from when, say, Macklemore and Selena Gomez open the Grammys with a raw, fully nude, coitus-centered tarantula. Like something from a scene in the 1982 film Cafe Flesh — a post-apocalyptic science fiction story where humans are divided into Sex Negatives and Sex Positives. The enfeebled Negatives are so enervated from sex overdose that they must go to a special cabaret to watch those who are still horny (the Positives) perform live sex for them and remind them of what a healthy libido used to feel like and look like.

As I posted on Facebook last night, “The trouble with Neptune transiting Pisces: Spectacles appear interesting — but aren’t.” By the time Neptune arrives in Pisces we’re into a phase of artistic expression that is a melting pot of tropes, styles, themes. Not so much the making of art (which is more of a Venus/Mercury arrangement) but the glamour associated with art, the subliminal manipulation within artistic works. It feels spent, like Aleister Crowley‘s version of the Seven of Cups: Debauched.

Any B List ad woman will tell you that because sex sells the way sex sells, then sex becomes the de facto component to push whatever a marketing maven hopes to push. And that’s why everything is so porn-saturated today. Dollars are getting harder to milk from a generation raised on net porn; so let them see someone’s labia on the Grammys for god’s sake!

With the internet came porn creep (Neptune’s return to Aquarius). And in some ways this was a fabulous and educational thing for closeted people living in Alabama, or for recovering Christians or just garden variety peeps who wanted to up their knowledge of variety when it came to sex.

Norman Mailer said a great thing once about porn: “You cannot look at a pornographic picture without learning more about human nature.” True dat, but after awhile the incessant stream of imagery wears the stimulus response down. And what was initially captivating turns flat and ho hum — given that access to watching people fuck is just a few clicks and seconds away from your line of vision, this flattening has become a problem. A condition that eventually ushered in gonzo sex (a niche of extreme, violent porn) that’s polychromatically lurid and synesthetically haywire — and eventually deadening. “Cafe Flesh — Press ‘1’ to make a reservation…”

For me the only engaging, invigorating moment in last night’s Grammys appeared when Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age jammed with Lindsey Buckingham and Dave Grohl — in a pounding, airtight version of Trent’s Copy of A.

Considering the times we’re currently slogging through, where robotics and our mechanical instinctive responses are harnessed to generate profits, Reznor’s lyrics are chilling, and harken to the darker heart of the ongoing Neptune in Pisces transit, where this year’s new cinema hit will be a remake or sequel and the childlike hunger for comic book superheroes is the dominant ethos in a culture that’s been sexualized into a stupor:

I am just a copy of a copy of a copy
Everything I say has come before
Assembled into something into something into something
I am never certain anymore
I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow
Always trying to catch up with myself
I am just an echo of an echo of an echo
Listening to someone’s cry for help

And then of course, because this was the only dissident moment out of the eighteen-hour show, a moment that felt viscerally like a form of protest and abdication of everything we’d just watched in the previous eighteen hours, Sheraton Hotels and Delta Airlines immediately cut into the performance and overlaid their logos and tired slogans atop the grinding ruckus.

I yelled at the set, “You fucking pigs!” — which I suppose Reznor would have loved. But then I just got up, turned the TV off and went to bed and dreamed of electric sheep.



3 Responses to 'The Grammys: Porn Yes. Protest No.'
Filed Under: Kulture
Bookmark and Share
  • Rob Tillett

    Rather good article. There are a lot of copies of copies of copies floating around in the gonzo porn music parade. Especially liked the last paragraph. Does that mean you are a sheeple? Or about to transmogrify into a Blade Runner..?

  • frederick_a_woodruff

    Thanks Rob, you’re right, I was referencing Blade Runner. Nice you caught the tacit reference!

    FW

  • frederick_a_woodruff

    I’ll add that I didn’t dislike the newer music that was featured; I was indifferent. And it’s not a grumpus attitude. Having been a music journalist for many years, and loved pop music since I was a kid, I hear and know better.

    If you play, say, Innervisions, as I mentioned in the post, you’re listening to music that’s the equivalent of Mozart. It sounded magical in the 70s, it sounds good now and the LP will sound good 80 years from now. The new Daft Punk or Macklemore albums — not so much.

    What I tried to say in the article is that memorable music, that’s contemporary, has gone underground, but it can be sleuthed out online; and what’s left is carnival culture shit that employs porn-like reductionism to snare dollars — I suppose the fallout is both the blessing and curse of the internet — which giveth and taketh away.