Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, Redacted
I was disturbed by the Grammys, but mainly I was confused. I was baffled from the very first words spoken — Taylor Swift’s proclamation that it was the 2016 Grammys but at that moment it was 1989 — to the very end, when Pitbull, Robin Thicke, Joe Perry and Travis Barker hit the stage.
The Grammys opened with a commerical for Taylor, and this year, rather than building the finale on legendary and/or actual musicians, the finale was built on a cameo by a TV star best known for her breasts. I stopped watching before I witnessed it first hand, but according to the Hollywood Reporter “after the lyric in which Pitbull references Sofia Vergara, the actress herself appeared, popping up from under the stage wearing a cardboard taxicab and taxi-driver cap, which she removed to reveal a sparkly gold outfit. Vergara and Pitbull then danced together.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely interested in the Grammys, but I was both fascinated and perplexed on Monday night. I was engrossed by the choices made by EP Ken Ehrlich and his underlings: How did they convince themselves that Music’s Biggest Night should showcase the talents of Carrie Underwood, Skrillex, Travis Barker, Meghan Trainor, and a 12 year old on piano? Who thought Lady Gaga should perform 97 Bowie songs in 14 seconds?
Thanks to the streaming ineptitude of CBS, I missed the BB King Tribute and the cast of Hamilton’s performance, and I was too busy coming up with Facebook commentary to pay adequate attention to Kendrick Lamar. But the performances I did see ranged from pedestrian to terrible. The guys I dropped acid with in high school were better guitarists than Justin Bieber – while they were tripping — and my bunkmates at Camp SeSaMaCa sang “Kumbaya” with more precision and soul than Sam Hunt. I did enjoy the Hollywood Vampires, but it was partially because their appearance actually made sense: I’m pretty sure they were booked because the Grammys needed star power, and if that meant Johnny Depp played guitar, so be it. Box ticked.
Despite decades of disappointment, I go into every Grammy show with optimism. I won’t do it again. Not because I can’t manage another let down in my already tragic life, but because I’ve found a much better annual event to anticipate. The Westminster Kennel Club’s Dog Show.
The Biggest Days in DogWorld were vastly superior to the telecast of Music’s Biggest Night. The pacing was better, WKClive.com did not lose the live stream, and the host did not appear to be suffering from a traumatic brain injury. As for the performers, all I can say is that the dog show participants were refreshingly authentic and eager to please.
There were no incongruous presenters. There were no Academy Award winning animals – the producers of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show did not find it necessary to book Cat Fancy Champion Catsafrats Viva Amore (a/k/a “Amy”) to introduce the Best Shorthaired Terrier category. There were no random audience shots, no audio cutouts, and no speeches from the head of the WKC. No one was left out or underrepresented during the In Memorium segment. This may be because there wasn’t one, but still: I guarantee you that if Best in Show winner Shameless joined her Best in Show father Condor on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, the remembrance would be fitting.
Similarly, no dogs did any medleys, in tribute or otherwise.
To be fair, the Westminster Dog Show may be better than the Grammy Awards simply because of the math. There are dozens of producers, rather than one, and rather than 21,000 Grammy voters, the WKC winners are decided by 32. The voting membership in NARAS is by application, and anyone with $100. and six credits on allmusic.com can apply, whereas the dog show deciders are selected by their credentials. In addition, WKC judges vote based on their expertise, while the guy who was the second assistant to the second engineer on the first Brenda K. Starr record has a say in who wins Record of the Year and seven other major Grammy categories.
I don’t mean to imply that it was the awarding of the Grammys that was the problem with this year’s show. That certainly was not the case: the show ran three and a half hours, and only 8 awards were given out. Further, you can’t take the Grammy awards at all seriously in terms of measuring artistic merit. The entire premise is flawed. How can a Taylor Swift album be compared to a Kendrick Lamar album? How do you find the basis upon which to decide between Bjork and Alabama Shakes or Ed Sheeran and Wiz Khalfia?
At the Westminster Dog Show, there are no such issues. No Dalmation is going to win Best Poodle and you’re not going to find an Afghan walking away with the Beagle of the Year award. Dogs are judged by criteria specific to their breed, such as balance, weight (overall proportions and size) eyes (color, size and shape), ears (shape, length, position), head, muzzle, teeth (kind of bite), legs (muscles, stance, proportionality), and coat (texture and length). Best in Show is determined first by a process of elimination and then by just one judge, the esteemed Dr. Richard Meen, and he decides on the top dog by looking for the history of the breed in the contender’s eyes.
This seems like a good way to level the Grammy playing field, or at least standardize it. I’d love to see Neil Portnow take a look at Ed Sheeran’s teeth or the Weeknd’s ears, and although I suspect it would be a challenge to define the history of the breed by gazing into Taylor Swift’s eyes, it would make excellent television.
That’s unlikely to happen, though, and I won’t know if it does. I’ll be watching Westminster on Music’s Biggest Night. It’s more entertaining than the Grammys, and it confuses me less — if Westminister ends with a pitbull, at least it’s gonna make sense.