Singled Out

I’m still scratching my head at Sunday night’s main event and trying to figure out just two specific things that happened say about the state of music.

“Single Ladies”, a song written by three men, somehow won the Grammy for Song of The Year and Taylor Swift, the winner of the Album of The Year award for Fearless, gave a performance that would have gotten her booted from American Idol’s initial auditions.

Those two things (along with hearing a lyric that said “I’m your insulin…let me be your medicine” and Quincy Jones allegedly allowing Lil Wayne to sing a piece of “We Are The World”) have caused me to wonder where in the world music is going. Better yet, what are we requiring of our artists?

I’ve given Taylor Swift’s album a good listen. Well written and thought out. Yet her performance on Sunday night stains her triumphs. The thing that authenticates so many of the artists we see as great is something Swift lacks.

But you can sorta forgive that. So much of our music has been manufactured for years that it’s hard to tell what’s authentic and what isn’t. Most artists seem to come out of a factory with little ability to create for self. At least Swift has the ability to write a good song that carries weight, tells a story and has a sincere message.

Now, before I go here, let me state this: My longstanding disdain of one Beyonce Knowles is trivial at best, stemming from the initial Destiny Child break-up which forced my Letoya out of my sight line for several years. I think Beyonce is an extremely talented vocalist, a stunning look and a great performer.

When it comes to writing and actual substance, though, I’d give her D-minuses. I’d give the song “Single Ladies” an F+, and no that’s not some I-hate-female-anthems grade. And I know I’m no expert. It’s just that when you actually put the song up against ANY of the songs that have previously won the Grammy for Song of The Year it seems laughable that this song would even draw such a prestigious nomination.

And that it actually won seems like a parody of a parody in Quincy Jones’ worst nightmare (Seriously, Quincy gave Lil Wayne a lead in “We Are The World.” Something Sunday night shook the hell out of him). There’s nothing intricate, substantive or even remotely interesting about a woman in a club telling her just cut-loose ex-boyfriend that he should have put a ring on it if he wanted it, while backing it up into some new guy who’s interested in what he sees.

THAT IS WHAT THE SONG IS ABOUT.

Sure, it’s a fun record to listen to from time to time. It’s hypnotic and catchy. But, to me, it’s about as deep as “I’m your insulin, I think ya need your medicine.” It doesn’t belong anywhere near “Daughters”, “Beautiful Day”, “My Heart Will Go On”, “Kiss From A Rose”, “Every Breath You Take” or “What’s Love Got To Do With It”.

Hell, it doesn’t belong anywhere near “Pretty Wings”, “Use Somebody” or “You Belong with Me”, three songs it beat out for the song of the year. I understand that’s my opinion, but I really believe Maxwell, Kings of Leon and even Taylor Swift were sitting there wanting to pull a Kanye because they know just how undeserving that song is.

All of this makes me wonder where we’re setting the bar because it seems as if a little person couldn’t even limbo beneath it right now. At this rate, Plies might win the Grammy for Song of The Year in 2011. And when if that happens, I’m going Oedipus Rex on my ears.

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21 responses to “Singled Out

  1. It is a sad state of R&B music when Beyonce is the Queen of the pack. I respect her as an artist but her songs are terrible. Catchy, YES. Thought provoking with deeper meaning, NOPE.

    I was having a conversation with my husband last night about how there are so many truly talented singers in the world that never “make it” but then you have all of these mediocre artists that get so much attention (I’m looking at you Rihanna). He believes that the ones that make it either know someone already in the business and/or they are easy to control. I’m not sure if I agree with that 100% but something is going on.

    • Lady GaGa is an excellent example of your point.

      That girl can play the Sweet Jesus out of a piano and blow, but it took a whole lot of flashing lights and glitz and glamour for her to get “put on”

      Someone sent me a youtube video of her from not too long ago. No crazy make up, regular hair, just a girl name Stephanie at a piano. I couldn’t believe it was the same girl.

      Same talent, but she had to have a gimmick for anyone to care. Sad, sad, state of affairs.

    • Tam, too many end up drinking the kool-aide and fallin’ for the okie-doke. they end up with a gimmic, and then turn around can actually validate themselves as being “authentic.” the “artists” become sheep, and end up being part of a production (rec labels, radio stations, etc.) to encourage sheep-like following. the days of independent thought/song are slowly evaporating.

  2. We have been duped and it goes back to my theory on why so many folks in my timeline were disgusted when any non hip-hop/rap act was on stage. We want flashy lights, catchy hooks and bass. Give us that and we’ll give you anything you want.

    We’ve been led down this road of absurdity and have no idea how to get back. We don’t buy albums of substance. We buy what we’re told to buy.

    It’s a sad day when an artist’s mixtape is better than an actual album. Record labels don’t care about what they say, they just want to see $$ and everytime we buy into the hype, we tell them what they’re doing is ok.

    • “It’s a sad day when an artist’s mixtape is better than an actual album. ”
      cosign all day on this statement!! which just proves how controlled rec labels are over their artists.

  3. @Damon

    I feel like a broken record, but I will keep repeating myself until you ‘get it’. This is all planned, music is not supposed to stimulate us anymore, it’s intent is to keep dumbing us down more and more and more…. and keep us there…

    You know what, since you won’t research this yourself I’ll give you a website to at least get started with. Go to http://www.vigilantcitizen.com and just poke around for a minute. Many music videos of all genre’s are featured there. That’s all you’ll need to get any idea of what is really going on. Or, you can simply just keep scratching your head…

    On another note, Beyonce is the most overrated ‘artist’ out there. I think she is very talented and a hell of an entertainer/performer, but on an artistic level she’s got me over here famished…the Grammy’s are not a popularity contest, it should be about talent and artistic ability…smh…

    • @jlbd: Thanks for that link, I’m gonna poke around on it while. You know I share many of your feelings on this subject so I’m sure I’ll enjoy the information provided.

  4. I think the issue is that we continue to look to these award shows to be an indicator of quality. We feel that the “best” songs should win. We are in an age where quality does not necessarily equal the best. These award shows are popularity contest among their particular demographics. And when you consider that fact, none of the awards were suprising. “Single Lady” was a hit. Everyone from Toya w/ the Harvard MBA to Shaqueena on fries was bumping that joint, I dont know if that can be said about the rest of the comp. The same can be said for Taylor Swift and her album; soccer moms to Candy the one white stripper at the all black strip club was jamming that.

    The bottom line is that we are not presidents of these shows, we cant determine who they give out THEIR award to. Just support good music and maybe it will all go away

  5. “I feel like a broken record, but I will keep repeating myself until you ‘get it’. This is all planned, music is not supposed to stimulate us anymore, it’s intent is to keep dumbing us down more and more and more…. and keep us there…”

    I’ll co-sign this and make the 1st six months payments.

  6. I agree w/ many of you who said that the music is generally dumb and keeping us down. However, what I disagree is with who is making the decision. Despite the technological advances that make information increasingly more accessible, it appears the people are running from it in droves. People as a whole are becoming less informed, less creative, dumber in a way. Music is an art. Art is reflective of life. Life has become dumbed down. Music is dumbed down. Are record labels purposely creating dumb music to push to the masses? Hell yeah. Do I think that they have a vested interest in creating dumb citizens? Not too sure about that (even after clicking around the link) I find it hard to believe that if there was a substantial market for quality music, that record labels wouldnt push them

    • I agree w/ this dude. I believe that the music industry only puts out to consumer what they want. For every Rhianna out there, I can name 5 Christina Milians that did the same thing and didnt make it.

      Saying record companies dictate to us what we like is almost like watching people call their computer “Stupid”. The computer isn’t stupid, it can only do what the user tells it to do nothing more, nothing less.

    • Look beyond the record companies.

  7. I haven’t paid attention to what’s “hot” in years.
    It was evident in the late 90’s that music was being dumbed down for the masses. Intelligence has no place in music today. Control is important to the record companies. Control of the message, and control of the money. Artists who try to get any kind of control of either are blacklisted.

    I used to be a college radio DJ some years ago. Folks loved our show because we played things that you wouldn’t hear on other stations. If someone even suggested something that the other stations played, we wouldn’t with very few exceptions. I loved doing it, because I would give folks something to listen to, and in turn, some would go out and support indy artists who got no burn. When I would talk to listeners on the street, they would thank us for not being the cookie cutters they were used to hearing.

    If you want to know what’s changed, one thing I would suggest that you look up is the “Telecommunications Act of 1996”. This bill had a huge effect on what we see and hear. It allowed one company to dominate a market where in past years, it would be limited in the number of stations it could have in one market. Once they did this, it created “niche” radio stations. Whereas some stations used to play a mix of old and new school, now they are targeted at one demographic.

    And don’t forget, payola is still alive and well. Maybe in another form, but it’s still out there getting to dictate how many times an hour you have to hear Beyonce, Soulja Boy, and their ilk.

    • @kos

      Thank you so much for this information, good stuff. Further proof that stuff goes beyond the record companies when it comes to decision making on what the masses should be consuming…

  8. Sigh. “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it” may be pithy, yes. But Lennon/McCartney it ain’t.

  9. I am more upset that a mediocre album like “I Am… Sasha Fierce” led to Beyonce snatching Lauryn Hill’s record for the female with the most awards in one night. Beyonce more talented than Lauryn? Even with Lauryn as cracked out as she wants to be right now, I’d beg to differ. *frowny face*

    • THIS!!!

      I had the same thought. Lauryn Hill held that record for 10 years and lost it to THAT? Lawd… it’s just so unfortunate and sad. “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” would have “I Am… Sasha Fierce” for dinner and still be hungry.

      Gimme a break.

  10. FACT: I just ran into a co-worker out in the hallway, description: 36 year-old married white male….he was listening to ‘Single Ladies’ on his Apple iPhone….LOUDLY! I called him on it and he said, “yeah man, I just downloaded it, I really like that song!”……lmao!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!….

  11. I hate today’s music. It all sounds like auto-tuned, Euro techno pop/rap devoid of instrumentation and leaningful lyrics. I no longer listen to the radio unless I am in a car driven by someone else and they have it on. I never see videos on MTV or VH1 or BET when I do happen by those channels. Seriously, I only listen to MJ and mix tapes I made of music prior to 2006.

    I wouldn’t know a Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Jonas brothers, or Drake song if someone put a gun to my head and made me guess. I watched the Grammy’s and had to ask Dame “what’s that/who’s that” on almost every song. Music today is just boring and unimaginative.

  12. I cant stand most of what these musicians play, but man that beyonce sure does perform that shit well. I watched her at the grammys and was quite impressed with her talent.

  13. I haven’t been impressed w/ the Grammys since Lauryn won all of her awards for Miseducation.The Grammys is so “white-washed”. They don’t even televise the real Grammy nominations that matter in soul music. Lalah Hathaway (the late and great, Donny Hathaway’s daughter) got nominated for a Grammy…That’s who I wanted to see win and perform! Beyonce is getting played out…

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