The 49th Annual GRAMMY Awards proved to be something else. It’s one of those shows you just have to watch to get all of your tastebuds worked. There’s a little bit for everybody presented. This year, there was a lack of gospel artists...a humongous lack...but all of the soul and glorious belting from R&B’s finest during some amazing performances made it possible for those who were looking for the presence of a more sanctified, churchy image.
The talk of the town circulated The Police - which also featured renowned lead vocalist Sting. The group opened up the show with their stunning reggae-influenced “Roxanne” from 1978. Jamie Foxx then approaches the stage, attempting to pull off his comedic skills. Instead, it seemed as if the brother seemed distress for himself or black people. Thank God he’s not our Dr. King.
Beyonce Knowles delivered a moving performance of “Listen”; her original piece taken from the “Dreamgirls Motion Picture Soundtrack”. With big strings and a horn section, the song felt very glossy and over-the-top. Still, Knowles delivered the goods and showcased her amazing arsenal of vocal aerobics.
Mary J. Blige was one of the first stars to win a trophy; taken home three Awards in all. But no moment was as moving and magical than her first one - as she delivered a moving acceptance speech and a list of names showcasing the girl can speed-read like crazy. The names was so long and went so quick that the audience leaped on their feet towards the end. Years for not being recognized for her musical worth may have been the leaping factor for this particular moment in GRAMMY history, but it’s one that proves that the last shall become first.
John Legend graced the stage with a performance of “I’ll Be Coming Home” while fresh newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae (from Britain) and John Mayer each sung a selection from their new albums. The songs were pieced together perfectly by moving lighting sequences and mood changes. The medley concluded with Mayer’s soulful “Gravity” from the Continuum album. He easily channeled the spirit of Al Green through his music with a relaxed pop posture. All three artists proved love songs still exist. And they also remained on the stage together to sing on each other song - making a musical marriage of smooth R&B music that deeply penetrates the soul.
Mary J. Blige also sung her 1996 anthem “Be Without You” with a classical opener and speaking a piece of her testimony of love and triumph. Beautiful lighting of blue and white lights, along with her gorgeous dress, made her performance even more magical. And she held one particular note and belted it with so much soul on the attached song of "Stay With Me Baby" that would make you wonder if she’s the next Aretha Franklin.
Luadcris took home the Rap Album of the Year, but he may have taken home something else. More bad blood with Oprah Winfrey. He gave a shout-out of thanks to her in his acceptance speech - sending a lot of his fans into a jubilant, yet surprised response. Of course, the controversy still looms in the air for these two. But we respect Oprah for her position and understand that there’s just too much P-poppin’ in Hip-hop music and is affecting a good part of our culture. But enough of the commentary...
Smokey Robinson, Lionel Richie and Chris Brown delivered their tribute to R&B - each delivering a performance of one of their classics. Robinson, looking stiff yet still sounding good with his falsetto and a touch of vibrato, sung “Tracks Of My Tears”. Lionel Richie sung a serenading “Hello” in all black and at a baby grand piano in the middle of the audience floor. After his performance, attention then focused on Chris Brown with his ode to “Stomp The Yard” using fraternity stepping and breaking into his chart-breaking “Run It” - of course - lip synching and continuing to show us that he’s probably a better dancer than a singer. After this medley (which viewers thought was over after seeing all three gentlemen hug each other), a large picture of the late James Brown flies upon the background monitor and Christina Aguilera approaches the microphone wearing all white with her rendition of "It’s A Man’s, Man’s World”. The spirit of the Godfather of Soul emerged from Aguilera as she belted the song to perfection. Probably the greatest tribute to this legend to date.
Another tearful moment came when the screen fluttered with the images of music’s legends that have recently passed away. In the number was Gerald Levert, Arif Mardin, Billy Preston, Ruth Brown and closing the PowerPoint presentation was James Brown. As the film broke into a rare performance of “Night Train” from the 1960s, Chris Brown walked across the stage and danced alongside Brown. Reminding viewers of the Nat King Cole/Natalie Cole performance of “Unforgettable”. The audience then applauded - but the tribute was not over. A member of Brown’s band walked on the stage as Chris Brown departed with a glittered-up cape, usually used in Brown’s shows, and he then placed the cape upon the microphone stand. This indeed reminded us once again that James Brown’s last performance and appearance in spirit had already took place.
The big winners of the night was the Dixie Chicks - whom are very well known for their opinionated remarks towards politics and President Bush. The victory should sent an alarm to the White House that even the music world is now fed up. T.I. and Mary J. Blige also won big in hip-hop, R&B and rap categories, while the Red Hot Chilli Peppers took home an impressive number of wins as well along with American Idol winner Carrie Underwood in the country categories. Shut-outs included James Blunt and Corinne Bailey Rae and even India.Arie. Her recent album received a number of nominations, but once again was shut out for big win.
In the Gospel categories (that wasn’t televised), Kirk Franklin took home the most awards with two wins, even though Israel Houghton and New Breed led in nominations. Franklin took home Best Gospel Song and Best Contemporary R&B Album. Yolanda Adams won Best Gospel Performance for “Victory”. Sad to know, the Best Album for a Gospel Choir or Chorus or Group had been yanked from everyone’s feet. Guess there’s no such thing as choirs anymore.
Posted below are some of the memorable images of the night's celebration.