Grammy Show Censorship…


Before this year's Grammy telecast, NARAS chief Mike Greene encouraged Alanis Morisette to sing "You Oughta Know" the way she wrote it, "fuck" intact. When CBS turned off the sound as she sang that line, though, Greene said that, while the decision was regrettable, it was OK with him, and the Grammys will be back with CBS at the censorship helm next year. There is the bankruptcy of liberalism in a nutshell: You have complete freedom of speech, it's just that we aren't going to let anybody hear you.

The Grammys have become more than an embarrassment to music-lovers. They are now an open expression of loathing and contempt for all types of music--as the shameful treatment of Frank Sinatra two years ago made clear. You can see it in the way individual performances are directed, cutting away in the midst of crucial musical moments to focus on irrelevant shots of celebrities in the audience. You can see it in the way in which the show is cast: Tim Allen has about as much business being a presenter on this award show as Flavor Flav would on the soap opera awards (actually less, since perhaps Flav at least watches the soaps when he's on the road). CBS and NARAS learned nothing from the Sinatra debacle; canned music continually cut off every performer who attempted to produce more than a ten-second soundbite. No wonder Eddie Vedder commented, in accepting Pearl Jam's Grammy, "I have no idea what this means. I don't think this means anything."

Just the same, Vedder's comment reflects a failure of his own. Meaning isn't something easily found in such a disgraceful, hollow evening of glitz and self-promotion. But that's true of a lot of situations about which great songs have been written (including some by Pearl Jam). Generally speaking, meaning isn't something you find in life, anyhow. It's something you put there, something you force into the way you deal with empty ceremony or ridiculous occasions.

Coolio knows this. Accepting the Best Rap award (from Patty Loveless, the night's one inspired bit of casting), he took the chance to tell his listeners what he felt they needed to hear: That a revolution was impending, that people ought to treat each other with dignity and respect, and that "There ain't no gangstas living in paradise."

It was the only acceptance speech of the night in which someone talked about anything other than themselves. Naturally, CBS and NARAS tried to cut it off.

[From Rock & Rap Confidential/1996]

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