JAIMIE VERNON: Grammys and JUNOS and Whitney, Oh My!

It’s been a very long time since music dominated an entire week of news cycles let alone an entire 24 hours. The last time was the week Michael Jackson died from the enabling ‘care’ of a money-hungry, ass-kissing physician that all but put a gun in Jackson’s mouth. Thankfully, the weasel is in jail. Police, however, are still looking for the surgeon that turned Jackson into a Caucasian.

Exactly a week ago the golden voice of Whitney Houston was silenced forever in what appears to be an accidental drug overdose. Toxicology is still in turn-around so I maybe eating my words in 6-8 weeks but it didn’t stop the misguided Tony Bennett from issuing a statement that drugs should be legalized. Poor Tony – do you think legalizing drugs would have saved your old friend Judy Garland? She wasn’t smoking reefers and pounding back a few beers. She, like Whitney and Marilyn Monroe and a host of others (including millions of NON-celebrities)  were as misinformed about their prescription medication and cocktail stew as you are about what constitutes ‘drugs’. Needless to say, we will never know if Houston could have had the great comeback story many had hoped for. We only have the amazing musical legacy she left behind. Here’s an inspiring a cappella tribute from The Pentatonix to the voice that launched a thousands divas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmJUAzxvBYQ

Houston’s career was initially set in motion by Arista Records’ sven gali Clive Davis whose pre-Grammy Awards party was the place where Houston was supposed to be that evening. Ghoulishly, the party carried on as celebrities wandered around with Blackberry’s tweeting how bad THEY felt about Whitney dying. There’s always time for a little self-pity promotion when you’re a superstar, I guess.

By invitational happenstance CNN’s Piers Morgan was on the scene getting testimonials from party goers who looked truly stunned at having to talk about something other than themselves particularly Latoya Jackson who was ready to hold a press conference but was denied access to the party. The network scooped everyone. Morgan happened to be in the right place during the wrong time.

Meanwhile, music radio stations, who you’d expect would have jumped on top of a chance to boost ratings and draw listeners to the breaking news and exorcise their dusty play lists were….sleeping. With radio’s ‘canned’ weekend programming rarely featuring live on air personalities they completely lost the chance to connect with a now long gone audience. Here’s an excellent piece about what DIDN’T happen on radio stations last Saturday night: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/blackberry/p.html?id=1283340

And sarcastic kudos must go out to Whitney’s record label, Sony (in the UK), for not missing a beat and raising the cost of her dormant greatest hits package from ₤4.99 to ₤7.99 overnight. This is how dead artists become best selling artists. Death as a career benefit.

Sony’s initial reaction to the outrage from fans and the media was that they were adjusting the retail price because they had discovered it was originally posted too low. The fact that the pricing was adjusted within hours of Houston’s death –into the wee hours of Sunday morning – when a phone call to Steve Jobs in the afterlife would have been necessary to get iTunes to alter their database means this was a military grade executive approved decision…not someone in the warehouse correcting an inventory pricing glitch. Sony finally copped to t heir guilt earlier this week. Nothing like having your label go all necrophilia on you before you’re even buried.

Flash forward to Sunday night where the Grammy Awards now have to deal with this last-minute tragedy. Singer Chaka Khan was approached to sing a tune that had been written for her but Whitney turned into a hit. Khan outright refused saying it was disrespectful to those who were grieving. Jennifer Hudson, however, who has had her fair share of personal grief in the last few years plucked up the courage and did a heartfelt (and rather subdued performance by HER standards) re-reading of the Whitney arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”.

The night was an emotional roller coaster between soul and R & B’s tributes to Houston (including LL Cool J’s ad libbed prayer off the top of the show) and rock and roll’s last kick at the can. And poor Etta James. Booted from the tribute memoriam reel so they could make room for Whitney Houston. Maybe a few less minutes of Nicki “Bimbo The Clown Whore” Minaj would have been more appropriate. Sophistication is not in Minaj’s repertoire (nor her dictionary). Her cameo as a ‘Hood ornament on the Madonna Superbowl extravaganza the week before was her 15 seconds of shame. The only thing more tasteless on stage that night was domestic assault poster boy Chris Brown’s two performances and his affirmation from the audience.

Adele was gracious enough to stop by during downtime from her day gig appearing on BBC TV’s ‘East Enders’ to accept six Grammy Awards and sing her chart topping “Rolling in the Deep”. To celebrate the monumental victories she announced the following day she would be taking five years off to work on not fucking up another relationship – the inspiration for BOTH of her hit albums ‘19’ and ’21’. Her handlers went apoplectic when they realized that her next album will be ‘28’ – the one where Adele is pregnant, happy and living in the gardener’s 9,000 square foot cottage on JK Rowling’s estate.

Meanwhile, the aging Sesquicentennarians of pop – Springsteen, The Beach Boys, and Sir Paul McCartney – dusted off their ukelele’s and accordions to kick rock’s ass but for one more fleeting moment. They then passed the torch to Dave Grohl whose acceptance speech during yet another Foo Fighters’ Grammy Award pricked up a few ears in the music industry. He unapologetically drew a line in the sand between the longevity of REAL musicians versus the world we now live in – the computer driven, ProTooled, Auto-Tuned creatively depleted vacuum occupied by the losers of the night: Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Drake, et al. Check out Grohl’s ironically Auto-Tuned acceptance speech here.

It’s so cute to see that your dream is to join The Who when you grow up, Dave. But it’s too little too late. With Adele heading to the Cotswalds to use her 6 Grammy statuettes as garden enhancing standing stones, your vision of being the King & Queen of Analogland has been scuttled. Katy Perry’s tits will continue to ejaculate projectiles and Lady Gaga will still undermine her own talent by gluing latex cod-pieces onto lobster trap headgear. “And in the end…the cash you make, is equal to the cash you take….”

Of course, Whitney’s untimely passing and the 54th annual Grammy Awards overshadowed the 2012 nominee announcement by the JUNOTM Awards during one of Mayor Rob Ford’s weekly weight loss press conference revelations [PS – he didn’t lose ANY weight last week].

There are 41 categories for the JUNOSTM  this year  including the newest addition/reworking/apology category for ‘Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year’ where Anvil will finally be recognized for never surrendering to trends or ever having a hit record. Conversely, The Sheepdogs pop up in a number of categories having done nothing except win a Rolling Stone contest that made them magazine rack superstars before a single person outside of Saskatoon had ever heard them play. What the JUNOSTM really needs is a category called ‘Hype of the Year’ and ‘Waiting to Pay Their Dues’. This would also allow karaoke TV ‘talent’ to also get a “participation” ribbon for ‘Best in Show’.
Let’s be realistic here. The  JUNOSTM  are Canada’s little Grammy farm team especially when you look at coinciding nominations for Deadmau5, Drake, Justin Beiber, and Michael Bublé who dominated Billboard’s Hot100 last year. We keep building them and the Americans keep rewarding them…with nothing. I think it’s out of spite. We’re still too cute and polite and wholesome. Even Arcade Fire are adorable in a 1967 Haight-Ashbury ‘unwashed hippie’ kinda way.

The encouraging part of this year’s JUNOSTM is that the inclusion of old sawhorses like Nickelback, Hedley, Sloan, Jim Cuddy, Feist and Avril Lavigne is limited to but a few predictable nominations. The remainder of the categories is wide open to new and fresh talent like Mother Mother, The Deep Dark Woods, Bruthers of Different Muthers, Exco Levi, Melanie Fiona, Catherine Major, Mike Murley Septet, Marianas Trench, Alyssa Reid, Hey Rosetta, Braids, and Dan Mangan. But, as we’ve seen with the two year promo cycle of Canadian music, these artists will be up for the same awards for the same releases next year. Until, of course, Nickelback recreates last year’s album under a new title so we can start the hatefest anew.

The most pleasant surprise was seeing legendary French singer Ginette Reno up for a FAN CHOICE Award. Should any of the other nominees win – Arcade Fire, Avril Lavigne, City and Colour, Deadmau5, Drake, Hedley, Justin Bieber, Michael Bublé, or Nickelback – they’d best serve their careers and their country graciously by deferring the award to her or at least grovel at her feet as their Lord and Master.

The festivities are in Ottawa this year which will be a nice change of pace. The only thing that would make it better would be a wintery live broadcast, outdoors from the steps of Parliament Hill. It would greatly reduce the length of the acceptance speeches from the accounting firm of Kroeger-Lavigne LLP.
Here for your derision, scoffing and eye-rolling is the 2012 JUNOTM Awards nominees: http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/02/07/juno-award-nominees-list.html

Finally, my column last week about The Top 20 Greatest Canadian Love Songs spurred a flurry of traffic from my, ahem, fans. There was no end to the caterwauling about who I snubbed. So, in fairness to those who chose to respond (positively or counter-intuitively), I hereby offer up the ‘Revenge of the Son of the Greatest Top20 Canadian Love Songs of All Time’ list in no particular order:

1) Night to Remember – PRISM
2) When You and I Were Young, Maggie – JOHN McDERMOTT
3) You Needed Me – ANNE MURRAY
4) Sweet Surrender – SARAH McLACHLAN
5) Right Before Your Eyes – IAN THOMAS
6) Dream Come True – FROZEN GHOST
7) From This Moment – SHANIA TWAIN
8) The French Song – LUCILLE STARR
9) Chantal – GODDO
You Were On My Mind – IAN & SYLVIA
11) When I’m With You – SHERIFF
12) I’ll Never Smile Again – RUTH LOWE
13) Love Me, Love Me, Love – FRANK MILLS
14) Stay Awhile – THE BELLS
15) Which Way You Goin’ Billy? – THE POPPY FAMILY
16) Maybe Your Heart – CHRISTOPHER WARD
17) Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy – PAGLIARO
18) She’s So High – TAL BACHMAN
19) Walk Hand In Hand – JOHNNY COWELL
20) Play With Me – BOOTSAUCE

Finally, tireless Canadian music industry flag waver and all-round nice guy Eric Alper is up for a ‘Shorty Award’ from Twitter for his prolifically pro-active prose and often hilarious 140 character Tweets.
Vote for him here:  http://shortyawards.com/ThatEricAlper

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and is the author of The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia. He keeps a copy of Lightfoot’s “Sundown” under his pillow at night.

3 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON: Grammys and JUNOS and Whitney, Oh My!”

  1. David Bendeth Says:

    great article here….you really did miss Wildflower…OUCH!

  2. DOH! You’re absolutely right,

  3. Radio online…

    […]JAIMIE VERNON: Grammys and JUNOS and Whitney, Oh My! « Segarini: Don't Believe a Word I Say[…]…

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