I watched the Grammys ceremonies a day late this year. Because Jerry and I hard-disk a ton of stuff and then watch it later, we have fallen into the habit of not watching awards programs sometimes until several days after they have been broadcast. Occasionally, like with the Oscars, we will watch the awards on the same night. In the last couple of years, though, we have been watching the Grammys on the day after or the one after that.
I had been sick for about a week. I got something I thought was a cold until I spiked a four-day fever, which kept me very low. I slept a lot while I was febrile, and as usual, when I have a fever, I dream weird dreams. I guess everyone does, although my dreams get weird in that their logic gets skewed and there are strange word combinations. When I was younger, my dream visions would be strange, but now that I’m older for some reason, it is all about the text. The other thing of course about fever dreams is that they just keep repeating themselves over and over until you wake up to go to the toilet, and then once you are back to sleep, a new bizarre scenario presents itself and you go off, and the new dreams start repeating themselves again.
Before Jerry fired up the recording of the Grammys, I built a kind of nest for myself on the couch. Normally, the cat would be right there with me, but we had the fireplace on, and kitty is totally committed to being a fur-covered rotisserie in front of that fire. She stretches out so her belly fur gets quite warm, and then she stretches and turns over and heats her back. She has an almost obscene look on her face, the essence of hedonism, while she does this. My lap, legs and knees could never compete with the fire.
I built my nest of about half a dozen pillows in various shapes and sizes up against which I leaned and put my feet up at an angle on the coffee table. I shifted so my butt was hanging off the edge of the sofa framework over which the seat cushion has worn down. Couch science requires that I hang my butt over this hard place, or I’ll begin to get numb and squirm before I’m ready to get up for a pee break. After ensuring butt comfort, I threw a Costco $13.95 fuzzy gray- and-white throw over myself, settled in and folded my arms over my stomach. Jerry was firmly relaxing, ensconced in the Sam Hooker rocker I gave him about fifteen years ago. This is a chair he sat down in at the store in Pasadena. He didn’t need to say anything to me. I knew from that moment on, this was his chair. So I got it for him.
The Grammys came on. I was too sick to be able to remember later who opened the show. I just know at an early stage James Corden, the emcee, who is a Brit and has some musical talents, made a comedic entrance in which he fell down the stairs. I was hoping he did not hurt himself right off the blocks, but he seemed okay once he finally got himself upright again. There was business with a missing shoe and sock, and I suppose the audience laughed. Jerry and I did not, but don’t forget, I was sick and Jerry’s sense of humor is much quieter than mine.
Over the past few years, the women in the Grammys all have seemed to dress themselves more and more strangely, except for Adele who is unfailingly elegant in her appearance. It is interesting that she looks like she is a nineteen-eighties society matron in her forties, with a big smooth hairdo and just a ton of eye makeup. She looks way older than she actually is. Because I am elderly, I am not troubled by this. I like her gowns. They are modest, dark-colored and generally becoming, kind of like her musical arrangements, which themselves are simple, drop- dead elegant, and when her voice is in tune, sound absolutely stunning. Adele carries only the important production elements with her, like a few strings and a core rhythm section. She is the quintessence of a certain kind of style. When I see her, I think of Dionne Warwick and other woman artists who work small on stage but who are so powerful.
The usual Grammys pantheon consists of idols like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Nikki Minaj, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and romeos like Bruno Mars, Wu-Tang Clan, Fifty Cent, Eminem, and Chris Brown. In years past, some of these artists have usually done production numbers with dancers, back up singers, full bands with or without strings and large-sized sets and elaborate costumes. I am sure these program segments cost a lot of money, and I have wondered if the artists themselves have to pay for them as they would for the Super Bowl half- time productions. As best I can determine from a cursory Google search, the show pays the production costs, but I have a hard time believing that fact, given how expensive Beyonce’s turn appeared to be this year. I did find out that the artists are not paid for their appearances. Their compensation comes from the publicity value of being before a huge TV audience. They also each are given munificent swag bags.
This year, I think some of the ladies’ dress designers had a private contest to see who could dress their performer in the oddest gown. There was a lot of hemline improvisation, different unusual fabrics, including leather, and just a whole lot of improprietous bosom tissue on display. Everyone was conscientious about not upsetting the television censors, but many necklines were slashed down to the navel and spread open. There was a considerable amount of side flesh on view. No observer would have any doubt as to whether or not these women were women.
This year’s Grammys show was the third one I have seen in which Beyonce performed in a major large-production program segment and was given a prominent spot in the program. There was so much mention of her last year and the year before, that I was surprised that there was all the mention of her again this year, although to be fair, she was nominated in several categories for her album “Lemonade.” As far as I know, “Lemonade” received glowing reviews and was a hit album. I have only heard small portions of it including the two songs she included in her Grammys turn.
I personally have nothing against Beyonce. I think she is loaded with talent and I have enjoyed seeing her occasionally, first with Destiny’s Child and then later on her own. She sings in tune and dances with energy. I am sure she has a huge and very devoted coterie of fans. I will probably never go to a live performance, because those things are now such circuses and getting into and out of them requires almost as much time as the performance itself. I could make an exception if she were to appear at the Hollywood Bowl, maybe, or in another easily-accessible theater somewhere where I could watch the show from a seated position.
Not long before Grammys night, there was a flurry of news about Beyonce. She and her husband proudly announced that they were expecting twins. There appeared online an elaborately posed professionally-photographed portrait of her, resting on her knees and heels and posed sideways so the world could see the progress of the unborns. She wore somewhat of a Mona Lisa smile and brief shorts and a bra. There were a lot of roses and a filmy veil. I’m sure she was grateful to God and her husband and their little daughter and all of the fans for being there for her in the wonder of her moment. I was reminded of the famous Vanity Fair portrait of Demi Moore, heavily pregnant with I’m not sure which child, but I think it was when she still was married to Bruce Willis, so I’m guessing one of the Willis children. What I do remember is Demi was very pregnant and very naked and like Beyonce in her portrait, Demi looked as if she were extremely pleased with herself.
I have not borne any children, so I cannot speak from authority about what it must feel like to produce one, but I imagine for a lot of women, there is understandable pride, a huge sense of worth and maybe an animal satisfaction in knowing that you are replicating your species. I’m only guessing on these feelings, but I thought I saw those elemental emotions both in Demi’s face and Beyonce’s face. I can truthfully say that if I had ever been pregnant, no matter how great my fame, you could not have paid me enough to bare my stomach to the world at large. But that is my problem of modesty, obviously, not theirs.
The Grammys program rolled on. Adele did her first turn early in the program. She gave her usual elegant presentation and the crowd went nuts. Various awards then were handed out. One group’s acceptance speech was amusing, and Jerry and I enjoyed it. The artist explained that he and his group used to watch the Grammys in their boxers when they were unknowns, so they thought it would only be fitting to accept their Grammy trophies in their boxers. They shed their trousers before stepping up onto the podium. Jerry and I both laughed and liked the modest down-to-earth humor.
I noticed a lack of acoustic music. Actually, I noticed a lack of instrumental music. There was a lot of vocal music, including Pentatonix whom I always enjoy, and there were tributes to David Bowie and Prince. Lady Gaga did a turn with Metallica singing “Moth Into Flame,” and I enjoyed thinking she might have done it just to show that she also could sing heavy metal. I believe despite her unfortunately silly name that she has been endowed with the most formidable musical talent of any of the women there. I’m not a worshipful follower, but I definitely am a fan and have been pleased over the past four years to see Gaga morph from rock to jazz to show tunes to heavy metal, all without turning a hair. I think that is impressive.
I shifted my butt slightly and adjusted my fluffy comforter. It was finally time for Beyonce to do her big number, which was to be a medley of two songs from her album “Lemonade.” Watching her made me think of febrile dreams, and since I had a fever anyway, I tried to suspend my disbelief at what I was watching. As best I can remember, there were images of a small army of women dressed in filmy dresses waving their arms so they would look like East Indian many-armed goddesses. It was a miasmic vision, blurred, presumably sensual, although I’m not sure about that. Beyonce came slowly in walking on a catwalk I think, cradling her belly in her hands. She was dressed in shiny gold beading and filmy lace and sections of oiled flesh on display and huge, huge maternal boobs caught up in the costume, and spilling over the top. You could see her entire midriff somehow through lace. Her hair was a mass of wavy tresses topped with a gold coronet with rays sticking out of it and a sub-coronet made of gold roses. She wore what looked like a tall Ubangi necklace of stacked metal rings. I wasn’t sure if she was channeling some kind of Vedic picture, The National Geographic, Freda Kahlo, Las Vegas showgirls or maybe all of the above. When I closed my eyes, I could still see her and the outline of that shimmering image.
She was languidly singing, and there were lines of women dancing while she sang. She herself sat down in a chair, which tilted and lowered her down and raised her up again. I guess it was some sort of representation of a birthing chair, but I was not quite sure. I could not understand a single word of what she sang. I had a cascade of feverish thoughts about what I was seeing. I could not get the idea out of my head, and I know it is disgusting, but I will be honest here: I thought I was looking at the most expensive, gilded, be-ruffled and ribboned split beaver shot I had ever seen. I was revolted, appalled and fascinated all at the same time. And mind you, I had a fever, so I’m not sure I’m remembering any of it with much accuracy.
Adele collected most of the awards in the categories where she and Beyonce were both nominated. I believe Adele earned and deserved her awards. I think she is a magnificent singer and should be proud of her talent. What mystified me and still does was the amount of mawkish almost servile adoration Adele rendered publicly to Beyonce. It made me wonder if perhaps Beyonce somehow owns the Grammys show in some tangible way and no other woman was supposed to win the big prizes. I wonder this, because at a previous Grammy show, I vaguely remember that I watched Beyonce performing “Take My Hand Precious Lord” when a lady gospel singer was there to sing that hymn. At the time, it seemed more than plausible to me that Beyonce perhaps had pitched a hissy backstage, and the producer made an adjustment and gave her the solo. She performed it competently, but I would rather have heard the gospel singer do it. This maybe is only me, but watching this year’s show, I got a sense that Beyonce seemed to be demanding something from the Grammys above and beyond the usual respect accorded a star. I don’t know what it was, but Adele’s pitiful kowtowing to Beyonce after Adele won her own four Grammys seemed to be an embodiment of that debt. I wanted Adele to beam and stand up proud, and I was disappointed that she chose to hand off all the honor to Beyonce who, regardless of her garish expensive madonna-like display, had not gotten the votes.
I don’t know. I really did have a fever, and maybe this all was just in my head.