- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

OK. Can we now dispense with all talk of the Dixie Chicks’ martyrdom? Death threats and boycotts aside — I know, I know: easy for me to say — the Chicks’ banishment from Nashville has been a net boon. They were fading aimlessly after “Home.” The scorn heaped on them after the London Bush-out gave them a focus for their energy and a singleness of purpose.

As for the rest of the Grammys: What the heck was that all about?

One of my sources for Friday’s story about how the Grammys stack up against the Oscars made the very legitimate point that the industry right now needs all the help it can to coalesce the public’s attention around a single, communal event. While obviously true in theory, this is very hard to pull off in practice.

Last night’s ceremony was a halting acknowledgement of what’s hot now — like the great Gnarls Barkley — and an insanely scattershot celebration of the past. The good: Any primetime telecast that nods toward the likes of Bob Wills and Booker T. and the M.G.’s can’t be all bad. But there was bad: almost everything else, to be exact.

Lifetime achievement awards came fast and furious — to the Doors, the Grateful Dead(!), Ornette Coleman and others with no discernible purpose other than to mark off some kind of master checklist of old or dead artists.

The live performances, too, were a mixed bag. The reunited Police seemed wheezy doing “Roxanne” (and I distinctly heard some taped backup vocals), but I expect that will change with some pre-tour rehearsals. John Legend was fantastic, and the topical song he chose — the Iraq-war-themed “Coming Home” — never veered into obnoxiousness. (It was sandwiched in the middle of a medley with the very talented Corrine Bailey Rae and John Mayer, both of whom came off somewhat blandly and overcautious in Legend’s company.)

The absolute nadir of the evening came courtesy of Rascall Flatts and “American Idol” star Carrie Underwood, who delivered a seesaw tribute to the Eagles (another arbitrary lifetime achievement awardee). Rascall Flatts singer Gary LeVox has one of the least-country voices ever to emerge in the history of country music — he should stick to R&B; or pop-soul, but who am I to argue with success? — and watching him act out the lyrics to “Hotel California” made me want to punch my TV.

After this ill-advised lite-rock suite, the camera cut away to (if memory serves) Black Eyed Peas, who, had won an award earlier in the evening. Planted into their seats, expressionless, they exchanged a few words and generally they looked like they’d eaten bad oysters — which is how, at any given moment of the Grammy telecast, about 75% of the viewing audience must have felt.

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