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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

I'd like to start on the positive note, but this year, the Grammy Awards were a bit of a downer. The show was overshadowed by country stars the Dixie Chicks, sweeping five awards for their politically provocative album, Taking The Long Way. The Chicks won for Best Album, Best Record, and Best Song, the three highest Grammy Awards, and though I think their talents are strong, ot's hard to understand why the Chicks won all the awards. How could a stunning debut by Gnarls Barkley with that killer single, "Crazy," been passed over? It was clearly the best song of the year.

The Grammy Awards had exactly three great live moments for me. Christine Aguilera gave a heart-wrenching performance of This Is a Man's World, giving proper bravado to the James Brown classic. Cee-lo from Gnarls Barkley sang "Crazy" while transforming the smash hit before our eyes, without changing a lyric. It was hypnotizing and surreal. And Mary J Blige showed the industry audience exactly why she earned her three Grammys that evening.

Live performance is what separates the proverbial men from the boys and it defines careers in music. The rest of the show was average, but the Grammy Awards are meant to showcase extraordinary talent and artistry.

American Idol's latest discovery, Carrie Underwood, easily managed a three-song Eagles tribute. Her male counterparts, the Rascal Flatts, floundered however, sounding like a neighborhood bar band, lost in a red carpet world.

The Grammy organization overestimated the power of a Police reunion opening the show -- it just wasn't that amazing. The closing performance went to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who were literally barraged by massive amounts of confetti blown onto the stage.

And there were other difficult moments during the broadcast. The show's producers attempted to leverage the success of the American Idol formula, by offering auditions to three girls for the chance to perform with Justine Timberlake live. Overhyped and underwhelming, this kind of maneuver only undermined the credibility of the awards.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the show was not the show itself, but the commercials throughout. Like the Super Bowl, The Grammy Awards are finally connecting with Madison Avenue. Product-goods companies wanted to hit consumers with their hippest branding ads during the commercial breaks.

So they did. Mary J. Blige, was featured in a Chevrolet ad that ran four times during the show. Loreal's advertising featured Beyoncé and Hewlett Packard showcased Sean Carter, aka, advertising boy-toy Jay Z. The transformation for Madison Avenue to lure stars into advertising products took a dozen years, but this year, pop was well represented.

In fact, Madison Avenue sponsorship looks to be the next marketing exploit for music stars. These companies are the ones with the money and media reach to bring pop stars the attention they need. And the stars love their sponsors. Tony Bennett summed it up while reaching for his Grammy. "I'd like to thank Target for being the best sponsor I've ever had." That, my friends, is the future of rock n roll.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.


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