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FROM THIS EPISODE

The State of the Garden --- Grammys and the Missing Edge

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

This week's Grammy Awards insured the world that it is possible to create a dynamic 3 -- hour TV award show. Though the viewership was small, those that watched were in for a real treat. The host, Queen Latifah, is a first class hipster, a musician and spirited entertainer, and she made the night rock.

But, most of the sharp edges of music couldn't be found on the show. There was no classical music, or opera televised, and country music was highly limited. Instead, it was all about the icons of music: Green Day for punk, Kayne West for Rap, Usher for R&B;, U2 for Rock, and Ray Charles for all his enormous contributions. It was a star spangled parade of popular culture. Every one of these artists has already sold millions of records, so there was no real learning curve there. This year, the well paced, dynamic show was all good but nothing new.

There was however, one lone ranger out there. It was neatly tucked away in the category for best soundtrack, which didn't make even the broadcast. Garden State, Zach Braff's quirky film about a young man who returns to his childhood home in, New Jersey, is inspiring generations of 20- and 30-somethings to go out check out new sounds. Garden State has hit a nerve with audiences who are driven to discover more.

Though the film earned a modest $26,000 at the box office during its run, the soundtrack album alone has grossed over $8.5 million, not to mention the auxillary sales of all the individual artists. The most successful rising star in the soundtrack is probably the indie Sub Pop group, The Shins, who have already sold over a quarter of a million records, mostly in the last few months. The film also features music from Coldplay, Zero 7, Frou Frou, Nick Drake, Postal Service, and Iron and Wine.

The digital world has responded as well. iTunes has sold over 150,000 online tracks so far and have charted the soundtrack Top 10 since August, and Amazon is up to almost 100,000 sales on it's own.

Sometimes films can inspire a generation of new music lovers.

The opening dream sequence of Vanilla Sky, with Tom Cruise standing in a vacant Times Square, and Sigur Ros' Svefn-G-Englar blaring thru, motivated thousands to buy the movie soundtrack, and other Sigur Ros albums. The placement and focus of Damien Rice's track, Blowers' Daughter in the film Closer, gave his 3 year-old record new legs. The reason? The director created the right emotional connection to inspire others.

But sometimes inspiration is just another word for mass marketing. Just before the Grammys came on TV, I watched a Best Buy commercial with The Black Eyed Peas performing their hit, Let's Get It Started. Half a minute later, I watched the opening credits role for the award show to the sound of the very same song. Five minutes later, the band was performing the song, live on television.

These are not mystical moments. They are constructed to separate you from your money. All that's all well and good, but if you aren't motivated by mass marketing, repetition, and mainstream sensibilities, you'll gonna have to dig a little deeper to find music that rocks your world.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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