Calling All Angels

Another year, another award show… another award show I missed almost entirely.

I was fifteen feet from the Grammy red carpet (Heineken green, technically), but I didn’t see one celebrity. I was one hundred feet from the big show, but I didn’t see U2, Kanye, Kelly Clarkson — nobody.

But I did work alongside some of the finest, most motivated and enthused young people in the business. Many of whom are working with me now, fifteen miles from the Staples center at MTV’s Santa Monica offices.

Did I mention that it’s two o’clock in the morning?

One of my colleagues is boarding a flight to JFK in five hours. Once safely in New York, he is meeting his wife at the airport, then boarding another flight to Paris.

Me? I’m on the red eye in twenty short hours. I arrive back in New York Friday morning at 6:30. Then head into the office. What the heck, right? Another cup of coffee and I’ll be fine.

So while I didn’t catch any of the Grammy action real time, I have poured over tons of photos and video tape. And I do have some reactions.

First of all, that Gorillaz/Madonna thing? Lame. Paul McCartney performing with Jay-Z and Linkin Park? I appreciate his taking a shot at being (semi) hip, but John’s gotta be looking down goin’, “Huh!?!” I thought Mary J sounded a bit flat.

I dug Kanye’s high school band shtick. Sly Stone was bad ass. And anyone who can hold a room with just a guitar gets mad props from me. I guess that’s why they call him The Boss. (And I love that he said, “Bring ’em home!” at the end of his performance.)

The awards? Well, I thought they reflected how middle-of-the-road The Academy is. I mean, I love U2. Big time. I think they’re accomplishments are unparalleled in the history of rocknroll. They’re the best rock band ever, hands down. Ok, the Beatles were great, but they really are a special case. And sure, The Rolling Stones continue to record and perform, but their personnel has changed dozens of times, and they haven’t written a good song since the early Seventies. But five Gramophones? For “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb?” It’s good and all, but it’s no “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” It’s no “Joshua Tree.”

But whatever. There was a ton of great music to celebrate, even if the whole celebration is just a marketing tool.

U2 was rehearsing “Vertigo” as the MTV News team was doing its “walk through” on Tuesday. Bono had yet to arrive, so it was just an instrumental. A few people said to me, “Benjamin, you should storm the stage.” And of course I’d love to have done so.

I released my first CD, “Bloom,” in the spring of 1994. As I was recording it the winter prior, I sent a letter (this is pre-email, pre-internet, people) to family and friends asking for their financial support. I don’t exactly remember what I wrote, but I know I said something like, “I promise I’ll thank you all when I win the Best New Artist Grammy.”

Ah, youth.

Working these award shows — especially The Grammys — never fails to remind me of that promise. And that failure. And the fact that standing on the Grammy stage to accept an award is diminishing rapidly.

Oddly enough, I think I’m ok with it. I mean, it would be cool. But I’m pretty sure I’d be just as happy as I am right now. Which is pretty happy. Happy enough, anyway.

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