For us to move to the next level, A&R must be willing to sign things that are great, and let
the marketing and promotion depart-ments try to solve the puzzle of how
to expose them
to the public.


A HITS Post-Awards Show Wrap-up

Last week, HITS losers Lenny Beer and Roy Trakin put their heads together to predict the Grammy winners. The result was a big knot on each of their noggins and—undoubtedly by sheer luck—a lot of correct picks. This week, they couldn’t resist the temptation to take their feet out of their mouths and congratulate themselves…

ROY TRAKIN: I thought last night was one of the more satisfying Grammy shows in recent memory.

LENNY BEER: What do you mean by "satisfying"?

TRAKIN: I felt the show was about the performances… It seemed to have a theme and momentum to it, and there were no clunkers among the winners. What did you think?

BEER: Well, I did have the Norah sweep. You had Springsteen for Album.

TRAKIN: In the end, most of the major awards were deserved. I felt bad Springsteen didn’t get a chance to accept an award on-air. I wonder what he would’ve said.

BEER: I thought Coldplay was the most compelling performance. My personal favorite, James Taylor with Yo Yo Ma, was brilliant. The visual on the Simon & Garfunkel opening was very well-staged, with the two screens behind them. Although, personally, I like Artie better as the record-store owner on American Dreams. Their voices aren’t nearly what they used to be.

TRAKIN: Seeing them was kinda freaky. They looked exactly like they did on that first album, except with a lot less hair, even though they wore it the same way. I thought the idea of Eminem with a backing band showed a lot of promise. The Roots are pretty good.

BEER: Eminem wasn’t as dynamic as he was two years ago, when he performed with Elton John.

TRAKIN: What did you think of the rotating hosts?

BEER: Dustin Hoffman was terrible opening the show. I liked John Leguizamo best.

TRAKIN: The show seemed to have a guiding principle this year: for instance, the singer/songwriter tribute, leading from Mayer to Taylor; framing the show with Simon & Garfunkel at the beginning and the Joe Strummer/Clash tribute at the end. It had an overall sense of direction that’s been missing in the past.

BEER: Where was the classic black music? We saw a lot of white adult music, but where was Stevie Wonder?

TRAKIN: What about Nelly?

BEER: I said classic adult black music. The key question remains, who will be the big sales winner?

TRAKIN: It sure looks like Norah Jones could parlay this momentum into increased sales. She’s over 3.5 million in the U.S. Do you feel there are still a lot of potential buyers she hasn’t reached?

BEER: I think she does 7-10 million, all told, after this.

TRAKIN: This reminds me a little of the Bonnie Raitt case, although this album has sold a lot more prior to the show.

BEER: It was a coming-out party for Norah. She has rarely been seen on TV and has never really been heard speaking before. But I don’t think she came off great.

TRAKIN: A little too humble. Where’s the charisma?

BEER: It’s clear she’s not a star—which may be what she’s selling. She is clearly the antithesis of the boy bands and all that showbiz glamour.

TRAKIN: Were you surprised at the lack of political commentary from the performers?

BEER: I’m in total agreeance with Fred Durst. Especially with what he said in the pre-show interview with Joan Rivers, because I, too, use a Jewish accountant.

TRAKIN: The Coldplay performance was a real career-maker, in the mode of Ricky Martin several years ago.

BEER: Coldplay are on the verge of becoming the next big thing. This performance, along with MTV placing them into the "Big 10" this week, should propel their album, which is just over a million, toward the 3 -5 million range by year’s end. Norah’s sweep and Coldplay’s performance will have the most dramatic effect on the marketplace. James Taylor is still my favorite, though.

TRAKIN: What did you think of Neil Portnow’s speech?

BEER: Short, sweet and totally unnecessary. I personally thought Neil wasn’t going to appear at all, and it was a mistake that he did. It was time for the Grammy President not to be on TV.

TRAKIN: The highlight, for me, was the Strummer tribute with Springsteen, Costello, Van Zandt and Dave Grohl. They looked like they meant it, man. They said more about politics in those five minutes than anyone could have articulated from the podium.

BEER: What political statement did they make?

TRAKIN: War is bad? It suggested the legacy of the Clash’s politics and social protest.

Great performance, but it didn’t have anything to do with politics. It had to do with paying tribute to Strummer.

TRAKIN: Overall, how did you feel about the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

BEER: I think Norah was the most important record of the year. And I think that her winning everything was apropos. It was the right thing to do. One of the big problems in the industry is that the A&R departments aren’t signing the acts they think are great. They’re signing radio sound-alikes. And for us to move to the next level, the challenge exists for people to be willing to sign things that are great, and let the marketing and promotion departments try to solve the puzzle of how to expose them to the public.

TRAKIN: Will this Norah sweep prompt Top 40 radio to play the song?

BEER: They already are a little bit, but that’s not really the issue. I don’t think Top 40 has to be the answer to all the questions. She was played at Adult Radio, Jazz Radio, Modern Adult, Triple A…

TRAKIN: All told, though, this was a positive Grammy show, definitely a step in the right direction.

BEER: Clearly. We are in agreeance over that. Was it the perfect show? No. Did it portray our industry in a good light? Yes, it did. And maybe this will make the American Music Awards go away. We can only hope.

Talk about an overnight sensation. (4/22a)
His death continues to reverberate. (4/22a)
Lucian's strong start to 2021. (4/22a)
Ralph Lauren has nothing to do with this. (4/22a)
A fitting lead-in to Black Music Month (4/22a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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