GRAMMY Award-Winning Love Songs: Indulging Your Love of Mushy Mediocrity
What, No Gangnam Sytle?
Last Sunday, for the first time that I can remember, I didn't watch a single minute of the GRAMMY Awards - opting instead for a largely mediocre episode of The Walking Dead. (To be honest, I probably would've done the same last year, but Whitney Houston had just died, and I was interested in seeing how they would memorialize the winner of six GRAMMYs and the owner of the greatest voice we've ever known.) The GRAMMYs have been teetering on a narrowing ledge above a lava-filled reservoir of kitsch for a long time now, but when I saw this year's list of nominees, I knew that they had officially fallen, no, enthusiastically leapt, over the precipice. The instant that I heard that Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" - a song that is at least one invisible artistic notch below Rebecca Black's ear hemorrhaging "Friday" - was nominated for Song of the Year, I knew I was out, always and forever.
The GRAMMYs are a derailed freight train that mysteriously continue to charge recklessly forward despite jumping the tracks decades ago. According to the Recording Academy's overview of their mission, "The GRAMMYs are the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position." This may have been the intended original purpose of the show, but if you can read that statement in a modern context and not let slip a sardonic snicker, you should probably stop reading at this point, because everything that follows the words "peer-presented award to honor" is laughable.
Not to harp too hard on the young and untalented Ms. Carly Rae Jepsen, but can anyone above the age of 14 present a solid argument declaring that her hit single achieved anything artistically; that it was somehow technically adept; or that there is even a speck of excellence in those three minutes of sheer hellish blathering? Of course not, the girl doesn't have any talent, as exhibited by the song nominated. But, even funnier than what the GRAMMY's claim to embrace, is what they claim to ignore - the commercial element of music. This is a strange stance considering three of last Sunday's biggest winners also happened to have the top three selling singles of 2012 according to Billboard: Gotye (an artist who actually deserves far more credit than he has received thus far), fun. (not a typo or failed elipsis, they chose to put that stupid period at the end of their name), and Jepsen. Is the relationship between sales and trophies merely a coincidence? Me thinks not, Academy.
One last tidbit to strengthen my position, these guys were nominated for artistry, proficiency, and excellence.
Silly Little Love Songs
Which brings me to my point on this dreary, overcast Valentine's Day: The populous' choice for the best music can be directly and unequivocally correlated to sales. Undoubtedly, this is a sad state of affairs, but it's also the truth, and I suppose I should just get over it. Instead of doing that, though, I thought I'd take a look back at some GRAMMY-winning love songs in the annals of American music history and create a brief list of the three worst. This one's for all you hater's out there. Enjoy.(.)
*Ironic sidebar: All three of these songs come from the greatest decade of music we will ever know.
I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) - Meatloaf
What's not to hate with this one? Well, first off, there's the oxymoronic title of the song. The word "anything" inherently implies an absolute lack of boundaries, so are we supposed to believe that Meatloaf's a liar? Did he go back on his solemn vow? If so, take a lesson from Top Gun, and don't write checks your body can't cash, Meat.
This leads us to the second issue with the song, what exactly won't Meat do for love? I've scoured the lyrics, and, while there's a long list of things he would do to bed his prey, he never actually reveals what the deal breaker is. While it's very post-modern of him to leave this open-ended, it's been frustrating fans for nearly two decades!
Finally, there's the cringe-worthy video - a cheesy modern take on Beauty and the Beast featuring the Meat Man as a motorcycle-riding monstrosity sent straight from Hell with only one mission: the sexual conquest of a lip-synching Dana Patrick. If you don't remember this GRAMMY-winning gem for Hard Rock Vocal Performance, Solo, or if you didn't exist yet when it was massively popular, check it out - who knows, maybe it was the impetus for your conception?
"My Heart Will Go On" - Celine Dion
Like most horrible love songs, this sludge heap took an entire team of writers to pen, none of whom were named Celine Dion. The song was originally written as an instrumental motif to be used to highlight the frolicking love scenes featuring Jack and Rose in the movie Titanic. But after lyrics were added, and Celine was commissioned to sing them, James Cameron decided to feature the vocal version during the end credits of the film. The song went on to win four GRAMMYs in 1999, and, to date, the single has sold more than 15 million copies worldwide.
This fact in no way erases its wretchedness, but rather, according to my theory above, it actually increases it. This drivel was everywhere - radio, MTV, commercials - it was positively inescapable for a solid 18 months. People LOVED it, and not just teenage girls, either! I can distinctly remember snooping around a friend's bedroom after school one day and discovering the soundtrack in his CD player - he blamed it on his sister, but I maintain my suspicion.
Looking back, it's hard to believe that Celine Dion, in all her weirdness, was the "it" girl of the 90s. But we need to remember that the explosion in her popularity was due almost entirely to this song; it was a cultural dynamo that just wouldn't quit. It seemed as though the film, its characters, and the song were united in a bizarre polygamist marriage of sentimentality. To carry on the metaphor, you could not divorce any one entity from the others. Unless, of course, your were Rose herself, the lovely and talented Kate Winslett. The actress has been quoted as saying that the song makes her want to "throw up" and that it makes her extremely uncomfortable when it is played in social settings - I knew I liked her.
"Kiss from a Rose" - Seal
Heidi Klum's ex-husband released this track of epic lameness in July of 1994, but it didn't gain any real traction until it was re-released on the Batman Forever soundtrack. Regardless of your view of the song, I suppose the one admirable thing about "Kiss" is that Seal wrote it himself. Of course, that also means that he must be held accountable for the general awfulness of his finished work.
From what I can gather, the song seems to be about a Scandanavian woman giving Seal some awkward, yet habit-forming lovin'. Here are just a few of the topics addressed in the lyrics:
- Insecure stalking: "The more I get of you, the stranger it seems"
- Substance Abuse Issues: "To me you're like a grown addiction that I can't deny"
- Quasi-sexual gardening: "Now that your rose is in bloom, a light hits the gloom on the gray"
- Preoccupation with precipitation: "Did you know, that when it snows, my eyes become large..."
- Medieval imagery: "There used to be a graying tower alone on the sea"
- Hypochondria: "Won't you tell me is that healthy, baby?"
William Faulkner, Seal is not, but, like I said, at least he gave it an honest shot. The song won him three GRAMMYs at the '96 awards and endeared him to an entire generation of unfulfilled housewives from sea to shining sea. Not only that, but the song was also prominently featured on the eighth installment of the blockbuster video game series Backyard Football '09. (This is a joke. The song was featured, but I have never heard of the game - kudos, though, to this edition's cover boy, Tom Brady... Go Blue!)
Love Song Arithmetic
Pop music's a funny thing. It seems as though the names and the faces change rather frequently, but the crappy standards first established by the disco era continue to not only endure, but thrive. The formula is pretty straight forward: pull a few sappy phrases out of hat, create a tight little three chord synthesizer hook, set the drum loop, and watch the kiddo-s scream! Meatloaf didn't invent it, and fun. has yet to perfect it, but it sells. And, that's all that really matters, at least to the Academy.