Although we are all still aghast about abreast (I amuse myself), the Grammys are this Sunday, February 8 on CBS. I have two previews on MSNBC.com, country music and on rap – eclectic, no?
- The vitality of what has come to be called “country music” is proved by the unruly, contradictory musical and cultural potpourri that it enfolds, and nowhere is this strange stew better on display than the nominations for the major country awards at Sunday’s Grammys.
Though about all they have in common is liberal use of the word “ain’t,” septuagenarian Willie Nelson’s tireless treks across the American musical landscape, the musings of eccentric Texas singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, Shania Twain’s countrified electro-pop, Faith Hill’s R&B-derived pop, and a tribute to traditional country legends the Louvin Brothers are all in the running for country’s best album.
The most notable personality and musical presence among the nominees is 70-year-old Willie Nelson, a six-time Grammy winner who is making remarkably youthful music on a pace that would daunt a performer half his age. The aging Texas hipster – and a small army of friends and legends – has two albums in the best album category, a duet with Ray Price and a live birthday extravaganza….
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My preview of the Album of the Year award focuses on the hip-hop entries and a discussion of the history of the music:
- Rap music and the so-called “hip-hop lifestyle” have become integral to American popular culture, as even a cursory look at movies, television, radio, or a simple stroll through a CD store, reveal.
Rappers appear across the cultural landscape: Will Smith, Ice Cube, and Queen Latifah are among Hollywood’s most prominent black actors. A cozy Lil’ Kim cooed for the Gap in Christmas TV commercials, Snoop Dogg pitches AOL, McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” campaign jingles to the rhythms of hip-hop, and heavyweight brands like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser, Nike, Reebok, Lincoln/Mercury and Cover Girl have all availed themselves of hip-hop personalities or incorporated the lifestyle into their marketing strategies. Top 40 radio is now dominated by rap and hip-hop. Terms like “bling bling,” “dis” and Snoop’s “izzle” lingo are now ubiquitous. Rap hits are pumped over the sound systems of virtually every professional sport team.
Since 1999, rap and hip-hop sales have been second only to rock in the U.S., in 2002 rising to 13.8 percent of all records sold, a total of more than 84 million recordings. 50 Cent’s thuggish, monochromatic “Get Rich or Die Tryin'” was Billboard’s top album for 2003, and his “In Da Club,” Sean Paul’s “Get Busy,” and pop-R&B singer Beyonce’s “Crazy In Love,” with prominent raps by Jay-Z, were three of the four top singles for the year.
Yet for many people, especially Middle Americans 35 and older, rap and hip-hop (the music underneath the rap, and the broader lifestyle) still seem as alien as Mars…..
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See Dawn Olsen’s thoughts on the country Grammy nominees here.