Overall the show was great. A lot of acts kicked ass including 67 year old Herbie Hancock who also took home Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters beating out Kanye West's Graduation and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, the Foo Fighters' Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace and Vince Gill’s These Days.
But the item that I’ve most wanted to blog about is Kanye’s acceptance speech. Sorry NARAS, you did a great job on this show but Kanye upstaged you here and this was the most interesting moment of the night for me; but I’ll plug the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS), the org that actually awards the Grammys.
Best Rap Album was awarded by Chris Brown, Solange and Akon at which time a first in award show history occurred…
One minute into Kanye West’s acceptance speech for Graduation the orchestra began to play in an attempt to cue his exit. But Kanye being Kanye and not yet done expressing himself called out the orchestra and expressed his disbelief that they were trying to cue his exit. As the band continued to play, he began speaking about his mother who passed away on November 10, 2007 from complications of recent cosmetic surgery.
He then suggested that it would be in good taste for them to stop and they DID! I was stunned. Kanye definitely was staring someone down in the orchestra pit but in all my years of award show viewing I have NEVER seen any orchestra stop for anyone. When he finally concluded his speech 53 seconds later the orchestra began again.
All I could think of was Frank Sinatra at the 1994 Grammys when Bono introduced him as a Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. A few minutes into his speech the orchestra swelled and the Chairman of the Board was ushered off stage.
In that moment I was sad for old blue eyes as you could tell that there was so much that he wanted to express but Bono may have unintentionally upstaged the Rat Packer with his prepared eloquence that Sinatra just could not match on the fly. I later heard that Sinatra was relieved that the music started because he didn’t have a closing for his speech but the memory is with me still.
Following shortly thereafter at the 1994 Grammys was Billy Joel performing “River of Dreams.” Now I’ve always loved Billy Joel for his songwriting and piano skills (he is a far more accomplished piano player than most realize), but that night I loved him for another reason. There’s a pause in the middle of “River of Dreams” and at that point in the song Billy Joel stopped, took his hands off the keyboard, looked at his watch and taunted the producers by saying “Valuable advertising time going by, valuable advertising time going by, dollars, dollars, dollars” and then sat silently as the crowd roared for him and Sinatra.
Vindication, I wasn’t the only one horrified. This was the best immediate protest I have ever seen. Joel did finally finish the song after a 23 second pause and since then hundreds have been cut off by orchestras at award shows around the globe, it’s a necessary evil if we don’t want to grow old watching the 3-4 hour extravaganzas but Kanye was a first.
I wish that they had just let Kanye speak; he had something to say that the audience (in the theatre and on TV) wanted to hear. Thankfully I doubt that this will start a trend; I don’t think many stars will have the wherewithal to stand up to the music director like Kanye did or have as compelling a reason.
Kanye West Grammy acceptance speech for Best Rap Album Graduation
“It definitely good to be home here at the Grammys. You know, we snuck in four years ago, four or five years ago and now we basically made this our new place of residence. and um, when working on a hip-hop album in a state with the music game. They say like, you know you can't sell records. A lot of people said Hip Hop is dead not just Nas but you know a lot of people just like the art form wasnt poppin' like that anymore
You know, I wanted to cross the genres and show people how we could still express ourselves with something fresh and new that's what hip-hop has always been about, coming out with new sounds and stuff. I always tell Common like man, you gotta time the album out better and can’t drop em the same year as me.
You gotta…This is my award. Um, I wanna
And for Marc Ronson and Amy Winehouse Come on, you gonna play music on me?
For Marc Ronson, Amy Winehouse if I don’t get to get up here for album of the year you deserve it just as much as me, I deserve it too.
And just to say something about my mother.
I appreciate all the support I appreciate all the prayers
It would be in good taste to stop the music then.
I appreciate everything and I know you really proud of me, right now
And I know you wouldn't want me to stop
And you want me, to be the number one artist in the world
And Mama all Ima do is keep makin you proud
We run this.”
- Kanye West
See the video here