No, I'm not hearing-impaired (except at selected moments), but I do have another disability that has lately kept me from fully participating in the music industry's most ridiculous display of pomp and pomposity: I am, and have always been, terminally unhip.
This is usually a real problem in Grammy season. Usually, I find myself browsing through lists of nominees, stumbling over names I don't recognize and often can't decipher: Ludacris, Linkin Park, Staind and Korn, for example. (Did I miss something, or have we now officially determined that "K" is an acceptable substitute for "C" and "Z" can fill in for "S"? And what's the deal with all these bands dropping vowels from their names? Are the cool kids all anti-vowel now?)
Then, if I actually tuned in to the broadcast, I'd be treated to a delightful presentation of musical genius by Eminem, whose enthusiastic brand of misogyny somehow hovered just beyond the censors' reach; or even worse, Celine Dion, who, as far as I can tell, is even more unhip than I am but has huge lungs with which to torture her fellow humans. I'd try, desperately, to understand why these people were up for awards, and then, defeated and dejected, I'd switch the television off and take up some less punishing task, like translating Ovid's entire oeuvre. You can see why I had just about given up on the Grammys.
This year, however, I happened to flip over to CBS at a critical juncture and, to my surprise, found myself enraptured. The Soggy Bottom Boys, a fictional band created for the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" were performing the come-from-behind hit of the evening, "I Am A Man (Of Constant Sorrow)", accompanied by Gillian Welch, Allison Krauss and Emmylou Harris. Well, I'll tell you, I just about fell out of my chair when the little Grammy logo popped up I'd just enjoyed a song, and I was watching the Grammys?
Fascinated, I stuck around for songs by Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys, and with each song, grew more and more excited, my mind reeling. This is it, I thought to myself. I'm finally hip! What could possibly have happened to me, I mused, to spark such a sea change? Did I win some cosmic lottery of cool? Have I been particularly good since last year's Grammys?
The harder I searched for reasons, the more I floundered. By Thursday morning I had nearly decided to just relax and enjoy my newfound cachet. I sauntered into the office, feeling just a bit cooler, hipper, more in touch with those crazy kids. Then I picked up a newspaper.
"Could the Grammys be any more removed from reality?" blared one critic. I hurriedly snatched up another paper. "Excuse me, but who's running this program?" demanded another. "This show is a ridiculous farce, largely dedicated to granting face time and awards to acts so diluted by the mainstream that they hardly represent music at all."
Aha! Suddenly, the mystery was solved. I was not hip. I was buying into a ridiculous farce. I was, in the words of yet another ticked-off music reporter, part of "the establishment that makes us all embarrassed to call ourselves arts writers." I was, once again, someone who prefers U2's old albums (not exactly Grammy magnets) to their new ones, someone who loves the early Rolling Stones (no Grammys in the '60s and '70s) and who is at a loss when asked to name anyone more talented than Otis Redding.
I must say, I'm a bit relieved. I was already getting a bit nervous, trying to figure out ways to maintain my newfound cool.