Archive for April 16th, 2008

The 2008 CMT Awards

I don’t really watch awards shows.

Almost never, in fact. There’s just no reason to, honestly. For one, we all know it’s usually rigged. The people who should win never do. And in cases like the Grammy’s the winners are always selected because A: they want to make a political statement, or B: because no one has ever heard of the winner and the record label bribed someone for a little exposure. But the worst thing is how obnoxiously hedonistic the whole thing is. Awards shows are public circle jerks for famous people. A chance for them to sit around congratulating each other on being rich, talentless and incredibly fucking lucky. I can’t take watching things like that. It depresses me.

The only real exception is Country Music awards shows. I watch those because it’s an evening of good music, good people and stars that I feel actually deserved to be honored. Of course I don’t watch every one; it’s still an award show, but sometimes I’ll tune in.

This year, the fan- voted CMT Awards was hosted by pop sensation Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana) and her formerly-famous-for-making-an-annoying-pop-country-dance-song dad, Billy Ray Cyrus. First of all, I have to admit that I like Hannah Montana. Yes, it’s a kids show, but in many ways it is reminiscent of those great TGIF shows from my childhood. It’s kind of funny and more than a little silly, but it’s the good kind of silly. And I actually like some of her music, including her father’s recent stab at reattaining pop chart fame (a duet with Miley) Ready, Set, Don’t Go. So part of the reason I watched the show was because I love Country Music, and part of it was that I was curious how they would do as hosts of the show.

I’m writing this a day late because I had a little mishap with my VCR (yes, I still use a VCR) on Monday. (Damned Daylight Savings Time!) I didn’t actually get to watch until last night. Overall I was fairly entertained by what I saw. Here’s my breakdown.

THE HOSTS

On some level I always thought it was pathetic that Billy Ray seems to cling to his daughter’s coat-tails in one last shot at fame. In fact, the duet I mentioned wasn’t originally a duet, but it didn’t seem to catch on when it was just him singing. It is a good song though. Surprisingly, they didn’t shy away from this subject. Billy Ray made an ironic joke about how the public was using Miley to get to him, which surprisingly made me laugh. And I laughed quite a bit harder at this exchange.

“Miley! Do you mind {not texting while I’m trying to talk}!?”

“I’m sorry, I just looooove to text!”

“I know, I pay your cell phone bill.”

“Who are you kidding? I pay yours!”

It’s clear that they have a good sense of humor about it and about themselves. Billy Ray also made fun of his Achy-Breaky-dancing days. And comedian Rodney Carrington threw in a bit about that too.

Miley took a bit of a backseat to her father in this case, but acquitted herself well as co-host. I suppose she’s used to dealing with sold-out stadiums.

I do like seeing them together. It’s clear that she adores her father, which is an all too rare thing with teenagers, especially ones who have attained the level of fame she has at such a young age. It’s nice. It’s Country.

THE PRESENTERS AND GUESTS

One of the worst things about modern Country is that the people in charge are desperate to legitimize it to the public, a feat which is both condescending and unrealistic. First, Country is legitimate. It’s been around longer than any other popular form of music (not counting Opera or classical) including rock n’ roll. Second, some people just aren’t going to give it a chance, no matter how many times Tim McGraw makes Nelly’s songs sound good. The worst was when the ACM Awards (I think it was them) moved the show from Nashville to New York, and trotted out a slew of stars who not only had nothing to do with Country Music, but didn’t seem to like it or know who the hell they were on stage with.

This wasn’t nearly that bad.

They did bring out Paula Abdul, but even though she was obviously once again high as giraffe pussy (thank you Joe Rogan), she did have a reason to be there. American Idol has been fertile ground for breeding Country stars. SO far they’ve given us Josh Gracin, Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington (who won’t be around too long– and on a side note, I saw him for the first time last night, DAMN is he ugly! he looks like a woman with a Tom Sellick mustache.), and most notably Carrie Underwood. I’m sure I’m missing a few as well.

Donald Trump was there for some unknown reason. He talked about how awesome he is. That was it.

John Rich brought out his “students” from the show Gone Country, where he tries to turn washed up pop and R &B stars into Country singers. So Bobby Brown, Diana DiGarmo (I think she was on American Idol), Sisco and… some other chick… introduced Kenny Chesney.

There were a few others, but the best one had to be Snoop Dogg, who presented alongside Jason Aldeen. There were boos. A lot of them. And they were loud. Aldeen could barely keep a straight face as he read his lines with Snoop. I think he wanted to boo too. Apparently Snoop was there to promote his new Country-themed song, which was supposedly inspired by the late, great Johnny Cash. Uh huh.

THE PERFORMERS

One of the best things about these shows is the performances. Live Country occasionally yields some kick ass acoustic versions and b-sides. You don’t get that with other forms of music.

My favorite performance of the night was Tim and Faith doing I Need You together. Like the video for the song, they sang the song to each other, facing one another with a dial sided microphone between them. It sounded amazing, but it didn’t feel all that romantic. It was more like they were going through the motions together.

The worst performance was kind of a shock. Brad Paisley played his new single “I’m Still a Guy” which is actually one of my favorite songs on the album. Half way through, Hank Williams Jr joined him on stage for a duet. It must have been a dream come true for Paisley. A legend was singing one of his songs. Unfortunately, Hank must have been informed only seconds before, because he completely sucked. It was very clear that he was reading the lyrics off of a teleprompter as he was singing them. I’ve heard better karaoke.

Miley and Billy Ray performed an adjusted version of “Ready Set Don’t Go”, which came off as a little unpolished to me. It sounded fine, and featured more of Miley than the radio version, but I think it could have used a little work.

Another bright spot was Sugarland’s cover of Life in a Northern Town, which features Little Big Town and Jake Owen. There’s something about that song that lends itself seamlessly to Country. It was probably one of the best acts of the night. Oddly enough, it made me want to see Sugarland in concert. I love their music, but I’ve seen them in person, and was not a fan of them live. They sound fine, but Jennifer Nettles, the lead singer, is a spaz. But she seemed fairly calm at the show. No jumping around or waving her arms like a cheerleader on heroin.

And there were a few standard fare performances by Chesney, Leann Rimes and (a current favorite among kids) Taylor Swift. And the commercials were played into by short performances by artists struggling to find an audience and a few complete unknowns.

THE WINNERS

The CMT Awards are giant golden belt buckles. The voting is left supposedly completely up to the fans, but in a few cases I think it’s clear that isn’t the case. Case in point? For best collaborative video (duet, basically) Tim and Faith got passed over. That’s fine. So who won? Bon Jovi and Leanne Rimes. Someone must have been bribed. Bon Jovi is one of several recovering pop rock acts that is trying to hollow out a career in Country, including John Mellancamp, Jewel, and Sheryl Crow. The fans haven’t bee receptive. It’s more than a little insulting that they assume that because pop fans have rejected them, they can just trick a bunch of country bumpkins into buying their crap. So their record labels have been pairing them with successful Country acts. Sheryl Crow appeared on a song with Brooks and Dunn. Jewel, who has always written her own songs, is getting help from John Rich. Bon Jovi got a more famous boost. First Sugarland worked with them on an unbelievably shitty song called “Who Said You Can’t Go Home?” that would be considered over-played and over-hyped even if it had been a decent song. The video which won though, inexplicably received no airplay. At least not here. Not even on a weekend syndicated countdown show. I’d never even heard of it. Bribe.

Kellie Pickler won three awards, including Breakthrough Artist of the Year, which celebrates up and coming acts. I’m glad. I think Pickler has a shot at a career, much more so than some of the overnight sensations that are currently emerging. I’m a big fan of her song “I Wonder” which talks about her Mother leaving her as a child. She won the last two awards for that.

Last year’s Breakthrough winner, Taylor Swift, was the obvious fan favorite of the night. Girls have been going crazy over her songs since they started playing them on pop stations. I actually own her album myself, but I bought it about a year ago, before she made it big. She actually managed to take home the Artist of the Year award, beating out Carrie Underwood. It was kind of an upset. Cool though.

OVERALL

I think it was a decent show. It had it’s moments of humor. As always I was unhappy with some of the winners. And I really didn’t like the fact that they pimped out the three front runners for 2008 Presidential Election. I could see John McCain trying to get his grandkids tickets to see Hannah Montana, but Hillary and Obama were very out of place. Still, as awards shows go, this was one of the least whorish. And I did get to hear some great music, and that’s never a bad thing.

Advertisements

The Religious Right and Wrong

Some people incorrectly describe me as an atheist. Not true. Never have been; never will be. What I am is… difficult to describe in it’s entirety.

But let’s get Mr. Peabody on the line and take a quick ride in his Way-Back Machine. I was born the son of two Italian families. By default that makes me a lifelong Roman Catholic, even if it isn’t true. As a child, I went to catechism, learning the ways and means of Jesus and his homies. I never really got a whole lot out of catechism except bruises. Yes… I got beaten up in church. Imagine how it is to be me… But I digress. I was confirmed at the age of 13. As I recall they confirmed me twice (just in case…), once upon completion of catechism and then later by my Catholic school as part of 8th grade “graduation.” Church never held much for me. No power or sway. It isn’t that I didn’t believe… I just didn’t get it. I was born with the mind of a 12th century philosopher. Even at 8 I had questions. What the fuck is the Holy Spirit? Why does he look like a dove? (Mom said it’s so he could fly.) (And a follow up question later) what do you mean, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the same person? Are you telling me Jesus has multiple personality disorder? Jesus is a schizo? (Most of this, by the way, is part of my act, so I’ll thank you not to repeat it.) And what if your wife dies and you get married again… when you die, who are you married to? Do you get to fuck both of them? I don’t think Jesus would like that. Seriously, this is the sort of stuff that went through my young mind.

I went to a high school named after Saint John Baptiste De La Salle. They had their very own national Christian youth group… the La Sallian Youth. My senior year, I decided that I wanted to be closer to God. So I joined the LaSallian Youth and started going to church. I helped them tutor underprivileged kids three times a week. You would be amazed how bad Bill Cosby impressions will get ten year olds to do their homework. It may be b/c I promised them Jello pudding. I was even asked to write an article on faith for the national newsletter. But in the end, I found religion… wanting.

People call me an atheist. They say I do not believe in God. And it isn’t true. I believe in God… I just don’t believe in him the same way you do. I do not believe in religion. People get confused often. They think that religion and faith are the same thing. In fact neither has any dependency on the other to exist. Religion is a collection of rituals and traditions surrounding one central concept. Faith is simply believing in something. I have faith. But I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell. I know Jesus existed, but I don’t believe he was anymore the son of God than any of the rest of us. No magic powers, just a guy who believed. A lot. And I honestly don’t believe God gives a shit whether you belong to Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam or Taoism. It’s just a fucking -ism. It’s a word. Means nothing. What matters is how you act, how you treat people, how you strive to do better and learn, and in so doing, make the world a little better. And that’s my problem with religion. I’ve met a lot of religious people (this IS the South) from various different denominations. And for quite a number of the ones who claim to believe the strongest, it’s all the same shit. For instance, I have known around 8 different people from a so-called “Non-denominational” church. Which is a load of horse shit. They believe the same stuff that I was taught in catechism, they just don’t like the name. And every one of these supposedly non judgmental, new age Christians has been a complete whack job. Like two steps shy of David Koresh and a bunker, drink the kool aid whack job. (One of them said to a friend of mine that there is no evidence of dinosaurs and that they made them up… seriously.)

It’s all the same shit. And there’s a reason for it. There is a divine guiding force, an abstract raison d’etre that has guided human history. Selfishness. Everything in human existence eventually boils down to territorial-ism. What’s mine, and what’s yours. I have to have more stuff than you. I have to be smarter than you. My God HAS TO BE THE RIGHT GOD. Because if it isn’t, if I’m wrong then I don’t know what happens to me when I die. I have no control over the universe, I am mortal, I am tenuous. Do I even exist? Nothing makes sense unless I am right. And for me to be right, you have to be wrong. Like I said. Everything boils down to territorial-ism. And it’s foolish. It causes so much hurt and destruction. Religion is a wonderful idea. But the problem is, someone takes that great idea, twists it and uses it to further their agenda. There are people out there who insist that God hates gays. Why? I was taught that we are all God’s children. And that God has plan. Well if that’s the case, then maybe God has a fucking plan for Gay people too. If we’re all modeled in God’s image, then maybe some days (I’m guessing Tuesdays) he likes to put on some lipstick a dress and a pair of open-toed orange pumps and look fabulous. Maybe anal sex and blow jobs are God’s way of giving us a pleasurable alternative to population control. Argue with that… I DARE YA. So remember ladies, every time you swallow, you’re saving the world.

And the people that think other religions are going to hell… why? Isn’t God supposed to be forgiving? Well then why wouldn’t he forgive someone for simple ignorance? And if it looks like I’m picking on Catholicism, I’m not. They just happen to be what I grew up with and know the most about. Most religions make the same mistakes they do. Some of them want to kill us over it. I’m not particularly fond of atheists either, not because I think they’re bad people, but because most of the ones I’ve met have shitty reasoning skills. And since I consider myself somewhat of an expert on reasoning, it offends me. the biggest argument I’ve heard is “If God exists, then why would he allow there to be suffering in the world?” Because he’s God, not Princess fucking Lollipop of the Rainbow Cotton Candy Club. How do you define happiness without sadness? How do you define good without bad? Can there be a Heaven without a Hell? It is the contrast that defines the world. In order for one thing to exist… EVERYTHING must exist. Otherwise you could not appreciate the beauty and wonders we are given. So basically someone in Somalia has to starve so that you can clog your arteries on pork rinds. And that sucks, but it’s not God’s fault. It’s physics. Bad reasoning aside, I don’t fault either side for believing as they do. If you can’t see something magical in existence… that sucks. But I can see why you would feel that way. And part of me wonders if you’re right, because as any good philosopher does, I have reasonable doubt. If going to church and saying your prayers gives you strength… God be with you. I envy you. Though I am far too cynical and pragmatic to feel that way. If you believe that killing others makes you right, then I truly hope there is a hell. But I have no answers. In the meantime , I draw my strength the old-fashioned way… from the people I love. But that doesn’t make me an atheist. It makes me a man with reasonable doubts.

Quote of the day: “May God stand between you and harm in all the empty place where you may walk.” ~J. Michael Straczynski