Pop & Hiss

The L.A. Times music blog

« Previous Post | Pop & Hiss Home | Next Post »

Dispatches from backstage and on the red carpet at the Grammys

February 8, 2009 |  3:18 pm


Plant, Krauss and Burnett bonded over sweet buns -- oh, and Americana

It's been said many times but we'll say it again: when a rock god and a country goddess meet up, it can't help but end in an impressive sweep at the Grammys. Alison Krauss and Robert Plant won a total of five awards for "Raising Sand, the collaboration produced by T-Bone Burnett. All three came backstage to tell the story of the album.

Plant's first encounters with his co-musicians were rife with edible pleasures: "I realized that T-Bone and Alison had a gastronomic need that I have never experienced before. There was so much food in the studio. I had never seen buns and rolls and stuff full of jam and fries.

"They’re American. I started to like them."

Burnett: "There are a limited number of people who like music. Those people really like music. The record industry got into the business of trying to sell music to everybody. But if you make music for people who actually care about music, then you can do well. We care about music so we try to make music we care about."

Plant: "The thing about it is we extensively come from such different places of the musical map. There are a variety of differences in the way we’ve gone about enjoying our lives as musicians. Mine has been the British approach. When I was a kid, I just tried to be American. Great songs were American songs. Mostly, the ones that turned me on were spectacular black Americana. The thing about Alison patiently showed me so much of the American I’ve never been exposed to. There’s so many songs in the air. There’s thousands and thousands of beautiful songs.

"America needs to know what its songs are all about. It’s OK playing the game, but behind and underneath the game, there is something very beautiful here."

He quickly added: “Most of it is Irish and Scottish, by the way.”

Plant also talked about Led Zeppelin's history of being critical of the Recording Academy: "We threw some Grammys, but they weren’t ours, out of the window. It’s a different time. The folks who were turning us down and trying to bury us were running Rolling Stone magazine and all of these other magazines that said we were insignificant philanderists. They couldn’t have been more right."

On being third most honored person in history of Grammys, Krauss said, "I feel amazed I get to do this for a living. I get to work and continue to work in an inspired way. I have been lucky enough to work that way. This has been incredibly interesting. Like Robert had said, we went in the studio for three days to see what we would do and if it didn’t work, it didn’t work. If it didn’t work, it’s because we weren’t drawn to it. How spoiled I’ve really been is amazing, to still have things be in place and continue to work where I’ve kept up at night."

--Mark Medina

Natalie Cole doesn't regret last year's tough love for Amy Winehouse

Natalie Cole, who has stated that she did heroin for a period in the '80s, spoke again about her strong words for 2007 Best New Artist winner Amy Winehouse, who she said didn't deserve her win. "Last year I got in hot water for what I said about Amy Winehouse. I will still say it again. It's very personal for me because of the fact I'm an ex-drug addict. I don't take that stuff lightly. When I had Hepatitis [C] and I was diagnosed last year, it was because of drug use with heroin and it stayed in my body for 25 years. It can still happen to this young woman and other addicts fooling around with drugs. It's the real deal. I don't apologize for things I said. I still wish her the best. I hope what happens to me doesn't happen to her."

In regards to her own struggles with Hepatitis C, she says, "it took me a minute to get my stamina back. But it's really been great. I've been able to kick butt and my voice is still there. I'm very happy and grateful I was still able to go on the road."

"The challenging part is I have to have a dialysis wherever I go. That means every other day, three times a week, I have to find a facility. The facility that I go to, they will research and find other facilities all over the country. It's amazing. They're really all over the country."

"I'm still waiting for a transplant... It's strange having strangers offer to give you a kidney, but there is a bank of donors that we're looking into. They have to go through evaluations as well... People don't realize kidney transplants are not that big of a deal. It sounds like a heart transplant, but it's not. It's like getting your tonsils taken out."

Despite her health issues, she remains connected to her life's work and her place in it: "I still feel very strongly about music. I'm not real happy with some of the stuff I see happening in music but I'm older now. I can say that I can talk a lot of smack about it now. When I was younger, I thought that I was cool, as a lot of the young artists tonight will feel the same way. As you get older, you do get a little bit more serious about your craft. You want to do stuff that lasts."

She added that she'd want to collaborate with Herbie Hancock and John Mayer. "I was thinking I might have a chance to make another R&B album. I don't know it'd happen, but it certainly could."

--Mark Medina

Pregnant M.I.A. earns Estelle's respect

Estelle won for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration but that wasn't the only highlight of her night. She also gazed in wonder at the astoundingly pregnant M.I.A. performing her sleeper hit "Paper Planes."

"I was like, 'Oh God, she's going to break any minute now. I have so much respect for you.' I love people like that. It's a thing where I understand where she's coming from. I would never miss the opportunity to perform with people like Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and T.I... I'd be like, 'Don't worry, I'll be here.' Even if I had a broken leg or something. I'll be here even with one arm. I have so much respect for her."

Kanye West's British pal has another record in the works. "I just started recording right now. I'm feeling it out and [seeing] where I want to go with it.... right now it's a variation of Coldplay-Marvin Gaye."

--Mark Medina

Reactions from Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Paul McCartney and more below.

Top banana Katy Perry has a message for the doubters

"I Kissed a Girl" singer Katy Perry may have descended on stage in a banana tonight, a goofball stunt if there ever was one, but don't think she can't give a good tongue-lashing when she wants to.

Speaking about her slog on the Warped Tour, she said, "It's real easy for girls to pop up in pop music and say, 'Where the hell did [she] come from?' I really think I paid my dues. I was on a bus with 14 sweaty guys with no showers, no sound checks, no set times and I just got on stage for 30 minutes, got off stage and did my job. People thought I would die on that tour and I lived. Now I'm at the Grammy's, so ... them."

Clearly she doesn't kiss all the girls! But back to the banana, was that Perry's idea? "Who else's idea would that be?" she said, adding that, indeed, it was her stroke of inspiration. "I thought some other award show would pick it up because it was so ridiculous," Perry said.

"When I pitched it to the Grammys I thought they would not be into it. But they said we could it." "It was like before I had my first kiss. I didn’t know what it was going to be like. I didn't know if people were going to judge me, or what it would be like afterward... The highlight of my night would probably have to be knowing and seeing those faces on people when they saw my ridiculous outfit."

--Mark Medina

Country's daughter grows up, steps out

Carrie Underwood
, who won tonight for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, is proud of all her country brothers and sisters: "This year is flooded with country music artists. I think it's wonderful. People love it. It’s a huge testament to country music. You look at ratings for country music awards and they're through the roof. The people have spoken and we've given them what they want."

That said, would she "cheat," er, switch genres? "Yeah, definitely. I think if you can find a great song with somebody and do your thing. Maybe it doesn't even fit into your specific genre."

Her first year at the Grammys, Underwood was all aflutter but the "American Idol" country girl is all grown up now: "I don't want to say I've gotten more used to it, but I remember the first time I came to the Grammys or any awards show, my first year was walking around in a haze and trying not to screw up. I feel like so much has happened. I know a lot of great people. I feel like I'm much more in the process of making albums, choosing songs, even picking out what I'm going to wear because I'm more confident in myself."

The current economic crisis isn't only affecting her fans, it's changing Underwood's plans: "I think everybody is. I know that weighs heavily on everybody's minds. I toured all last year. I did a whole lot of dates last year. Right now it's kind of at a regrouping point where I'm not touring this year. I'm going to the studio more and making my next album. I think everybody is going to take a look at that ... I know people are scaling back and people are cutting their ticket prices because they want fans to be out there. But they don't want to take advantage of the fans either."

--Mark Medina

Better late than never

Wow, this just-released statement from the Recording Academy is almost as shocking as Plant/Krauss winning a boatload of awards: "We have just been informed that Chris Brown will not be attending tonight's 51st annual Grammy Awards. We're sorry he's unable to join us."

--Mark Medina

Beatle says Grammys performance is reward enough, thank you

Paul McCartney, who wore a T-shirt underneath his jacket that displayed all four Beatles with red noses, riffed on many topics to the weary backstage journalists tonight.

The Wings braintrust was nominated for Best Solo Rock Performance for his rendition of "I Saw Her Standing There" at Amoeba Records, but he lost out to John Mayer, whom Seacrest, oh Seacrest, deemed a legend already. McCartney's still up for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, but either way, he can handle whatever comes his way: "I don't come to win it -- I come to be in it. I'm honored to be asked [to perform]. I was watching the Golden Globes and I saw Mickey [Rourke] win for best actor but in the audience there is Clint [Eastwood] and Brad [Pitt]. You come to be a part of of it. You don’t come to win."

Always a chatty one, he continued on: "Give it up. It's the Grammys. It's L.A. It's exciting for me. I'm enthusiastic with what I do with my life. It's really good to be here. Look at me. I'm talking to the press! This is cool."

On Coachella, which he'll be headlining on opening night: "I was asked to do it and I heard it was a cool festival. The dates worked and I was excited to do it. Everybody tells me it's a beautiful location and great show and audiences. That’s enough for me. As for the set I'll play whatever seems right."

--Mark Medina

Al Green: Call Me

Was Al Green the soulful knight in armor, swooping in to perform in the absence of Rihanna and Chris Brown?

On being called for the last-minute performance of "Let's Stay Together," the legendary singer said, "We had 2 hours and 40 minutes. I was in the shower and didn’t have anything on and they said,  'Whatever you have, throw it in the bag and come on.' We had 2 hours and 40 minutes to rehearse, come back on stage and change and then go out and do it.

"There was so much energy. It's just spontaneous. You can't make it up. You don't have time to make it up."

Was he told why he was asked to perform so last-minute? "No, they didn't tell us. They said put [the clothes] in the bag and come on. We just threw everything in the bag. That's it."

--Mark Medina

Carpet is closed but the chatter is flowing...

Many music celebs declined to comment on the Chris Brown situation, but it's fair to say news of Brown's alleged domestic violence incident and Rihanna's hospitalization has sent a shudder through Staples Center. The news has rippled through the place via Twitter, iPhone and Blackberry at amazing speed. The general reaction as far as Brown is concerned seems to be disbelief. Reporters were talking about it on the carpet, guys in the mens' room, and even publicists have been rolling their eyes thinking about what Chris Brown's publicist must be dealing with now.

--Chris Lee

We suffer for, and through, fashion

Say what you will about the music industry's financial woes. Its denizens still "clean up" in, shall we say, a unique manner. They do black tie like no other quadrant of popular culture. On conspicuous display at the arrivals line were any number of people with mohawks, faux-hawks and facial tattoos. Hip-hop dudes seemed partial to bespoke formal wear -- Ginuwine, Flo Rida, LL Cool J and David Banner please stand up. While others admitted to being victimized by their fashion choices. "Am I having fun?" asked British R&B chanteuse Adele. "Yeah. But my feet are hurting!"

--Chris Lee

The princess of the red carpet... and climbing trees

The carpet crush also provided a revealing look at the event's social matrix. Paris Hilton and Mayor Villaraigosa arrived at roughly the same instant. And while Hizzoner received a few perfunctory "woos" from lookyloos and entreaties from reporters, the celebrity heiress threatened to eclipse the star power of any number of pop stars with quantitative talents.

Dressed in an iridescent micro-mini, her entrance before the photographers caused pandemonium. Disney pop starlet Miley Cyrus, by contrast, turned up looking demurely elegant in a black evening gown. Asked about her expectations for the evening, the "Hannah Montana" star gave a shout out to the person with whom she was scheduled to duet -- country music's blondtastic next big thing Taylor Swift.

"We've been friends for years," Cyrus said. "Taylor's my date tonight." That remark prompted the Best Rock Performance winners, Kings of Leon, to ponder which of the tween icons they would prefer for, ahem, amorous relations. "Taylor Swift," said frontman Caleb Followill. "I like them tall women. I like to climb a tree."

--Chris Lee

Replacements for Chris Brown and Rihanna?

According to the rundown that was released to the media, Rihanna was scheduled to perform "Live Your Life"/"Disturbia" after the Best R&B album was announced. Coldplay and Carrie Underwood were scheduled to perform next. After the Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, LL Cool J was to introduce Chris Brown, on schedule to perform "Forever."

The Grammys have yet to release an official statement regarding Chris Brown, but it is thought that he won't be in attendance.

So who will perform instead of Rihanna and Brown? Barb Dehgan, the Recording Academy's vice president, communications and media relations, isn't spilling the beans: "You'll find out. You're about to see."

--Mark Medina

Paula Abdul, Robin Thicke on Chris Brown and Rihanna

So far, little information has been released about the alleged domestic violence incident involving Chris Brown or Rihanna's reported car accident, but the Recording Academy has released a statement saying Rihanna will not be in attendance tonight.

"American Idol" judge Paula Adbul is waiting to hear more information: "I'm hearing some mixed things about what happened. All I can say is I hope Rihanna heals quickly. She's a lovely girl."

R&B superstar Robin Thicke waves off the idea that Chris Brown might be guilty of domestic violence: "I can't accept that claim at all. Knowing him, I'm sure there's no truth to that."

--Chris Lee

The red carpet is heating up

Half an hour to showtime, the red carpet morphed into a cramped sea of famous-faced humanity. And the number of stars on hand with actual, vested interests in the music industry was enough to cause whiplash. There's Neil Diamond! Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Marisa Miller, wow, what are you wearing? Rapper David Banner stopped talking mid-interview to get in on a lil celeb-on-celeb action. "I'm going to hug Cyndi Lauper right now. Be right back."

--Chris Lee

The thrill is never gone

Yolanda Adams, winner of many Gospel category awards in years prior, says the thrill of winning a Grammy never dims: "The Grammys still means 'top-notch, you're the best in the business.' When your peers voted for you, it shows the people in the industry enjoy what you do and appreciate what you do. No matter how many times you're nominated, when you receive it, it's the same joy and awestruckness. You put your heart and soul into it."

--Mark Medina

Every red carpet has its script

An unspoken corollary of red carpet etiquette at the Grammys seems to be if you are a semi-famous or a below-C-list non-musical celebrity, you should by rights come early, walk the carpet and talk every reporter's ear off. If you are a somewhat successful or very successful musician and arrive early, you can blow off doing interviews.

Case in point: A resplendently top-hatted T-Pain blew past the line of anxious reporters. And burn victim/superstar DJAM (aka Adam Goldstein) ambled by nearly unrecognized in a brown pinstripe suit.

--Chris Lee

Wise words from celebutante Kim Kardashian

Unbowed by the threat of monsoon-like rains and the worst economic woes since the Great Depression, a cluttered mash-up of bold-faced names slipped on its finest bling and wide-grinning game faces to brave the tented red carpet of the 51st Grammy Awards.

Early on, non-musicians dominated the scene. There was the glowering mixed martial arts champion Chuck Liddell, looking ready to kick someone's ass despite being attired in black tie. "The Hills"' star Audrina Patridge drew screams from a cluster of excitable Millennial kids, no doubt recruited for their ability to scream on cue. And reality TV celebutante Kim Kardashian took her time beneath the glittering crystal chandeliers, in the red carpet tent erected here against the rain, to field a few dopey questions from the scrum of hungry journalists. Her sage wisdom for those nominated tonight? "Let loose. Have a little fun," Kardashian said.

--Chris Lee

Congrats, John Linnell, but can you restart your Dial-a-Song hotline please?

They Might be Giants co-resident geek John Linnell has a theory for why "Here Comes the 123s" sold well, including jumping to Amazon's Top 10.

"Those kids are loaded," joked Linnell, whose band won a Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children.

"What's great is as revenues go down for various reasons, there are parents who [are] more than willing to buy CDs for kids. They're  less inclined to steal music for their kids. That's working for us, but  we only know our own story."

Nevermind plummeting CD sales, it's been all those thieving parents messing with the music industry.

--Mark Medina

Poor Canada

Our neighbors to the north just never get their due, not even from their own.

Jason Reitman was so surprised "Juno" won a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack that the Canadian-born director forgot to thank his home country in his acceptance speech.

"I promised I'd thank the country of Canada if we won, knowing we wouldn't win," Reitman said, whose movie soundtrack competed against "American Gangster," "August Rush," "Mamma Mia!" and "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street."

"So, thank you, Canada," Reitman said later in the backstage press conference. "We stole Jay-Z's award," he said. "I'm not surprised if we're beat up on the way out."

--Mark Medina

Posthumous Grammy for Carlin

Kelly Carlin on her father, George Carlin, who won his fifth Grammy for "It's Bad for Ya," an album released a month after he died of heart failure last year, in this year's Best Comedy Album category:

"He was a very serious guy. He was very driven with his work and took care of his working day a lot. He could be silly. But he wasn't an off-on kind of guy."

On whether she took his comedy for granted:  "I'm an easy laugh, as he was too. He was a very easy laugh."

Other nominees for Best Comedy Album included Harry Shearer's "Songs of the Bushmen."

--Mark Medina

Photo of Carrie Underwood by Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images