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JIM FARBER | Commentary Grammy got it wrong



Published: Wed, February 16, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Sentimental gestures have a sacred place in our lives. And deservedly so. Someone dies, you send flowers. Or make a condolence call.

You do not, however, award them a Grammy -- or eight.

But Grammy voters Sunday night bestowed a treasure trove of trophies on "Genius Loves Company," the final album from Ray Charles, who died last year.

Not only is "Genius" not the Album of the Year, it could be the least necessary album of Charles' career.

Cut in the last year of his life, "Genius" captures a man who's clearly far from his towering power. Little of his brilliant phrasing or rich tone comes through. Worse, pairing one of music's greatest stars with a round of overexposed boomer-bait names from Elton John to Van Morrison plunges straight into the heart of marketing cliche.

This is the most depressing, and reflexive, Album of the Year award since Natalie Cole won for "Unforgettable," her morbid series of duets with her late father, 15 long years ago.

The Grammy salute to Ray was just the cherry on top of a full evening's worth of moldy cake.

The song

John Mayer's "Daughter" as Song of the Year? That had to come from some sort of split vote. Nobody thought that thing would win, including the singer himself. Backstage, Mayer joked that he thought he should screw off the top half of the award for himself and give the base to Alicia Keys for "If I Ain't Got You."

Mayer's piece reeks of insincerity. An icky ode to good child-rearing, the song seems like some speech you'd hear on "Leave It to Beaver" from Eddie Haskell, the guy who was always sucking up to his parents by telling them what they wanted to hear.

Not to be outdone in this year's sins, there's the "Best New Artist" award.

Ouch

Of the five choices, voters went for the worst: Maroon 5. Not since A Taste of Honey beat Elvis Costello in 1977 has there been a doozy of a boo-boo like this. Contenders Kanye West, Gretchen Wilson and Los Lonely Boys all have it over Maroon in innovation, personality and just plain tunes.

Grammy voters also fell into the trap of giving long-running artists awards for inferior works just because they felt self-conscious about ignoring their greatest ones.

Both Rod Stewart and Brian Wilson bagged their first prizes this year -- for some of their lousiest recordings. Rod was honored for the third of his Standards CDs, (as Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album). Brian Wilson got the Best Rock Instrumental Performance trinket for "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow." The latter is a novelty throwaway, the former manages to make Cole Porter songs seem unsophisticated.

Did voters get everything wrong?

The right one

Not quite. Green Day's "American Idiot" landed Best Rock Album, which it certainly is. And Alicia Keys took four R & amp;B awards for material that returns the genre to a golden age.

But otherwise, Grammy voters brought us back to the dark years -- that terrifying era when dross like "We Are the World" took top honors, and Jethro Tull were seen as the world's greatest makers of heavy metal.

XJim Farber writes for New York Daily News




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