Author: Kainoa King
Celebrating the best music of 2009, The 52nd Annual Grammy Awards took place Sunday, Jan. 31 at the Staples Center here in Los Angeles. Featuring performers as innovative as Beyonce and as legendary as Elton John, this year’s award ceremony was not only entertaining, but also quite thought-provoking.
Despite the diversity of artists who were nominated and performed at this year’s Grammys, it seems that music as a whole is moving into a heavily electronic-pop direction, with the genres of R&B, rock and country converging into one big, ambiguous pop genre.
Lady Gaga’s scary, yet genius, monster-themed performance with Sir Elton John opened up the night, and this intense collaboration really speaks toward the new direction music is headed in.
The performance started off with Gaga revealing her more soulful vocal abilities, but, like any Lady Gaga performance, soon spun out of control into a frantic dance number with people dressed in ashen costumes and zombie-like makeup.
Soon after, Elton John appeared and the two artists began singing a version of Lady Gaga’s “Speechless” infused with Elton John’s “Your Song.”
Although the legendary Elton John was performing with Lady Gaga, the performance still seemed very “Gaga-oriented;” Lady Gaga didn’t try to cater her sound to Elton John’s, but he seemed to be consumed by the poppy, over-the-top elements of her style.
The way in which Elton John seemed completely overshadowed by his performance partner serves as a perfect example of how traditional styles are being forgotten in the face of a new type of contemporary pop.
Beyonce, who, at the beginning of her career, sang exclusively R&B music, also seems like she’s being pressured by the “pop movement,” and is therefore conforming to it. This is most evident in her cross-over Grammy wins with “Halo” as best female pop vocal performance and “Single Ladies” as best female R&B vocal performance.
While “Single Ladies” won in the R&B category, it is still significantly more pop-influenced than her older hits such as “Baby Boy.” In fact, it seems the only reason she may have won in the R&B section (well, more specifically, every female R&B category) is because she was the only female artist with any R&B background at the Grammys.
Taylor Swift is another artist who has adopted a heavily pop-influenced rendition of a more traditional genre. Like Beyonce, Swift displayed success in her default genre, country, as well as in the pop genre.
She took home best country album for “Fearless,” but more notably, she won album of the year – something that country music hadn’t yet been able to accomplish.
Also, like Beyonce, it seems much of her success is owed to the fact that she is able to cross over into the pop genre as well as please the country audience.
It is interesting that Taylor Swift won every female country award with such an obvious pop influence in her music.
In fact, when her songs are played on the radio, most of the time they are pop remixes of the originals. It seems that if a song is to even get radio play, it must reach a certain “pop standard.”
This may be because mainstream music audiences are becoming more and more accustomed to a watered- down version of country – country music augmented with synth, poppy beats.
This new pop fad not only seems to be directly influencing the styles of music produced by the artists themselves, but also seems to be a requirement for attaining a certain level of commercial success as a musician.
The Grammy Awards, which used to celebrate the uniqueness of the music behind all forms of genres and styles, has transformed into honoring genres which can sound closest to pop.
As the distinct lines between country, R&B and pop are being blurred, the unique talents of the artists are being conformed to sound the same, with the legendary elements of each respective genre fading away.
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