GRAMMY SLAP-UP... The Grammy Awards are supposed to celebrate the year's most creative music, not just the year's most popular. But of course the ceremony is little more than another glorified popularity contest: The entertainment industries often seem to live only to congratulate themselves. Our question isn't to ask why, it's to buy. And that can be well-nigh impossible, with the industry's disinterest in offering CD singles, especially among nominees for best dance remix. Did you even know there was such a category? Maybe you've seen the fleeting references to it, or to the Best Dance Recording category. No Doubt's inclusion in the latter had Newsweek suggesting the group could now be called a “dance band.” If “Hella Good” is the marking of a dance band, then let there be more like it to come.
The dance recording award has been somewhat of a laughingstock in its few short years of existence -- remember Baha Men's unconscionable win with “Who Let the Dogs Out?” This year, No Doubt faced first-rate competition from Kylie Minogue, Dirty Vegas, Groove Armada and Daniel Bedingfield, who should have won for “Gotta Get Thru This.” Dirty Vegas would like to thank Mitsubishi for letting them drive off with the award for “Days Gone By.” Kylie Minogue wasn't nominated for “Can't Get You Outta My Head” because her label didn't put the song in this category, instead choosing “Love at First Sight.” Oops.
This year should have been a good year to honor the work of producers, but The Neptunes (Nelly, Justin Timberlake) and Linda Perry (Pink) were omitted from the producer nominees, allowing Norah Jones's producer to walk away with the award. And this year's ceremony anointed Jones over both Bruce Springsteen and Eminem as the most celebrated artist. Jones only garnered mass attention after the nominees were announced, so her sweep came as a surprise. The Grammys like to surprise us, of course, but few previous years' surprise winners were as deserving as Jones. (Sadly, next year's Grammys will see a return of both Steely Dan and Santana.) This year's show also surprised by including performers who demonstrated exceptional musical talent: Jones, Vanessa Carlton, John Mayer, even the Dixie Chicks.
But there continues to be a serious neglect of the dance consumer in the music industry. Reading the nominees for Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical, count yourself among a lucky few if you've ever heard the remixes before, much less if you've heard of them: Roger Sanchez (No Doubt's “Hella Good”), Felix da Housecat (Rinocerose's “Lost Love”), Your Friends From San Francisco (Jill Scott's “He Loves Me”), Maurice Joshua (Beyonce Knowles's “Work It Out”), Steve “Silk” Hurley (Brandy's “What About Us”). It's the rare mix-CD that features Grammy nominees, the rare store (even online) that sells them. Because many, if not most, were never meant for public consumption, and if you can find them, it's on vinyl. It's a DJ's world, we just happen to live in it. We could only find one of the five on CD, and that was the eventual winner. No wonder Sanchez won. (Though from most accounts he deserved it.)
BEST REMIXED ALBUM, NON-CLASSICAL… If there were such a Grammy category, Tony Moran's Global Groove: House would have won it this year. Instead Moran wasn't nominated for his great work last year in either of the two dance music categories. Showing no hard feelings whatsoever, Moran has released a new compilation, Maze (Centaur Entertainment), nearly as Grammy-worthy as Global Groove: House. He's not consistently good -- pass over his last Centaur release, Party Groove: Hotlanta -- and he mars his latest by loading it with noisy, testosterone-laden tracks as too many other DJs do. But much of Moran's supply of testosterone here is strangely alluring. Robbie Rivera's “The Hum Melody” is not deserving of most of its critical buzz, and nor is it hummable. But it works all the same. Oscar G & Ralph Falcon's “Dark Beat” is surprisingly good, though it's no longer a surprise once you learn that these two are the boys of Funky Green Dogs. Moran has included, as usual, four of his own productions, including his reworking of “Die Another Day,” which he oddly credits to “Bond-Age,” not the antiwar crusader named Madonna that it is. (Did he not get her consent?) And Moran is at his peak with the closer “Let It Go.” He co-wrote this peaceful, babbling brook of a house tune, on which his very own passionate tenor runs crisp and clear over the smoothened tribal, atmospheric rhythms. I've never felt more refreshed. So Tony, we definitely want to check you out at the new nightclub Maze (formerly Salvation) in Miami, but your Washington DJ debut is long overdue. As you write in your liner notes, “I can't wait to see you...in your city soon.” Velvet, are you listening?
Doug Rule can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.