The week began with music's biggest night of the year, the Grammy Awards, at which Lady Gaga stole the show in a series of one-upping wacky costumes and a duet with Elton John; Beyonce made history by winning six awards, more than any woman ever on a single night at the Grammys; Michael Jackson was honored with a special 3D tribute and a sweet speech by his own children; and Taylor Swift's Fearless won Album Of The Year.
But long after viewers had stopped dishing about who wore what and who won what, the watercooler subject on everyone's lips and minds was Taylor's Grammy night duet with Stevie Nicks--which generated a swift backlash indeed, with many music critics and bloggers blasting Taylor's off-key vocals. The head of Taylor's record label attempted to defend his star client, but his comments only seemed to make matters worse. In a phone interview about the post-Grammys backlash, Big Machine Records CEO Scott Borchetta (who blamed Taylor's vocal problems on technical issues that prevented her from properly hearing the audio mix) stated: "This is not American Idol. This is not a competition of getting up and seeing who can sing the highest note. This is about a true artist and writer and communicator. It's not about that technically perfect performance."
The drama escalated when the original American Idol (and a Grammy-winner herself), Kelly Clarkson, took offense at Borchetta's dig at the TV show that launched her career. In her personal blog, Kelly angrily wrote: "I understand defending your artist obviously because I have done the same in the past for artists I like, including Taylor, so you might see why its upsetting to read you attacking American Idol for producing simply vocalists that hit 'the high notes.' Thank you for that 'Captain Obvious' sense of humor because you know what, we not only hit the high notes, you forgot to mention we generally hit the 'right' notes as well. Every artist has a bad performance or two and that is understandable, but throwing blame will not make the situation at hand any better. I have been criticized left and right for having shaky performances before (and they were shaky) and what my manager or label executives say to me and the public is 'I'll kick butt next time' or 'every performance isn't going to be perfect'......I bring this up because you should take a lesson from these people and instead of lashing out at other artists (that in your 'humble' opinion lack true artistry), you should simply take a breath and realize that sometimes things won't go according to plan or work out and that's okay."
Yowsa. Where's Kanye when you need him, to interrupt this mess?
Anyway, in more benevolent allstar news, the day after the Grammys in Los Angeles marked the perfect opportunity to harness all the star power in town for a 25th-anniversary remake of "We Are The World," to benefit Haiti. An impressive 70 artists (double the number that participated in the original version) gathered with executive producers Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie (who oversaw the 1985 recording session) and Wyclef Jean to contribute their talent and time--everyone from old-school legends like Carlos Santana, Natalie Cole, Heart, Gladys Knight, Barbra Streisand, and Brian Wilson, to younger stars like the Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus, to even Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, and Snoop Dogg adding a rap chorus. Additionally, in a touching twist, Janet Jackson will sing her late brother Michael's part on the 2010 remake.
Other artists in Britain assembled to help Haiti this week as well. Simon Cowell, who apparently is a nice guy after all, oversaw a charity remake of R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts," featuring Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis, Mariah Carey, Kylie Minogue, Miley Cyrus, Jon Bon Jovi, Mika, Robbie Williams, Michael Buble, Rod Stewart, James Blunt, and James Morrison, among many others. And the Pogues' Shane MacGowan came up with a self-described "alternative" Haiti benefit single, a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' voodoo classic "I Put A Spell On You," featuring Nick Cave, the Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde, Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, the Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock, the Clash's Mick Jones, and even part-time musician Johnny Depp and Depp's actress/singer girlfriend Vanessa Paradis. It's nice to see musicians from all walks of life, and all genres and generations, stepping up to help.
One artist missing in action this week at all these recording sessions, and at the Grammys, was the seemingly fallen-out Fall Out Boy. The hugely selling rock band's entire future came into doubt when it was announced this week that FOB's lead singer and main songwriter, Patrick Stump, is leaving the lineup. All week long the band was embroiled in a Twitter battle, starting with Patrick's tweet about his resignation, followed by a series of outraged tweets from his (ex?) bandmates denying that Patrick had actually quit. As of this writing, it still unclear whether Patrick has officially left FOB for good, whether the band will continue without him, or if the band even still exists at all. If Fall Out Boy indeed are no more, then bassist Pete Wentz will have a lot more free time to spend with his wife Ashlee Simpson-Wentz, who also recently retired from the music business.
Discussing his FOB departure with Spin this week, Patrick Stump mused: "Steven Tyler isn't in Aerosmith anymore, but his gravestone will probably say something about Aerosmith." Which brings us to the subject of several lawsuits this week, namely a possible one by Steven Tyler to prevent Aerosmith from hiring a singer to replace him. Steven's attorney, Skip Miller, recently sent a four-page letter to Aerosmith's manager requesting that the band "immediately cease and desist from engaging in acts and conduct to the harm and detriment of your own client, Aerosmith, and our client who is one of its members."
Miller told Billboard.com: "Can you imagine the manager of the Rolling Stones calling for the replacement of Mick Jagger? It's just absurd...Tyler is very unique, distinctive. Steven is Aerosmith, along with the others. He's the guy the public knows. He's the singer. I'm blown away that the current manager would even suggest something like [replacing him]."
Miller also revealed he has arranged a meeting of Aerosmith's "shareholders" on February 9 to discuss the band's future. "Steven Tyler does not want lawsuits," he insisted. "We do not want to go in that direction. The direction we want is Aerosmith, with Steven Tyler, touring in Europe, touring Latin America, releasing a new album...This is the direction it's all intended to go. It's just amazing to me current management would be taking any other position."
So there's another band whose lineup and future are still very much in doubt.
As for other legal matters, Men At Work lost a plagiarism case after being accused of ripping off an old Australian children's folk tune in their hit "Down Under"; R&B star Jill Scott was sued by her longtime record label for allegedly skipping out halfway on her album contract; troubled former '70s teen idol Leif Garrett was booked for carrying heroin in an L.A. subway station; and Bruce Springsteen's name appeared on a lawsuit demanding licensing fees from a Manhattan bar where a cover band played his music, but he later asked his name to be removed, claiming he didn't know about the suit and wanted no part of it.
Expect legal matters to dominate next week's post too, when the death case against Michael Jackson's controversial physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, is scheduled to be filed. Until then, goodnight and good music.
THIS WEEK'S TOP 10 STORIES:
1) Grammys Night Is Ladies' Night - Pop queens Beyonce, Taylor, and Gaga reign at music's top awards show.
2) Swift Backlash - Taylor's flat Grammy performance sparks outrage from bloggers, viewers, Kelly Clarkson.
3) New "World" - Seventy pop stars join forces for a "We Are The World" remake.
4) Fall Out Boy Fall Out - Patrick Stump announces he is quitting the band.
5) Not-So-Sweet Emotion - Steven Tyler's lawyer considers suing to stop Aerosmith from hiring a replacement frontman.
6) Smells Like Teen Spirit, Again - Kurt Cobain's 17-year-old daughter is set to make her singing debut.
7) Men At Work Go Down Under In Court - The Australian band loses in a plagiarism case.
8) Subterranean Blues For Leif Garrett - The fallen teen idol is arrested in an L.A. subway.
9) Scott Not Free - Jill Scott is sued by her record label.
10) Bruce Battle - Springsteen wants no part of a lawsuit filed in his name.