Yes, it's that time of year again. Once the New Year turns and everyone reflects on the past, we launch headlong into awards season. The Golden Globes and Oscars, People's Choice and Grammys, they all come rolling through. To be perfectly honest, none of them truly excite me anymore.
As a music fan, I should be able to at least get excited about the Grammys, but I long ago realized just how out of touch the awards are. It's all big business and rubbing shoulders and name recognition -- and occasionally someone relevant will work their way in.
I probably learned my first hard lesson about the Grammys in high school, when I was duped into running out and buying Toto IV, because it won Album of the Year. Were they great studio musicians? Yes. And it was a great sounding album, technically But selling it to me as a great rock album? I still think not.
Then, a faux pas that will forever follow the Grammys came the year that they finally added a Heavy Metal/Hard Rock category (at least a decade late) and gave the award to whom? Surely, you remember: Jethro Tull. Over Metallica. Over Slipknot. Over... hell, anyone. Just more proof that this was all a joke.
Nevertheless, so long as this is America, we'll have awards. And as long as there's a music industry, there will be the Grammys. And occasionally the awards manage to stir just a little interest in me.
After all, it's hard not to get just a little bit excited when you see people from you home state rewarded for their work, especially when it's someone from your hometown. And this year, Oklahoma -- and even Tulsa -- are represented among the nominees. I might even have to watch, or at least TiVo it and fast-forward through the highlights.
What highlights might those be? If I'm strictly cheering for the Oklahoma artists, you know an Okie will almost certainly show up in the country categories and this year is no different.
Carrie Underwood got a nod this year for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her song "Temporary Home" and Toby Keith grabbed a nomination in the Best Country Male Vocal Performance for "Cryin' for Me (Wayman's Song)." Blake Shelton even got nominated for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals with Trace Adkins on "Hillbilly Bone."
Personally, I'm not expecting a win for any of them. Of course, a domination in the country category is almost expected, but Oklahoma also has a tie to the Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals categories if you're willing to stretch a little and consider the fact that (now) Nashville, Tenn. natives Kings of Leon grew up in Oklahoma and still have family ties here. Their song "Radioactive" garnered nominations in both categories, but faces stiff competition from The Black Keys and Muse in each.
If you're looking for Tulsa ties, Leon Russell picked up a nomination in Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for his duet with Elton John, "If It Wasn't for Bad." In all honesty, Elton and Leon may actually pull this one out as all four of the other nominees stand to split the R&B and pop votes, giving the elder statesmen of the category an advantage, as well as the name recognition and sentimental spoiler edge.
Easily the most interesting to me, however, is the emergence of songwriters Michael and Lisa Gungor and the band that hold their surname, Gungor, in the Gospel categories. "Beautiful Things," the title track for the band's latest album, is simply a beautiful song that's haunting and ambient, reflecting on brokenness, redemption and renewal. At its heart, the song is pure worship music, but the execution and production make it a lilting and inspiring slice of modern pop, reminding us that Christian music -- and specifically worship music -- doesn't always fit into the stereotypes that are often set up for the genres.
Musically, the band can stand next to indie bands with chamber-pop leaning like Decemberists and even Arcade Fire, but "Beautiful Things" reveals and even more tender and vulnerable musical spot for the band. Built around Michael's acoustic guitar and Michael and Lisa's intertwining vocals, the song builds to a soaring and inspiring climax. I suppose most worship music expected to do that, but this steps so far outside the stereotypical gospel mode and into indie rock that it stands on its own outside of any categorization.
It's refreshing then to see a fellow Tulsan (Michael's father is Ed Gungor, author and pastor of People's Church, not to mention brother Rob, of OK Sweetheart) get some recognition, even if the Grammys haven't been known to particularly gravitate toward creative breakthroughs.
In reality, the nominations in Best Gospel Song and Best Rock or Rap Gospel Album will most likely be overwhelmed by the likes of better known names like Kirk Whalum, Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin in the song category and Switchfoot and David Crowder Band for best album. Nevertheless, it's still exciting to see one of our own score one for the underdog and make their presence known amidst the established artists.
Unfortunately, both categories will also likely be hidden in the 'also won' listing for categories awarded before broadcast. Nevertheless, I'll still be holding out hope for a dark horse win, not just because Gungor's a hometown act, but because the song and album more than deserve the recognition. An unexpected win, even if it goes largely overlooked, would be a victory not only for the underdogs, but for creativity and independent spirit. Of course, it wouldn't be too bad to be able to claim bragging rights for Tulsa, either. Good luck, Mike and Lisa -- we'll be pulling for you this Sunday night. (The awards are Sunday, Feb. 13, on CBS.)
Hopefully, by the time you're reading this, the big thaw will at least be on its way. Even if it's not, however, you can still warm up with some great music and shows both big and small to keep your spirits up.
Thursday night, Feb. 10, is highlighted by touring acts like Ingram Hill at Cain's Ballroom. The week's real highlight, however, is the arrival of metal's reigning "Prince of Darkness" (or should that be Grandfather of Darkness?), Ozzy Osbourne at BOK Center. Not only does he have his own new hotshot guitarist, Gus G, with him, but Slash will open the show.
Friday, Feb. 11, is a good night to support your local artists by checking out Dustin Pittsley at Blue Rose Café, Susan Herndon and Brian Parton at Eclipse, Klondike 5 at Soundpony, Hosty Duo at Fassler Hall and Branjae and the AllStars at Hibiscus. The night's best surprise, however, just might be Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy at Mercury Lounge.
Saturday night, Feb. 12, is busy downtown with One Gun Solution at Downtown Lounge, RadioRadio at Hunt Club and Lonesome Heroes at Crystal Pistol while Eli Young Band returns to Cain's Ballroom with 2 Steps Back opening the show. If you haven't been to The Colony lately, Jesse Aycock makes it a great night to stop in and warm up there, as well.
Finally, the weekend wraps up with Less than Jake and The Supervillains at The Marquee on Sunday night before Valentine's Day arrives with the comforting pop of Dante Schmitz at The Kitchen or punk rock for your broken heart at Downtown Lounge with The Decomposed and The Rocketz. Whatever you do, have fun and stay warm!
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