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Kanye West opens tour in Seattle, Grammy wrap-up, Natalie Cole snubs Winehouse victory
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Fresh from an electrifying Grammy performance with Parisian dance duo Daft Punk, Kanye West embarks on a major tour that launches at Seattle's Key Arena on April 16. The famed rapper won four awards on Sunday night, yet was denied Album of the Year a third time. So much for third time's a charm, eh? West's upcoming Emerald City appearance, the initial date on a lengthy spring-summer outing, touts Rihanna, Lupe Fiasco and N.E.R.D. as supporting acts. Rihanna and Fiasco received their career-first Grammys last weekend. Tickets for the Key Arena extravaganza go on sale February 16 (9 a.m.) at all Ticketmaster locations, priced between $45 and $95. This is your opportunity to see Rihanna in concert, not to mention West and rising star Fiasco. West's previous visit to Seattle was Bumbershoot in 2006.

Let's talk about those Grammys. I was actually pleased with the winners list this year, more so than I have been in previous years. Winehouse nabbed five trophies, including Best New Artist and the all-important Record of the Year prize. Her satellite-fed appearance was reasonable, but I expected a bit more sizzle. Not lacking in the sizzle department, however, was Tina Turner and Beyonce's shimmy-good duet of "Proud Mary." Beyonce introduced the leggy pop-rock legend as the "Queen of Soul," which has since rattled Aretha Franklin who patented that title many moons ago (or so she believes). By the way, I loves me some Aretha Franklin but in that yellow dress she looked like a giant glob of butter. The best performance on Sunday's gala was "Stronger" by West and Daft Punk. Also exceptional was the collaborative Beatles tribute from casts of Cirque du Soleil's Love and Julie Taymor's Across the Universe. A sexed-up delivery of "Before He Cheats" by Carrie Underwood was so-so and the mashing of Keely Smith, Kid Rock and Gay saxophonist Dave Koz was just plain weird, if not silly.

Winners' circle highlights, aside from Winehouse and West, include Angelique Kidjo (Seattle Gay News interviewee in 2006) for Best Contemporary World Music Album, Alicia Keys for Best R&B Female Vocal, Maroon 5 for Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group with Vocal, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss for Best Pop Vocal Collaboration, Beastie Boys for Best Pop Instrumental, Bruce Springsteen for Best Rock Song, Calle 13 for Best Latin Urban Album, Flight Of The Conchords (on Seattle-based Sub Pop Records) for Best Comedy Album, and Madonna for Best Long Form Music Video. My final note on the Grammy Awards - and it has to do with its dismal ratings - is that so many of the show's presenters are beyond retirement, such as Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Natalie Cole, Bonnie Raitt, and Quincy Jones. Each is well respected, but if Grammy organizers want more people to tune in they must add younger talent to attract young consumers, who comprise a huge chunk of the music-buying public.

Speaking of Natalie Cole, controversy erupted when she dismissed Amy Winehouse's five wins at the Grammys as "undeserving." In a post-ceremony interview, the jazz-soul vocalist told an entertainment reporter that Winehouse needed to clean up her drug habit before being showered with award recognition. This coming from someone who also had a drug habit and has also been showered with award recognition. Cole went on to say that it was the wrong message we're sending to our youth, to reward "bad behavior." I understand what Cole is trying to say, but it's the Recording Academy that gives out Grammy Awards not the Behavior Monitoring Academy. Winehouse was judged by her peers for artistic merit, not for her bill of health. Cole, who was spoon-fed a music career, should know better than to toss stones at fellow colleagues. It must be a hard knock life cashing royalty checks from daddy's old 45s.

Finally, on a Seattle note, I'm excited to attend a performance by The Blakes on February 15. I'll have a review of that show in next week's issue. Many local bands have risen and fallen, never quite capitalizing on their hype. But I believe The Blakes are the exception. I can't wait for this show! If you read this on Friday, February 15 then you have time to buy tickets at the door at Chop Suey. The Blakes are headlining, likely to go onstage around 11 p.m. or later. My friend from New York took a listen to one song last weekend, and already downloaded their album.

Until next week, check out new music from Jack Johnson, Shelby Lynne, and kd lang at your favorite CD or online store.
picture: Rihanna
 

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