Idol Chatter

It was a night for unity and positivity at the Grammys–except for one glaring omission!

“The Police” got back together. African-American-Old-Guy Stevie Wonder won with Older-White-Guy Tony Bennett. Justin Timberlake’s “What Goes Around” featured a white guy singing with a largely African-American back-up band while mixing pop and soul with rap and R&B while orchestra strings filled the background. Rascal Flats covered Don Henley, Carrie Underwood covered really old-time Country guy Bob Wills, and old folks from Burt Bacharach to Joan Baez to Herb Alpert were were strongly featured.

Lionel Ritchie and Smokey Robinson joined Chris Brown and Christina Aguilera in a classic retrospective, while three young individual acts (Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend, and John Mayer) performed together. Breakout winner Carrie Underwood let “Jesus Take the Wheel,” while Oprah Winfrey and Bill O’Reilly both managed to make it into the same acceptance speech! There were as many movie star and politician presenters as musicians.

But one glaring contrast came in comparing the spirit and content of two of the evening’s big winners’ acceptance speeches. Mary J. Blige was full of faith-based inspiration, while the the Dixie Chicks were full of vindication-inspired redemption. In the end, it appears both were fulfilled.

“I just have to thank my Father God, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” said Mary J. Blige upon her first win (for Best R&B album) before even getting to her note card. “This is the first time I’ve ever been up here to receive anything, and I thank you so much.” And then she got to her notes. “I just want to thank God for this album and this award for this album. It shows that I’m… growing into a better human being.”

After winning her second award, she was completely ad lib: “Praise you Father, Thank you Jesus.” No notes. “I done thanked everybody I could possibly think of. It’s in the valley that we realize who we really are. It’s in the success that we realize who we really are. I want to use by success to build bridges, not to burn ‘em.”

By comparison, the Dixie Chicks had also burned quite a few bridges with their political statements and tough stance in response to it. Their award-winning hit “Not Ready to Make Nice” was a strategic collaboration with writer Dan Wilson arranged by Producer Rick Rubin to answer some negative response to their criticism of President Bush. In their five trips to the awards podium, they were wonderfully disciplined not to say anything embarrassing or divisive, but it was obvious that they felt vindicated and affirmed by the Grammy voters as much for their stance as for their album.

In the end, both Mary J. Blige and the Dixie Chicks found some redemption in their award-winning recognition. And maybe the future will be different, as lead Chick Natalie Maines’ (perhaps in a moment of I’ve-just-won-five-Grammys-glee) proclaimed “Okay, I’m ready to make nice” as she took the stage for the evening’s top award.

But she’s not quite ready to let “Jesus take the wheel.”

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