Vital Signs

The Grammys' Growl

It is encouraging to see that Michael Jackson is still capable of something more than Pepsi commercials. That he didn't pick up an award is, as many have suggested, a backlash against the success of Thriller. But the correlation is not as direct as it seems. The real problem is that Jackson is not the least bit reticent when it comes to enjoying his enormous success. He is the Malcolm Forbes of the music world: instead of collecting Faberge eggs and making grand tours on a motorcycle, Jackson builds a zoo in his backyard and travels with a monkey.

The rock industry likes to pretend that it is, if not quite penniless, at least as down-at-the-heels as its Reebokwearing fans. Jackson's extravagance explodes this fiction, and his colleagues don't like him giving the game away. Major donations to the United Negro College Fund rather than to the Sandinistas don't help Jackson much, either.

O Grammys, where was thy Sting? Or Paul Simon? Or Bruce Springsteen? Or Smokey Robinson? All were big winners: Best Pop Vocal, Male ("Bring on the Night"); Record of the Year ("Graceland"); Best Rock Vocal ("Tunnel of Love"); Best R&B Vocal, Male ("Just to See Her"). None showed.

Certainly, excuses can be made to explain their truancy. Sting, who has caught flack for mixing rock and jazz, obviously figured he wouldn't win. Simon's "Graceland" was Album...

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