James Brown, given scant attention from the Grammys when alive, was paid slight tribute Sunday night.
While the Eagles were honored with a three-song medley, the late Godfather of Soul was remembered with a performance by Christina Aguilera that managed to hit all the wrong notes, even while staying pitch-perfect.
Dressed in a totally white suit and meticulously made-up, Aguilera sang “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” She has an undeniably good set of pipes, but it seemed somewhat sacrilegious to honor the Soul great with a singer bereft of the stuff.
That was followed by a tap-dancing routine while black-and-white footage of Brown dancing played on a giant video screen above. Brown’s glittering red robe was then brought out and poetically hung on the microphone stand. It had been customary for the legendary singer to be taken off stage shielded and cloaked in such a robe once he had sweated everything out.
And so the man who meant so much to soul, funk and pop music for half a century was honored by the Grammys without a word, without any notable attempt — verbally or musically — to express what Brown meant to music. Instead, we were given an octave-hitting pop princess and some tap.
For the Recording Academy, this was nothing new. Before Brown passed away on Christmas day, he was given three Grammy awards, and only one in his heyday (in 1965 for “Papa’s Brand New Bag” as best R&B recording).
In 1991, his album was honored for best album notes.
In over four decades, Brown put out 48 singles that were either top ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100 or the R&B chart — songs like “Cold Sweat,” “There Was a Time,” “Super Bad,” “Soul Power,” “Make it Funky” and “I Got the Feelin’.”
Unfortunately, the Grammys’ tribute to Brown had no feelin’.