Oh hey, the cast of this new Broadway show called American Idiot made an appearance on the Grammys yesterday. Which was a big deal, I think.
Well, we thought a lot of things. And below, Lucky and I will both share them.
I think it’s important to mention, first, that I am as excited for American Idiot on Broadway as a girl can be. Just in case the rest of this makes it sound, well, like I’m not.
AI at the Grammys was a fail. There, I said it.
Here’s why: this isn’t the Macy’s parade. If you’re going to put a musical on the Grammys, it needs to be so badass, so explosive and amazing that everyone forgets they’re at the Grammys and thinks they’re seeing the best, most relevant musical they have ever seen. It needs to make everyone in the audience want to go buy tickets for that show that very instant. It needs to show people that the musical isn’t outmoded and a bazillion miles away from the kind of music that you want to listen to. That you own already.
Otherwise it looks like that. It looks like a couple of terrified girls singing with Billie Joe, backed by some anonymous choir. Dave Matthews had some weird choir too. Is he working on a Groogrux King musical? (Also, what is a Groogrux King, and must I be a Big Ten Frat-boy to understand it?) Otherwise it looks like a third rate cover that the Glee cast could have done better, which is what the reviewers were already saying on iTunes.
This was a chance to make a Broadway musical look as cool as Billie Joe—a musical that is, from the sound of things, actually quite good. And in the end, Billie Joe held onto the trump card. Tre Cool looked pretty fucking badass, too. The cast, and by extension the musical, I fear, came off looking disconnected from the night. From the very popular culture it’s fighting to hold its place in.
Maybe that’s a huge goal. And maybe that’s not what they were going for to begin with. But in the end, it came off looking like the Idiots’ only goal was to get out of there in one piece, sounding better than Taylor Swift. And hey, congrats, you pulled it off! But that’s not much to aspire to on a stage like that.
Here is my question, universe: If American Idiot is supposed to be this awesome piece of theater, why did it seem so stupid on the Grammys last night? Not terrible. Not embarrassing or poorly performed. But just… kind of stupid. And kind of uncool.
For one thing, Rebecca Naomi Jones seemed terrified, which is baffling, considering that this whole singing-on-a-stage thing is what she does for a living, and that she’s probably had a decade more training and experience than, say, Taylor Swift.
And the presentation was just so somber and so… choral. And un-rock-and-roll-like. Maybe any normal person on earth seems like kind of a dork when they’re standing next to Billie Joe Armstrong, but the staging made these particular dorks seem even even bigger dorks. In short, they seemed like a bunch of musical theater geeks who were really excited to be hanging out, for one blissful moment, with the real rockstars. I mean, we all watch Glee. We know what this scenario looks like.
Also worth mentioning: Nice work obscuring Johnny Gallagher–the show’s only semi-star–so completely that most of us were wondering if he even bothered to show up. We get that Billie Joe Armstrong needs to sing his own song on the Grammys. We also get that Gallagher is—by his own admission and by my own eyes, because I saw him like two weeks ago—sporting some weird facial hair right now for a movie role, and that it might screw up the show’s precious branding, but seriously? He may not be a household name, but lots of kids know exactly who he is. There was an opportunity last night to put him the hell on my TV and it slid right past.
My hope for the future of this show? That the musical theater dorks will stay where they belong: on the stage.