Thursday, February 19, 2009

Print Room at the 51st Annual GRAMMY® Awards - by Sarah Tither Kaplan

Nine hours in a small room at the Staples Center with 30 other people may not sound like the most exciting way to spend GRAMMY® Day, but when people like Robert Plant and Paul McCartney happen to show up, the Print Room is one of the best seats in the house.

Journalists from the print media gathered around 12:30 p.m. to set up their laptops, wireless internet connections, tape recorders, and to get ready for the long day ahead.

With 110 categories this year, only a fraction of GRAMMY wins were televised. The pre-telecast honored such artists as Tia Carrere, "Wayne's World Girl," for Best Hawaiian Music Album, The Blind Boys of Alabama for Best Traditional Gospel Album, The Mars Volta's "Wax Simulacra" for Best Hard Rock Performance, the late George Carlin's "It's Bad for Ya" for Best Comedy Album.

Once the pre-telecast was under way, nominees and winners alike graciously gave interviews to the journalists who were less than enthusiastic about having to clock in early for such a long day.

Luckily, a wake up call came in the form of Sir Paul McCartney sauntering in and then out and then back in to the print room. He certainly wasn't unaware of the lack of enthusiasm coming from the print press. "Oh, there are people in here," he said coyly as he walked back in. Many hands raised eager to get a quote from the former Beatle, though some were still typing away at their laptops. "What are you doing? This is the GRAMMYs, stop typing, you can use your laptops any time." McCartney pleaded to one of the reporters. Sir Paul's sense of humor served to remind the journalists to stop taking themselves so seriously, and enjoy the moment. When asked how he felt about losing the GRAMMY for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance to John Mayer's "Gravity," Paul replied "you come in it to be in it, not to win it." Even though the day kept feeling longer and longer, I couldn't complain. Getting life lessons from the legendary Paul McCartney is definitely not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

When the telecast began and it was officially announced that Chris Brown and Rihanna wouldn't be performing, the print room erupted in a frenzy of fact finding missions and rumor fabrication. Phones began ringing, and the typing became even more furious, as journalists checked sources in a race to break the story first. The show had to go on; however, and eventually everyone remembered to keep their heads in the game, or at least facing the interview platform and the telecast monitor.

Throughout the day, some of the world's greatest musicians appeared in that room Natalie Cole fostering a sobering discussion about her recent health problems, and her fight to continue making music despite her illness, producer/ recording artist Will. I. Am discussing the humbling and inspirational experience of performing at Obama's inauguration, the effervescent British import, Estelle explaining her surprise to have won a GRAMMY for her song "American Boy" that was originally written in the studio as "a joke", and finally, Robert Plant after winning his first five Grammys for his work with Allison Krauss- who won her 21st through 26th GRAMMYs- including Album of the Year for "Please Read the Letter".

Finally, I was able to get a question in with Katy Perry after her performance of "I Kissed a Girl." She talked about the transition from being "one of the boys," on Warped Tour this summer to performing amongst giant inflatable fruit on the GRAMMY stage.

Despite the long hours, many laughs were had in the little print press room. The most amusing experience occurred while watching mom-to-be M.I.A. perform "Swagga like Us" with T.I., Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Lil'Wayne, on the night of her due date. Every time she moved gasps could be heard coming from the usually quiet journalists, we were all holding our breath as if we somehow had the power to prevent the baby from coming.

When the telecast was over, and the stars and performers headed off to the after parties, all I could think about was getting home and going to sleep. The whole experience only hit me about an hour after leaving the GRAMMYs. I had been among legends, I had witnessed history being made, and I had gotten my first question answered in a print room. Journalism certainly isn't glamorous, but the behind the scenes adventures of my time as a GRAMMY reporter, aren't something I'll ever forget.

-by Sarah Tither Kaplan - GRAMMY Camp 2008 Music Journalism Track

Neil Diamond's Classics Transcend Genres At 2009 MusiCares Person Of The Year - by Sarah Tither Kaplan

The 19th annual MusiCares® Person of the Year celebration proved to be a perfect way to pay tribute to the legendary Neil Diamond and to support a most necessary charity that provides relief for those members of the "musical family" who are in need, and a fantastic celebration of music. The gala honored Neil Diamond, and his prolific and iconic career. An array of artists including Coldplay, Foo Fighters, Jennifer Hudson, and the Jonas Brothers performed Neil's songs from every era of his five-decade-long musical odyssey.

Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the event featured both a silent and live auction to benefit the MusiCares charity, which provides funds and relief for musicians in need. The performances spanned almost every genre of music — a testament to the fact that Neil's enduring work is as timeless as it is diverse. The Jonas Brothers were first to pay tribute with their performance of "Forever in Blue Jeans." According to Kimmel, the Jonas Brothers led off because they had to be finished by their bedtime.

The "JoBros" were followed by Jennifer Hudson, performing a soulful rendition of "Holly Holy." Hudson didn't even have to break a sweat to bring down the house with her emotional, passionate voice delivering a flawless performance and receiving a unanimous standing ovation. After Kid Rock presented a more country-inspired side of Neil Diamond's music with "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime," Jimmy Kimmel was inspired to dub the event "the best karaoke night ever."

British singer Adele, who won the GRAMMY® for best new artist two days later, sang "Cracklin' Rosie," one of Neil's "most misunderstood songs," as Kimmel explained to the audience. Urge Overkill performed the song, "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," which they made famous again by covering it for the film Pulp Fiction. "Thank you for all the music, Neil," lead singer, Nathan Katruud, called out to the audience before leaving the stage.

Coldplay's performance of "I'm a Believer" was definitely a crowd favorite. Lead singer and songwriter Chris Martin introduced the band as "Neil and the Diamonds," and adopted the original performance style of the Monkees — who first made the song a worldwide phenomenon — and encouraged the audience to sing along.

Each performance was prefaced by an introduction explaining the origin of the song, or Neil's inspiration to write it. One of the more strange inspirations was the movie E.T., which inspired the song "Heartlight" which was performed by R&B singer, Eric Benet.

Diamond's good friend Raul Malo performed "Solitary Man," followed by Cassandra Wilson and Terence Blanchard performing a jazz version of "September Morn."

Neil Diamond introduced Tejano band Los Volcanes, who performed a Tejano version of "Red Red Wine", by saying that when he had tried to get Eddie Vedder to perform, he accidentally wound up calling the Los Volcanes' Eddie Rodriguez, and after hearing their music, he decided he liked it so much that he invited them to play at Person of the Year, proving once again the genre-transcending power of Neil's music.

Foo Fighters performed a mosh-pit worthy hard-rock version of "Delirious Love." Josh Groban, Tim McGraw and Chris Cornell offered even more diversity with operatic, country, and grunge-rock inspired versions of Diamond classics. Overall, the night boasted an eclectic mix of performances spanning all areas of the musical spectrum.

When it came time for Neil to accept his honor, he was almost in tears as he thanked the audience; "Thank you for showing up," he said. "I love you for it." Neil explained the origins of his life in music; his mother had bought him his first guitar for ten dollars, and as she was in the audience, he thanked her for it. He assured her that it had been a good investment and that with the ten dollars, she had "made a life" for him.

Neil seemed more than happy to express his gratitude by performing a few of his own songs and closing the show with "Sweet Caroline." All the performers of the night, including Faith Hill (who performed "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" with Neil) returned to the stage and sang the final choruses as Neil hugged each artist. The running joke of the night was that the Person of the Year gala was really the Bar-Mitzvah that Neil never got to have. With his unrivaled success and indisputable talent, Mr. Diamond certainly deserves as many "mazel tovs" as humanly possible.

Despite selling 160 million records worldwide, the whole business of being honored in such a way seemed almost overwhelming to Neil. His refreshing humility was evident when he offered the audience the truth about his motivation as an artist; "I just make my little songs, sing my little songs, and try to reach out and touch people."

By: Sarah Tither Kaplan - GRAMMY Camp 2008 Music Journalism Track

GRAMMY® Camp Music Journalist Reports From GRAMMY® Week 2009

A fresh new perspective will be emerging from the media frenzy surrounding GRAMMY Week this year. Seventeen year old Sarah Tither Kaplan from Los Angeles will be representing the GRAMMY Camp Music Journalism career track at the hottest GRAMMY Week Events. Presented by the GRAMMY Foundation each summer, GRAMMY Camp is an interactive music industry experience that attracts some of the country’s most promising high school students to Los Angeles for a unique opportunity to explore careers in music. In July 2008, Sarah was one of those lucky students, and now, through her hard work at GRAMMY Camp, she finds herself rubbing elbows with the media majors. Under the wing of seasoned music journalist and GRAMMY Camp Instructor Steve Baltin, Sarah will be telling the story of GRAMMY Week 2009 from the most exclusive inside angles while promoting GRAMMY Camp 2009 and having the time of her life. Look for her stories published through AOL Music,, and