Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chris Thile's "Alright"

I don’t have much to say post-Grammys. Awards-wise, it went about as expected (except for Ed Sheeran, which was weird…). I didn’t get to watch it live, but based on chatter afterward, the best performances were from the cast of Hamilton and Kendrick Lamar, who performed pretty much one after the other.

But I want to point out something that happened on Prairie Home Companion about a week before the Grammys. Chris Thile, who with his band the Punch Brothers had been nominated for several Grammys this year (none of which they won), was guest hosting the radio show. He started talking about what amounted to a lullaby for his baby boy and then dived into an amazing one-person cover of Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” a song that won two Grammys last Monday. You can listen to the cover on the Prairie Home Companion archives here (you’ll have to jump down to the “Alright; Song for a Young Queen” segment, which is just after intermission). Update 2019: Here is the new link:

Some comments:

1) I think this performance shows a lot about Thile and the diversity of music that influences him. I’ve seen him cover the Beatles, the Cars, Radiohead, Of Montreal, and many others, all with his own take, all unironically and incredibly well. But this is even more far afield from bluegrass than those others (though considerably more PG-rated than the original).

2) You can tell from the performance that Thile isn’t just throwing this song off; he is genuinely in love with the music and spent hours learning the words and figuring out the best way to perform it (he did mention later on Twitter than he had flubbed a few of the words). He throws himself into the song. He later tweeted this after the Grammys, which got a lot of reactions:

3) This song is so not Prairie Home Companion. I don’t think the audience even knows how to take it, besides acknowledging the virtuosity that the performance took. Can you imagine them having the real Kendrick Lamar on this show? Yet Thile does it anyway. I think it shows guts, conviction, and firm cosmopolitan musical sensibility.

After you listen to “Alright,” take a listen to the opening number for that Prairie Home Companion show on February 6, 2016, Thile’s cheeky “Omahallelujah,” a great conflation of sports and religion, with Peyton Manning as the center of worship. Gold.

1 comment:

  1. It's been quite awhile since this episode aired- I love this song- keeps popping into my head- I even listened to the kendric lamar version (not into that genre but very impressed with the song) thank you for letting me find this song on the interwebs!