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How The Grammys Became A Sham

by Rudy Klapper 7 December 2008 One Comment E-mail Rudy Klapper

Only a mere twelve years ago, when Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill won Album of the Year, there was hardly any argument made against the Canadian popster-turned-seriously-pissed-off-songwriter claiming she didn’t deserve it. After all, songs like “Ironic” and “You Oughta Know” were mid-90s’ capsules of savage wit, biting sarcasm, and supremely well-written pop songs, and Jagged Little Pill is the kind of record that defined a place for women in the male-dominated scene of turn-of-the-century rock. This was a time, not so long ago, when true music was celebrated. When little-known artists were commended. When quantity of sales sold was not the sole factor of recognition. That was then. Today, however, is a different world.

The nominees for the 2009 Grammy awards were announced at a live concert/presentation at the Nokia Theatre the first Wednesday of December, the first time the venerable organization has aired the nominations rather than revealing them in a traditional (read: boring) news conference. The one-hour televised segment featured a fairly predictable set list showcasing the who’s-who of the pop world today, something that would certainly still be bland but perhaps not as crushingly out-of-touch if the Grammy organization had decided to have these stars sing what is currently hot now. Instead, viewers were treated contemporary pop stars belting out the “classics” our parents know and love.

Yes, the Grammy “Nomination Special” featured artists such as Celine Dion and Mariah Carey singing such hits as “At Seventeen” and “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” respectively. And there was perhaps no more ill-advised decision than the Foo Fighters disastrous rendition of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” a performance that stretched the definition of the very word “cover.” While Dave Grohl and his band are never going to be accused of lacking energy, Grohl’s typical howling and the bludgeoning sonic assault of the band turned the song into a boring, vanilla alt-rock rant. Even better, the marketing geniuses behind the Grammys decided that the only serviceable part of the whole ceremony, John Mayer’s one-hour concert after the nominations, wouldn’t be televised.

Could you hum any of the above songs off the top of your head? I didn’t think so. All in all, it’s hard to determine whether a dry, sleep-inducing reading of the nominees would have been preferable to this oversized commercial for the newly opened Grammy Museum, and surely would’ve saved everybody’s time.

Then again, the show blessedly lasted only for an hour. Unfortunately, however, we must live with the results of the Grammy’s choices for at least another three months, choices that again and again prove the irrelevancy of one of the most overrated award ceremonies around.

Every year, the Grammys have a chance to redeem their reputation as an out-of-touch industry where businessmen are more interested in marketing and profits than critical acclaim by choosing albums and artists that actually deserve the awards. Instead, the Grammys continue to make choices that boggle the artistic mind, not to mention common sense.

Here are the nominees for just one category, the all-important “Record of the Year:” “Chasing Pavements” by Adele,

“Viva La Vida” by Coldplay,

“Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis,

“Paper Planes” by M.I.A.,

and “Please Read The Letter” by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss.

Due to the Grammy’s inexplicable way of defining the calendar year, both “Paper Planes” and “Please Read The Letter” are given nods, despite being physically released in 2007. And really, is “Paper Planes” Record of the Year worthy? Not to mention “Bleeding Love,” just the kind of sugary, shallow pop song that regularly enters record of the year contention?

A simple glance at the year’s numbers explain the Grammy’s reasoning for this and many other categories: “Bleeding Love” is the top-selling single of the year, having gone triple platinum, while both “Viva La Vida” and “Chasing Pavement” have hit number one in various charts.

The “Album of the Year” category is almost more of a sham, featuring Coldplay, Lil Wayne, Ne-Yo, Robert Plant & Alison Kraus, and Radiohead’s latest albums. While it’s a relief to finally see Radiohead getting some love (only about ten years late! Way to be on top of pop culture, Grammys), In Rainbows was, again, technically released in 2007. Plant & Krauss practically scream “respect” nomination, the kind that everyone agrees with on principle but will never win. But check out the sales figures for the first three: 2.4 million for Lil Wayne, Coldplay sold 720,000 copies in their first week, and Ne-Yo’s Year of the Gentleman has currently sold over 650,000 copies. Sure, all have received varying degrees of critical acclaim, but only Coldplay has come close to receiving that sort of “Album of the Year”-worthy praise from the most reputable critics.

The Grammys have always been criticized for setting itself up as more of a gigantic promotional machine rather than any kind of meaningful award ceremony. Again, records that have sold an exorbitant amount and receive at least a modicum of positive critical acclaim are those most likely to be nominated. A glance at the currently highest-rated albums of the year are proof that the Grammys are hopelessly out-of-touch with reality: a sample of Metacritic.com’s (a compilation of music critic’s ratings averaged out) Top 30 List of the Year include: Fleet Foxes, TV On The Radio, Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds, Portishead, and B.B. King. Lil Wayne? Too many divided opinions. Coldplay? Close, but no cigar. Ne-Yo? As if. In fact, not a single record or album of the year nominee is up, unless, of course, you count Radiohead and Plant & Krauss in 2007.

There are a few encouraging signs of progress, such as Death Cab for Cutie’s nomination for “Best Rock Song” and Hot Chip for “Best Dance Recording.” When was the last time the Eagles were relevant? Does everything John Mayer record automatically get a Grammy bid? Is Kid Rock really a nominee for “Best Rock Album?”

Honestly, nearly every category under the Grammys could be considered suspect decisions of taste and integrity, but it would be redundant to go any further. The Grammys remain, at best, a mere fashion show and name-dropper, a chance for old and outdated music executives to congratulate each other on last year’s financial performance (or lack thereof in this economy) while the rest of the music world continues to grow and evolve without them. Be sure to tune in February 9th next year to watch the music industry engage in a masturbatory orgy of disgusting proportions, but don’t count on anything remotely exciting.

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One Comment »

  • ADELE said:

    Adele is so hot! She better win!!!!

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7 × = sixty three