Monday, February 9, 2009

What's With The Grammys?

Last year, I gave a long rant about the Gramophone Awards and how they were not inclusive enough. How they seemed to be out of touch with the artists of today and were just masturbatory awards for the music industry to dote upon. Artists that released fantastic albums like TV on the Radio and Joanna Newsom were ignored for extremely sub-par, but popular, artists like Maroon 5 and Amy Winehouse.

This year, I still hold some of these views. Washed up artists that have long since passed their prime (Paul McCartney, the Eagles, Maroon 5) are still nominated. Many great artists from the past year were ignored, albeit a pretty large critical acclaim and popularity (Fleet Foxes, Sigur Ros, TV on the Radio). However, I feel that I am looking at the Grammys from a very narrow viewpoint, and in this post I'd like to expand that a bit.

Let's take a look at the categories. If you're an avid follower of music like myself, you would probably want to justify each of the winners being worthy of the award. However, I found myself not knowing much of the music nominated. I am currently looking into this Robert Plant/Alison Krauss project, because it seems to have swept the awards. Nothing I would listen to, by any means, but I guess it's good for what it is. Very over-produced and country-influenced, two things I despise about modern music. But hey, it's the Grammys. So it beats out Lil Wayne, an artist that I can stand in stride but feel he is somewhat of a joke. Ne-Yo I have never listened to. Coldplay's new album is alright. It's miles better than 2005's X&Y, but nowhere close to their first two releases. Plus Coldplay is just lukewarm at best. There are so many albums that were better than that. Then there's Radiohead's In Rainbows, which, in my opinion, was the groundbreaking album of 2007. Innovative, fresh, and the marketing strategy was outstanding. Just the fact that this was even nominated for record of the year is good enough for me.

Getting nominated for a Grammy these days is like winning five. If you're not Bruce Springsteen or Paul McCartney or someone ancient, you have little chance of being recognized. The Grammys seem to resurrect artists every year instead of baptizing new ones. Let's take a look at the best Solo Rock Vocal Performance: Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Eddie Vedder, Bruce Springsteen, John Mayer. Let's skip over the fact that Sir Paul was nominated for "I Saw Her Standing There" which was released upwards of SIXTY FUCKING YEARS AGO. This group of geezers are not really relevant. Mayer gets the win because he's under 50. I can even support Mr. Vedder because this song is actually great.

So let's move away from the aspects of the Grammys that make us all cringe and try to see what is changing for the better. First off, this performance is actually amazing:

Although other performances make me want to stop playing music altogether:

I guess you can be a corporate-built band with the sole purpose of marketing to 14-year old girls and STILL win awards despite how shitty you are. And play on stage with Stevie Wonder. Despicable. Poor Stevie. Anyway, some performers still impress me, getting nominated for song of the year (with lyrics about immigration!) and performing at 8 months pregnant:

So maybe the Grammys are getting better, though at this rate it's going to take decades. Kings of Leon beat out powerhouses AC/DC, the Eagles, Radiohead, and Coldplay for best rock performance.

I have yet to explore the categories like contemporary jazz, latin jazz, tejano, mexicano, norteno, and banda music. This leads me to believe that there is still a TON of music that is prospectively amazing that I have not yet heard. Although, I'm kind of disappointed that Amadou & Mariam's Welcome to Mali was not nominated for any World Music category.

Also, with my major, I was happy to see categories for production, mixing, mastering, and composing. These people behind the music do not get recognized enough. Audio Engineers and Sound Designers are beginning to get the recognition they deserve. Even if it is the Grammys.

Maybe I WILL win a Grammy one day, even if it is the most self-indulgent and out-of-touch award you can win.

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