Friday, December 08, 2006

Grammys Shmammys

The nominations for this year’s Grammys are out and it is of course time for me to chime in with my quickly-depreciating 2 cents. Lest you think I am some cranky contrarian obscurantist tilting at Establishment windmills, let me be clear that I bear no grudge against the Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences itself. Its members get together annually to categorize and rank the year’s musical releases and then celebrate their choice. That is their trip and that’s cool.

What does irk me however, is the general public perception that this award show is somehow, I don’t know, true. As if the Grammys actually mean anything or even deign to acknowledge noteworthy artistic achievements. I enjoy list-making as much as the next hipster poseur, but I would never assume the activity to have any real import. The opposite, I think, is true of the Grammys. Here is my wholly subjective and unsubstantiated argument:

The Colour and the Shape. Like any organization of its size and influence, the Recording Academy has a shape and feel to it. Collectively it cannot help but possess certain political and social proclivities. Fro example, the Bush-whacking pop of the Dixie Chicks earned three nominations while Toby Keith’s waaaaay right-leaning jingoism got zippy. (As a corollary, the Country Music Association opted to not recognize the Dixie Chicks at all this year.) Style- and talent-wise, I think it is fair to say that the Chicks and Keith operate within the same stratum of Corporate Country fluff but it seems as if it was their politics that distinguished each of them this year.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. The Grammys love volume, as in quantity. Be it awards or nominations, if you are going to do it, do it with gusto I suppose. Mary J. Blige gets the most love this year with 8 nominations (one of which is for her horrible U2-collaborated retread of “One”). Eight. That seems excessive to me. John Mayer and the Dixie Chicks each got 5 nominations while the Red Hot Chili Peppers got a whopping 6. And again, really? I guess it just raise my eyebrow (either Shorty or Kevin) when I se the Academy dole out honors in chunks.

Bring out your dead. Speaking of which, Mary J. Blige? The Chili Peppers? Neil Young? F’ing Dylan? Come on. Is it really necessary to continue recognizing artists who are well past their artistic prime? It is much like the old broken down veteran occupying a spot on the roster. Remember the Mary J. collaboration with Method Man after 36 Chambers was released? That was cool. Mother’s Milk and Blood Sugar Sex Magic were albums that caught my ear. But all of that was a long time ago.

Safety first. One of the hallmarks of a Grammy list of nominees is that it is unchallenging. It’s safe. James Blunt, Corrine Bailey Rae, the Chili Peppers, Carrie Underwood; for all of their merits none of them are taking any chances. The listener is not going to be challenged by these artists which I would think would be a contributor to a major artistic award. Gnarls Barkley is this year’s token “edgy” selection but would they be here if “Crazy” was not a huge Top 40 hit? Doubtful. Very doubtful.

So what is the point of my bitter, old man, Andy Rooney-like rant, you ask. It is that I just wonder sometimes, I just wonder what the uninitiated music listener who enjoys the kinds of albums and songs recognized by the Grammys, would think of the albums that the proactive music-obsessive gushed over this year. If you came in neutral and sat down with James Blunt’s album and Tommy Keene’s, would you really that “you’re beautiful, you’re beautiful” song is that great? I gotta believe not.


At 12/08/2006 1:30 PM, Blogger Frankly, Scarlett said...

Agreed. However, I don't think it was the 'Chick's political leanings that cost them the CMAs - their new album is barely country! They need to decide who they are and what genre of music they want to produce. They don't understand that you can be a crossover band without truly crossing over.

Additionally, the problem with the grammy's is, frankly, who cares about Mary J Blige!? What burns me are the awards that go unsung , that are announced before dinner, before the cameras begin to role, while britney is still out on the red carpet. Such as the best Jazz almum, best opera vocal, becse orchstration and arrangement, etc.
(sorry for the comment rant - music talk gets me fired up)

At 12/10/2006 11:33 AM, Blogger Ryane said...

I agree with you, as well. And nice Foo Fighters reference...=-)
Personally, I can't understand how any of the artist's you named merited any awards, let alone 8. I like John Mayer, but is his new stuff worth 5 nominations?? And as for James Blunt, if you hadn't printed the name of his song, I never would've known that was him. haha.

At 12/11/2006 7:20 AM, Blogger Jason said...

Yeah, it all seems kind of ridiculous. Like I said, I don't have anything against the Grammys but I don't see why people believe them to be at all important or relevant.


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