Friday, February 06, 2009

Pro/Con: Are the Grammys still relevant?

By Jeffrey Lee Puckett,
who's cold and in the dark


While arguing in favor of the Grammys' relevance is a bit like arguing in favor of blunt force trauma, there are a couple of positives.

No, really.

Inclusiveness is a big one. Given the enormous scope of the music industry, the number of categories offered by the Grammys is appropriately expansive, largely fair and absolutely crushes the number offered by its only competition, the American Music Awards.

There are 31 fields represented, including polka, children's music and comedy in addition to the obvious traditional choices (pop, rock, rap, country, jazz, etc.). Some of those fields are broken down into as many as seven categories, which means there's a best jazz instrumental solo category and a best jazz instrumental album, individual or group category.

So the bases are covered within most reasonable expectations, although the evangelical could certainly make a case for more categories. The alternative-music album category by itself leaves out important sub-categories such as punk, art rock and, um, pornogrind.

The other positive is, unfortunately, also a negative: The Grammys are the only game in town.

With the Billboard Music Awards currently dormant, the aforementioned American Music Awards is the Grammys' only rival — and the AMAs are determined by the same same people — mainstream consumers — who make the likes of Celine Dion and Nickelback into superstars.

Until something changes, that means a Grammy Award will remain our best and quickest resource for gauging a performer's artistic worth — unless, of course, we simply decide for ourselves.

But that's way too easy.

By Peter Berkowitz,
who blogs his opinions


The Grammys have been slightly less relevant in the past, I suppose — Jethro Tull's 1988 win for Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance is an all-time embarrassing classic. But newly relevant? That's like saying Guns N' Roses is more relevant now than in 2004 because they actually released an album this year.

Their album is still a hilariously insane, bloated, nonsensical mess that has no actual relevance to people who listen to music for pleasure. Just like the Grammys!

Are there some relevant nominees across all these many categories? Sure. Lil' Wayne, for example. But why is it that the best musicians tend to get nominated only after they've been around for years, and often long after they've produced their best music? Why isn't there a rule against Grammy voters being ignorant? It's great to see M.I.A. nominated, but that song has been out for years. Robyn's album was released in 2005.

Of course, best new artist has always been a farce. Lucinda Williams earned a nod in 1998 after five albums and 20 years in the business. Am I supposed to find this farce "relevant" because No Age, an inspired, fiery young band is nominated — for Best Packaging? Their album, Nouns, a lot more relevant in my world than Robert Plant trying to sound like a bluegrass singer.

Speaking of new artists, the Jonas Brothers? Is this the Disney Channel awards? I'm not saying that tweens can't be talented — wait, actually, I am saying that.

Just go down the list of nominees, and you'll wonder if you stepped into a time machine: The Eagles, James Taylor (covering Elvis, no less), Maroon 5, OneRepubic, Spyro Gyra. Spyro Gyra? Madonna is nominated for "Best Dance Recording" — why are 70-year-old voters who haven't gone out to a dance club since that meant shimmying to the Glenn Miller Orchestra telling us what the best dance music is?

Natalie Cole, Still Unforgettable? I wish I could forget that all she can do is repackage her great father's legacy.

Boyz II Men are even nominated, for Obama's sake. I guess it really is so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

c. 2009 Courier-Journal

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