Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I feel bad criticizing any awards ceremony, because televised awards ceremonies are so clearly bloated, self-congratulatory affairs that mainly exist to allow female celebrities to wear incredibly expensive dresses. The only people who really care about the Oscars, the Emmys, the Golden Globes, et al. are bloggers and critics who get outraged that Forest Gump won too many awards, or Radiohead won too few, or whatever.
The Grammys, however, are a special case. The Grammys are worse than useless—they're actively offensive. If you care about contemporary music, you almost certainly hate the Grammys, and for good reason. Take a look at this year's nominees and winners. There are a shit-ton of them, aren't there? I'll wait while you look through them.
Now, I bet you have some questions about that list--“What the hell?” for example. You might not even have known that Alice in Chains was still in existence, let alone a nominee for Best Hard Rock Performance. You may wonder why there are so many categories, including both “Traditional” and “Contemporary” Folk. You might not understand the difference between the Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year (here's an explanation for that one). You may be unsure what “Traditional Pop Vocal Album” means, although you may have a hunch it means “White.” Finally, you might not understand the difference between an R&B Song and a Pop Song, since Beyonce's “Single Ladies” won awards for being both. (By the way, did you know that it took four people to write that song?)
I don't want to turn this post into a bitchy laundry list of complaints about the individual selections. The Grammys poor taste is legendary, and for me to complain that The Black Eyed Peas are an embarrassingly stupid group that don't deserve to win Best Vocal Pop Album would be pointless. Let's just agree that every Grammy handed out could have gone to at least a dozen more deserving artists, and move on, okay?
But there's something fundamentally wrong with the Grammys' selection process that's worse than any individual poorly picked winner. Every artist who wins big at the Grammys—excluding the dozens of categories, like Best Native American Album, that no one cares about—is also one of the most popular. Do we really need to give awards to “Single Ladies” and The Black Eyed Peas? How is it possible that the best albums of the past year were also the most popular? Do the Grammy voters, whoever they are, basically grade a song on whether it sounds catchy and somewhat familiar, and if that's the case, why can't we replace them with a panel of randomly selected people? And if we did, would the results be any different?
Say what you will about the Oscars—and get ready for Avatar to sweep them this year—but at least some of their selections aren't also the highest-grossing films of the year, and sometimes a nomination or award draws attention to a movie that is better than it is popular. (How many people are going to see An Education now because it has the Academy's seal of approval?) The Grammys, on the other hand, just hand out awards to popular things. If the Oscars were picked the same way the Grammys are, Twilight: New Moon and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen would be Best Picture nominees; if we let Grammy voters elect the President, Glenn Beck would be running the country, with Nickelback as his Vice President. We don't expect much of awards shows, but at the very least they should have good, or at least defensible taste in whatever they're giving out awards for. No one has ever accused the Grammys of that.
But on the other hand, Imogen Heap did wear that Twitter dress, so she's got that going for her.