Sunday was indeed an interesting night, as strange and assorted bedfellows shared the sheets to watch The 55th Annual Grammys telecast. Audiophiles, pop culture lovers, meme creators, fashionistas and people who simply don’t like to use Facebook or Twitter for TV updates flooded CBS with powerful Nielsen ratings, encouraging them to sell things that don’t have anything to do with music, like carbonated beverages and cars.
However, there was Target, who has somehow became this generation’s HMV or Tower Records, advertising Taylor Swift’s album, Pink’s album and Justin Timberlake’s return to R&B (Read: his theft of Bruno Mars’ current act, which is a theft of The Police’s legendary one).
And all of this was for what, exactly?
I wouldn’t blame you if, at times, you couldn’t recall what this show was about. The Grammys, are, and have been for quite a while, a dying horse that needs to be euthanized.
The Recording Academy, which (un-ironically) exists to improve the quality of life of people working in the recording industry, accredited those with its highest honor, a Gramophone Award on Sunday. The Grammy is given in recognition to outstanding achievements in music for an artist, engineer, producer, songwriter, etc.
All in all, it sounds like a pretty great thing.
Except it’s not, and it has not been for a while.
The Recording Academy, which is not just supposed to recognize outstanding achievement but act, unofficially, as tastemakers and torchbearers for the music industry, have gotten it wrong as frequently, if not more than, the Academy Awards.
Both organizations appear as if they are permanently in retrograde.
The powerful responsibility to not only recognize those who are not named: Nicki Minaj, Lady GaGa, Justin Bieber or Kanye West, but to acknowledge those records that were just plain BETTER than the artists that have amassed sizeable fortunes for the record industry, is frequently taken for granted.
In 1990, when they gave Milli Vanilli the Best New Artist award, the Grammys missed the mark. They celebrated a band that was not the most talented, but definitely generated the most press. The other nominees? The amazing foursome of the Indigo Girls, Soul II Soul, Tone Loc and Neneh Cherry.
In 1966, when Herb Alpert’s “A Taste of Honey” bested a little band known as The Beatles’ “Yesterday” for Record of the Year, The Recording Academy proved just how far from reality they resided since their inception.
On Sunday night, they confirmed that the air is different on their planet.
The powers-that-be made no effort to hide that they have spent the last two telecasts kissing the feet of those acts keeping the music industry afloat: Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Adele and this year, Mumford & Sons, who thanks to new chart rules, had nearly every single off of the album Babel place on the Billboard Top 100.
The Recording Industry, in its present state, could be likened to your snobbiest music friend saying, “Oh, I don’t listen to Arcade Fire since they won a Grammy,” but being mad that Lana Del Rey ‘sold out.’
It’s times like this when I can’t remember if I’m tuning in for the fashionable tantrums or the hope that the Grammys might just get something right.
And alas, they did get some things right: Jack White performing, the mere presence of Prince and cutting the music when Jay-Z decided to speak–a slightly menacing ‘tip of the hat’ to a man who employs so many of the people who sat in that auditorium.
But are the few moments of greatness, which they can rarely take full credit for, worth the annual disappointment that the Grammys provide?
The question is this: If the Grammys are not enlightening us on the current (and former) state of music, improving our listening experiences or even attempting to create a justifiable competition for this once-hallowed award… Why are they here, and why do we still need them?