I almost spit out my V8 juice when I read the list of Grammy Nominations this morning. Sum 41 is nominated, Katy “William Hung” Perry is nominated for her worst song, dubstep is considered music in the “Best New Artist” category (in other news, the US Government also says that Pizza is now considered a vegetable), Eddie Vedder is nominated in the Folk Music category, the already questionable “Remix” category is literally mind-numbingly atrocious, and though The Rolling Stones have only received three Grammy Awards over a fifty-year career, the song “Moves Like Jagger” is nominated in just a few months. Johnny Cash knows what I’m talking about…
Like everyone with a brain says, “The Grammy Awards are just a big, flashy popularity contest commercial for the music industry, who cares?”. But the promotional machine of The Grammy Awards is not the problem; it’s what the machine is not doing that’s disturbing. It’s abuse of power. An infomercial that caters to people who are tragically below even just a casual fondness of music should be trying to sell them something useful, right? Right? Is there anybody out there?
Year after year, the Grammys fail present a challenge to the decline of incorporation of “good music” into the mainstream, yet this award show is the most acclaimed and viewed judging of popular music in America. I am not one of the pessimists to say that good music doesn’t exist, it’s just not being spoon-fed to the masses in the way that it should be. The most culturally beneficial thing for the general public would be introduction of rich, healthy music, rather than junk food music.
The more junk food you eat, the more obese, unhealthy, and lazy you get… and the more disgusting your body feels. It’s the same with your intake of music; every cheaply produced, cheaply sold (not in terms of price, in terms of promotion) album or single that you willingly “eat”, has the same affect that a bag of thirty cent potato chips does on your overall cultural knowledge, experience, and taste. The hydrogenated oils of fast food corrupt your health and taste buds in the same way that settling for The Black Eyed Peas and Avril Lavinge does (Lavigne has been nominated for Grammy Awards eight times, by the way).
Many of you who read our site and follow my work outside of Sound System NYC know that I am an avid fan of classic rock n’ roll, glam rock, and punk rock, but I am not preaching to you that rock n’ roll is the only solution to fixing the problems with mainstream music. Among this year’s Grammy nominations, the few nominees that I respect are actually not rock artists. Robyn, who creates worthwhile pop and electro music, Cee-Lo Green, who writes modernized retro-soul/pop tunes, Adele, who may not reside in my “most-listened” or come close to the genres that I enjoy most, is at the end of the day, a pure talent. If anything, I think the horrifying mockery of itself that rock music has become is part of the main problem with the Grammys and Top 40 Radio, because it’s no longer the dominant popular music and can barely hold a candle to even the worst dance and rap these days (save The Black Keys, who are doing everything right and are the only rock band nominated today who is actually worth more than one listen).
What I mean to say is that all of the genres are getting the short end of the stick, not just rock n’ roll. Talented underground or “indie” hip-hop and rap artists get traded for Nicki Minaj & Drake’s “Moment 4 Life”, which I can honestly say is one of the worst and least genuine songs I’ve heard all year. Creators of incredible electronic and/or dance music get snubbed for dubstep and David Guettea (I’m still not sure what he actually does) in the pop and dance categories. The “alternative music” category (what a joke), which could celebrate the few good things that are happening in Indie rock and post-punk, is pretty much predictable year after year (Radiohead, Death Cab For Cutie, and [insert interchangeable newcomer with funny name here]), mainly because the Grammy Awards don’t really even understand what alternative music is or why it is a category.
So, as I was angrily sipping that V8 in my kitchen this morning, thinking about Katy Perry’s “Firework” and which method of suicide would be least terrifying for my roommate to have to witness, I decided that I’d just write up a little comparative Grammy history lesson instead, and came to a surprising realization:
Though today’s Grammy embarrassment has been worse than any other that has come before it (in terms of the highest amount of hot, steaming bullshit), it’s the year with the least amount of snubs of good music.
It’s a bittersweet accomplishment for The Grammy Awards. They’re not omitting good musicians and albums from the list of nominees for the first time… but there was no good music (that isn’t underground of local) this year to snub in the first place. The interesting thing, though, is that nominating shit records, dated pop stars, and greasy hipster man-child fake rock bands to be recognized in lieu of talented popular musicians, is probably the best thing that’s happened in years.
In 1991, Public Enemy lost Best Rap Performance to The Fresh Prince. In 1978, Elvis Costello lost Best New Artist to a disco/R&B group called A Taste Of Honey. David Bowie has only received one Grammy outside of his life-time achievement award, and it was for a music video. The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel both only have one more Grammy than The Black Eyed Peas, who in turn has the same amount of Grammys as The Police. Jay-Z has more nominations than Aretha Franklin. Queen, The Who, Neil Young, Diana Ross, Chuck Berry, Curtis Mayfeild, Tupac Shakur, The Beach Boys, Blondie, and The Kinks never received Grammy Awards, but, the Baha Men have got one (Remember “Who Let The Dogs Out”?).
It’s really hard to define exactly what “good” music means for every genre, and which genre is the best, in matters of opinion versus fact, but what we can deduce from past snubs of classic artists and today’s travesty of a nominee list, is that The Grammys are more of an award show of “what not to do with your talent”. Katy Perry wears a cube on her head and can’t sing live, but one terrible album that she made two years ago is still getting nominated today. However, The Rolling Stones make Exile On Main Street and they do not get a Grammy for it. It’s like watching Decline Of Western Civilization: The Metal Years, “here’s what not to do with your life as a musician”. When you study the past winners and losers, the truth is that the little gold statue seems to take the pattern of awarding itself to people who don’t deserve it. Maybe the Grammy Awards are a giant conspiracy, or maybe musicians can actually learn from this.
Now, putting this in perspective, I’m almost glad that a Justin Bieber snub is the worst snub at The Grammys this year, compared to all of that, I’d hate to see a great album fall in favor of Bruno Mars, but I long for popular mainstream music to showcase true talent across all genres once more. At The 8th Grammy Awards Ceremony, Frank Sinatra won for album of the year, the same year the The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds was released. It’s used to be fair, I guess.
This year, we have dubstep. We have Mumford & Sons. We have Rihanna. We have Katy Perry. We have the Foo Fighters as the best possible rock band that the Grammy Awards could come up with. God help us, the only really interesting and compelling categories are the ones all the way at the bottom of the page that no one reads, the ones that get announced off-air. Long form music video, Best Album Notes, Best Score For Visual Media, etc.
Until Lady Gaga makes a jazz record, rock n’ roll crawls out of whatever junked-out hole it’s hiding in, and we can remove songs, albums, and artists that are frequently spun in Forever 21 and clubs on the Jersey Shore, The Grammy Awards are nothing but an after-school special. There’s great music out there, but The Grammys either don’t know about it just don’t care. If the masses are eager to eat up what’s put in front of them, why not make it something delicious?
Thank you and goodnight.