Why the Grammys Don't Matter

Categories: Grammys

To Grammys' credit, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, and U2 were winning in major categories when they should have been. R&B, jazz, country and, more recently, alternative rock have been somewhat covered thanks to categories tailored to those genres. And the Grammys didn't miss out on the Beatles (and given their record with everyone else who still makes it onto classic rock radio stations and college dorm walls, they could have), though the band's three awards seem pithy for, you know, the Beatles.

Look back on a major category in a past year and there's usually a major disconnect between what is still blowing minds and what was even nominated. 1975 was an important year for music. Released that year: "Walk This Way," "Kashmir," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Tangled Up in Blue," and "Born to Run." The Grammy nominees for Record of the Year the following February: "At Seventeen" by Janis Ian, "Lyin' Eyes" by the Eagles, "Mandy" by Barry Manilow, "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell and the winner, "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain and Tennille.

Then there is the category that overtly forces the Grammys to make a prediction, Best New Artist, a Hope Diamond of an award that has been bestowed upon Paula Cole, Marc Cohn, Debby Boone, A Taste of Honey, the Starland Vocal Band, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

You have to wonder why the Grammys almost always get it wrong. It could be that the awards were started by executives from major record companies. Their success is measured by chart success and they are paid to have an ear for mass-sellers first and the artists who will be influencing others in a generation second.

It could just be that Grammy voters are incredibly old. They judge the present by the standards of the past and that's why artists with a classic, safe appeal often win and forward-looking ones don't, and why the likes of Dylan and the Stones didn't win until there were Grammy voters whose formative years were filled with their music, and why, in turn, Sinatra was cleaning up when what would become classic rock was in its prime. (Occasionally, the Grammys feel some existential dread over this. They sought younger voters when Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down beat out Purple Rain and Born in the U.S.A. for Album of the Year in 1985. And they reformed their entire voting process when a Three Tenors album got a nomination in that category.)

A work of art's lasting importance is not impossible to predict; our annual Pazz & Jop polls from years past feature the likes of the Who, Elvis Costello, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and Nirvana winning for the things for which they're still remembered, and the poll even managed to acknowledge formative hip-hop artists like Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash. The Oscars, which largely recruits its voting body from past winners, can be reasonably relied on to pick great films, even if there is a head-scratcher every few years and it develops decades-long blind spots for an important person or two, like famously Martin Scorsese. The Grammys have about 60 Scorseses.

Given that track record, I have to wonder what exactly that DJ was congratulating Neil Young about.

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11 comments
shermstephens
shermstephens

Great article. The Grammy's are full of bullshit by self-righteous folks who fight the good fight until they win. You know if your album was as good as the folks you beat out or not. Don't win (Macklemore) and say that Kendrick Lamar should have won. You had the perfect platform to say that but you chose not to. Everybody hates Kanye, but no one will say that Macklemore's performance last night straight copied Kanye's style and flow. Last but not least, Marvin Gaye was very much alive when he won the Grammy for Sexual Healing. You can youtube his winning speech.


http://smokingsection.uproxx.com/TSS/2012/02/video-marvin-gaye-rick-james-and-more-at-1983-grammys

Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly

"Only white people & Kanye West care about the Grammys" - Chozen

Mooderator
Mooderator

I don't recall anyone ever committing this to print but I thought the lameness of the Grammy's was as obvious as oxygen.  In fact I remember trying to find a particularly awful song in a record store that I knew nothing about and thinking, "hmmm, I bet it's one of these CDs with the Grammy stickers on it"  and sure enough the album was nominated for a Grammy (Keyshia Cole, Just Like You.  I Remember was the song-- a song so awful that I pity the air forced to render its frequencies).  Notice that there's a relative small number of film and television awards, but a bunch of different ones for music.  Why?  The Grammy's suck.

shadylady10311
shadylady10311

Nick: Finally someone with credibility writes about these award shows and tells the truth. The Grammy's have lost credibility when Chris Brown bought his two years ago for 50K. The guy he paid was fired but Chris was allowed to keep his trophy. This is an outrage. It makes me wonder whom else has bought there's. I do know for a fact that the whole concept is about labels patting each other on the back and behind the scenes deal making. One label tells another if you get your ppl to vote for my guy I'll vote for yours." Plus the criteria for getting a nomination has changed it's not supposed to be about sales only but it really is. If a label doesn't send a list with a certain artist's name on it = no possible nomination. This is how these bubblegum pop singers keep getting nominations every year. It's so predictable. Plus how is LL Cool J inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of fame? Duh? Rap? I have a strong feeling that these labels buy inductions now. Thanks again Nick I guess the public doesn't care anymore. Keep writing these revealing and "gutsy" articles. RESPECT.

Joedee
Joedee

Great article. Love the inclusion of what was nominated in 75 too compared to what songs came out that year. There's a total disconnect between the academy and reality. You could say the same for Oscars too when you look at the people who never won best director like Kubrick, Hitchcock, Cronenberg, Lynch, etc. 

Jay Goldsworthy
Jay Goldsworthy

All artists claim they don't care about a Grammy until they get nominated for one.

Joseph Caligula Guzzi
Joseph Caligula Guzzi

Have fallout boy won or been nom, then def it's a FUKN scam sham, worst music in history of mankind

Timothy Nolan
Timothy Nolan

Homer: Oh, man, I never won anything. Lisa: That's not true, Dad, you won a Grammy. Homer: Yeah, but not anything important.

Bob Maguire
Bob Maguire

I've thought the Grammys have been irrelevant ever since Jethro Tull won one for best hard rock/metal group.

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