Despite the mash-up’s of artists from different genres that they try at the Grammys (which usually makes for interesting visual moments but not great musical moments), the real drama of the ceremony is “who’s gonna get bragging rights?” The winners not only get to tack this on their resume but also get a sales boost out of it too. So with the ongoing writers’ strike not threatening the ceremony, this time going in, the big questions is how many awards would the physically-absent and still detoxing Amy Winehouse win plus how many would Kanye West win and how many fits would he throw. It’s pretty snoozy stuff compared to the ongoing tussles in the presidential campaign now between another woman and another African-American, not to mention a ‘moderate’ GOP front-runner who’s still getting beaten in the primaries.
So how much do you really miss if you just combed over a sum-up report instead of sitting through the Grammys? If anything did sound interesting, you could always hunt down a YouTube video of it and not have to invest three hours of your time in it. It’s not that the ratings have been so great in the last few years, which is why NARAS pulls in the celebs to read/present the awards (just like the Oscars) and put together the musical mash-up’s. But for the celebs, unless you’re a die-hard fan, how badly do you need to see them up there for a minute reading off cue cards and then clapping in the background as the winner comes up to make a usually forgettable speech to honor their managers, producers and the All-Mighty?
As for the mash-up’s, can you name any that you’d like to copy onto your iPod if you could grab the music for it? Granted that Beyonce with Tina Turner is a cool match-up but how badly do you need to see Rihanna (who I like) jam with the Time or Kid Rock play with jazz singer Keely Smith or the Foo Fighters jam with a bunch of unknown hopefuls? Will those performances be so great that you’d not only watch or re-watch them on the Web late tonight or tomorrow but also that you’d go back to see any of them again years from now? I actually hope I’m wrong about that (I don’t wanna waste three hours of my time either) but I ain’t exactly hopefully about it either.
In a Net age, the multi-hour awards ceremony is about as timely as an 8 1/2 inch floppy disc and these performances aren’t enough to make the Grammys important or wholly relevant even if they’ve figured out that a group like Jethro Tull might not be a metal band or that they look doubly stupid for awarding and then unawarding Milli Vanilli.
The bottom line is that the Grammys ain’t for fans per se. It’s about the industry toasting itself, specifically the dying-out majors. And again, it’s about artists calling being able to themselves Grammy-winners (or to say that they can keep winning Grammys) alongside other achievements like chart positions and gold records. And by the way, you don’t even see most of the awards given out in the three-hour broadcast- most of those get doled up before the TV show, leaving the big categories for the show itself. That means that if you’re a jazz or blues or classical or Native American music fan, you’ll have to go to the Grammy site to see those highlights.
For all of you non-existent Neil Portnow fans, expect the NARAS head to desperately try to put on a good face for a biz that’s drowning thanks to its own ignorance and play up the “challenges ahead” and the charity work they do (notably, their MusiCares program) and downplay or ignore the insane, self-defeating RIAA lawsuits.
So, I’ll be watching tonight and probably reporting back here on it despite all my misgivings but I’ll also be multi-tasking so I feel too bad about wasting my time either…
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where costs have risen and advertising has dropped precipitously. We need your help to keep PopMatters strong and growing. Thank you.